Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Through Sikiliza's Lens - Life Givers

Earlier this year I teamed up with 5 other women to come together and have an art exhibition in Nairobi to celebrate International Women's day.

As African artists we chose to illustrate African women through our lenses and worked with the theme, "Curving the Visual."

I chose to work with women being life givers and tried to capture the surreal captivating beauty of a woman with child.

Here are some of the highlights of that work. All the proceeds were going to women's charities the artist picked out.


Friday, 23 September 2011

A Bodaboda Story

I enjoy road trips so much...here are some of the things I came across....

Enjoy this picture story with me....

Friday, 29 July 2011

Lift my Lips

Drops of joy plop in my path
 Echoes of laughter close by
A sudden splash of excitement
Perhaps an inkling of hope
Some light at the end of tunnel
That will free my soul
Allow my lips to lift again.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Here lies July....

My father, Baba - RIP

Ordinarily I would be up early excited at the prospect of my birthday coming up in a week. I lost my mother 3 weeks before I turned 21, that was 11 years ago; it took me quite a while to be able to go through the month of July without damp tears. I woke up thinking about fathers today. I recently lost mine, it’s been two weeks since he breathed his last and now he rests by mum’s side reunited in blissful heaven…Happy birthday thoughts are shelved away as I contemplate orphan hood.

What I miss most about my father, Baba was his unbending honesty.  Our conditions, rules, stipulations, boundaries were always clear and more emphasized as I grew up and against all this the constant thing over the years was his love and concern.

I remember days, weeks or months of sulking because of something he said to me and yet I still remember him coming home to check my homework before he slept. I never slept hungry in his care, not ever. No phone call went unreturned; no text or e-mail went unacknowledged.

Everyone keeps telling me “you are strong and will get through this…” and “your father lived a full life…” or “it was his time…” perhaps so, but selfishly, I cant imagine that anything could ever fill the void of loosing him and what he represented to me.

Baba loved me in spite and despite myself, which is to say I did not need to apologise for being myself to him…and do not get me wrong, he could be so unbending sometimes…He was never good at hiding his opinions and feelings but he let me have mine and we agreed to disagree on things…He never left me with any doubt of his feelings, an emotional rawness and honesty that could be overwhelming if you faced it full frontal…but on hindsight I realised that it was his honesty that either altered or liberated me once emotions simmered down…

I remember countless times sitting in my room full of indignant anger and feeling that I was very misunderstood but at the back of my mind I knew with deep conviction that if I reached out and hugged him, or picked up the phone, or got home and say hello or help...he was always at the other end with open arms! Did I hug him enough? Did I tell him just how much his love meant to me? I don’t know…I don’t think any number of hugs or thank you’s would be enough to show him a fraction of my gratitude…

I know that I will find love and acceptance in this world…no doubt my grief will hurt a little less over time and ultimately my tears will trickle and dry. I am, after all, strong…but I will greatly miss my Baba’s love because he loved me as me....

Fare-the-well Baba, rest in peace and know you are loved and missed.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Understanding Me

Sometimes one myself why I turn to write…. I write to express my fleeting thoughts, a slice of my mind…I write because it liberates me, it reminds me…I write because it heals me. I write so that I have something to recollect and muse over when I am lost for words.

I write hoping that at least one person can understand me – and if that person is just me, that’s ok.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Milele Beach – “Forever” Seems unlikely with such Crap Service

Milele Beach - Nyali

I recently spent a weekend in Mombasa to visit our boy in school there. I tend to have a love-hate relationship with the coastal town depending on how brutal the sun is on me…made up of course by relaxing in the sea water.

In my times there, I stay in a lovely apartment by the beach and enjoy lovely Swahili dishes from prolific Mzee Hamisi who can rustle up a banquet with very little effort. There is also apparently an agreement to swim next door at the Milele Beach swimming pool that makes the place a deal breaker.

My last experience in Milele Beach though went terribly. Apparently the accountant had the pool attendant eject me without establishing first whether I was entitled to use the facility. What was worse was the effort his colleague made running after me as I reach the door of the beach house saying,

“Oh we confirmed you can go ahead and swim please come back, sorry about the confusion.”

OK, people, I can hardly call myself a proud person (!), but I will be damned if I return to a pool that I was so publicly ejected, I do have some semblance of self-love. And that gesture felt somewhat insulting.
Why even bother Milele Beach? Sheesh! You’d think they would have thought to find out first before troubling themselves (and me!) with the whole ejection from the pool drama!

So this incident got me thinking about how much abuse and disrespect local tourists take from Mombasa beach resorts. I am pretty sure none of that would have happened had I been say, European, or perhaps American…what is this mindset we have that instinctively looks at Africans at a beach hotel with contempt and suspicion first – guilty till innocent kind of perceptions!? The same kind of notion that distinguishes perhaps whether you are going to get good service or not…

Needless to say, there are too many chlorine pools along the Nyali beach to feel that I need to ever have to fraternise Milele Beach ever again… perhaps the larger point that the chief accountant and the staff in Milele Beach would need to understand is that they will never really fully emancipate from the problems that affect tourism in Mombasa.  Milele beach and other resorts will always be a shaky kind of business that will place peoples livelihoods on the balance. The truth is clients do not return to resorts because of the beaches and the pool…clients return because of staff who illustrate friendliness, respect and professionalism the rest is added value!

The power of referrals is the single most important key to the success of any enterprise. The power of word has broken and built mankind. Each encounter with a client (big, small, European or not), has the potential to grow your business and spread goodwill.

I don’t see Milele lasting forever as its name suggests….not with that level crappy attitude and service.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

of Picketing and Personalities...

Dear Kenyans

Let me share with you a lesson I learnt recently from my life partner...in all my time living in Kenya, I slinked around perosnalities and individuals who were carrying the mantle of so called "leadership." My opinions and my sentiments were based on the personal characters of these leaders. This influenced my choices in voting and in my expressing who I felt was a better pick from the bunch that place themselves for office...

I didn't realise up until the 48th year of "celebrating madaraka" that my anger and my fight against impunity, corruption and infringement of basic human freedoms is misplaced. Its not about the individuals in positions of power but rather in the systems  and structures in which those positions are created. Laws are not remote things we that do not know about until we are in trouble...laws are our guardians and our protectors from a state state of chaos, fear and oppression. We have stayed so long without law protecting us that impunity is normalised in our lives. We have been repressed for so long, many of us born and many will die without realising our basic human freedoms....this is unacceptable, untenable and if it means drumming this lesson and detoxing our minds to truly seeking freedom then it must start somewhere no matter how small.

A Kenyan citizen in Nyayo Stadium during the Madaraka festivities was peacfully protesting against the high cost of basic commondities. The new contitution that we put into place protects his rights to protest and yet we all witnessed on National TV plainclothes policemen (about 6!) whisking him out of the stadium in the most undignified manner.

So, let us remind ourselves about our Bill of rights pertaining to the right to protest:

'Every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed, to 
assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public 

Kenyans, we have laws and systems in place that protect us! These rights are not negotiable and they take effect the minute we born in this country.

This fellow Kenyan has rights and he can exercise them. Part of our struggle to have a better Kenya is to challenge powers that flout the law...today its this manilla picket fencer, tomorrow it will be you or I, the next year it will be a whole nation!

Let us fight for our rights to express a voice of dissent! We need to take action now!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Treasure of Time

Lake Nakuru National Park

Walking through some childhood memories takes me to my early primary school (Moi Primo!!!)..Where I was a chipmunk (don’t ask) brownie and a rather fake girl guide. I basically used the uniform to enter the Nakuru show for free. To be honest my frustrations on being Girl Guide were  mainly because those blasted snotty class 7’s and 8’s never let us “raise the flag” on Fridays (this was of course my single top ambition!)

Anyway once inside the show I was home free, I usually sneaked into the women’s domestic science and crafts display (gosh I cant believe we did this!) and changed into something more fun…
One year me and two other friends decided to try and shoot for the local disco. We were like 11 years old. I remember pinching my sister Ciru’s 6 inch heels just like Tina Turners!…and I picked some controversial mini skirt I got from my Uncle Kamanzi from South Africa which was promptly packed away by mum (with no intention to see the light of day)…its was all the range – what we called “luminous pink” (fuchsia) and a tumbo cut (belly top)...for this we had to change in a public toilet near the club not to risk getting busted by mum’s friends…we used my mums “Irene lipstick” yes…that one that was green and magically painted the lips a deep maroon…Ciru’s luminous green eye make up (she was off in boarding school thank God)…and we were set to go…

So there I was tagging along with my friends who stuffed socks in the bosoms to sprout some cleavage…I stuffed tissue on Ciru’s heels and tried very hard not to wobble. We were trying to pull off 16 since 18 would have been ambitious…the plan was to talk our way past the ticket booth… Once we got tickets, we didn’t have to worry about anything other than been busted by cops…
Somehow I was nominated as the primary ticket buyer…

“Because you speak English better” they said.

Eisshhh…I wondered about my stammer for a second…jeez how does a 16 year old talk anyway? Well seeing as there seemed to be no choice I gathered myself and walked confidently to the booth like big sister Ciru would…she was very sophisticated learning those Nairobi ways in a school called “boma”…

“Three tickets please!” I said with a bit of wen’go, flutter of my eye lashes and I swung my braids shwish and shwash the way I saw it done in the Princess Patra advert….hmmm sophistication this wasn’t so hard.

But I tell you, nothing prepared me for what happened next.!

“You! aren’t you Mama Jimis daughter...Eeh? Chiqy? What are you doing here at the disco? Weeewe! Where is your mother eh?? Is this what you come to the show ground to do…haiyaaaa and what are you wearing…is this make up? Haiya and you have high heels! And you have friends…wewe nyinyi! Kujeni hapa! Hebu give me your names so I can report you to Mrs Gichiri on Monday! Tabia Mbaya Nkt!”

I looked in horror only to realise the ticket seller was in fact our teacher Mr Gichangi  and my friends simply fled…I remember seeing them scuffle off shoes and socks and extensions falling all over as they snaked away in swallowed in the crowds….

I was paralysed. And I couldn’t talk.

My heels had dug into the soil deep…I needed to think fast. I couldn’t leave the shoes, if they disappeared I risked sure death from Ciru…but the fear man! that paralysed me…Ngai!

Then I started hearing the laughter from the disco…boys had come out to see what the fracas was about. I suddenly I saw myself in their eyes…terrible make up put haphazardly in a dark toilet and stuffed shoes…clothes that showed more than hid…and that’s what got me kicking into my exit plan. I grabbed my shoes and ran barefoot.

I ran and ran and ran…by the way, those days I could run eh! forget all these curves you see  now…with the right motivation, nothing could stop me!

I finally slowed down at the cow shed and found a corner to settle down and gather my thoughts…At that point , I took out my guide’s dress and wore it on top of my mini tumbo cut ensemble. A few people stared but I was past caring.

When I calmed down I reorganised myself and used the tissue and the taps near the water trough to wipe off the make up. Patted down my wild afro and walked down to the domestic crafts exhibition. Lots of mum’s friends were there and recognised me. I looked beat. Everyone thought it was all the volunteer work that must have done as a Girl Guide made me look so tired. They directed me to where mum’s stand was. She was there chatting up with the other women. They formed a small crafts group and they had won an award from the judges for their crotchet work. The badge was displayed proudly and they were beaming. I ran into my mums arms and hugged her.

She asked me about my day, I told her it was tiring and was glad to be there to see her work.
“Chiqy why don’t you learn to knit and crotchet, who knows maybe next year you can bring along some of your work here. You could even win something. I can teach you.”

I hugged her again. The day’s drama took its toll. She had this look of mild concern and asked if I was ok.

“Yeah am ok, that’s a great idea mum will learn how to knit and crotchet thank you. Congrats on your prize you deserve it.”

Mr Gichangi “forgot” about the incident and we never got called out in assembly but I tell you I still have the willies thinking about that day.

Well I did learn to knit and to crotchet and Mum was a patient teacher. I never made anything that could make the cut for the show exhibition; in fact I never made anything I would want to show in public for that matter. But I did learn my knit and purl. I did get to spend several Saturdays with mum looking at patterns and unknotting wool and buying needles….

As I look at this today and I really treasure those Saturdays…if I knew I would never have traded that with time at the disco with Tina Tuner stilettos that were not mine and didn’t fit.

As we celebrate mummy’s birthday, she would have turned 68 today...I think of the little treasures of time she gave me. Wonderful memories of her are neatly tucked – readily remembered, fondly cherished.
Happy birthday Mum. I do love you. Always.

Love, your baby,

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Love Air

The joy in my spirit is dwindled
Weighed by sadness and loss
Of a cherished part of me.
At times with love
One needs to let things go
Leave the room while
While the scent of love
Still fills the senses
I take that love with me  
Inhale it and fill my lungs
My mind, my heart
Let the love flow
Reach each and every part of me.
Let it linger in me

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

I am Dirt

I am in alone.
If I do not climb out of my hole
Or seek the light,
 Then darkness consumes me
 I shrivel and die
Rot and merge with the mulch
Get crushed to dust and dirt
My only purpose is to be trod on
I am dirt.
I am nothing.
Not without love and sunshine.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Day & Night Sounds...

Night sounds
Dripping taps
Barking dogs
The trees bowing at every Wind’s presence.
Night birds fleeting flapping wings playfully
Lone car engines dash past
Tick-tock tick-tock tick-tock goes the clock
My breath in–out in-out in-out ; pause; a sudden yawn….
Eyes close mutely…

Day Sounds
Light streams in raucously
Sudden amplified movements and rustles as if on cue
Burst of loud long song of the day birds
The road grows a new life car after car after car
The clock takes a back seat ticking away dependably
Music, word or thoughts leave our minds
 Borne through our tongues, frowns and body speak
Taking over day; carrying up the lamp of light letting us see, hear, speak, touch.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Fragments of my Heart

Thoughts to words to smiles or hurts
The things we think or do or say
The things we feel or hear or play
Truth shrouded with cloaks of all kinds
Feelings and thoughts are fragments
Of an undone jigsaw puzzle.

How many of us have the presence of mind
To put into place each and every piece
To fit and fix hearts and souls
In the right space?

How long should it take to complete?
When does on give in to defeat?
Why must we always tear it down
once all the pieces are in place?

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Raindrops fall on me...

Pink Bloom in the Garden by Sikiliza

The rain drops plop on the grass carpet
Swallowed by the rich red soil beneath
The sky greyed, heavy and swollen
Opening revealing and birthing
Cleansing us with bounties of water
Washing off the grime on my burdened heart
I lift my face, close my eyes and wait
As the rain cleanses my tears of sorrow away

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Curving the Visual Photography Exhibition Nairobi

Women who bloom..By Sikiliza

Curving the Visual is a photography exhibition involving 5 photographers. The artists are Barbara Minishi, Wambui Mwangi, Kasyoka Mwanzia, Silvia Gichia and me Sikiliza. The show is at Alliance Française Nairobi. The show has been extended to 21st April 2011. 

Women and nationhood by Sikiliza

I enjoyed my part where I chose to illustrate women as life givers, their transformations within, outward changes, the curves, the glow and the moments of pensiveness as they lay a hand on their belly wondering about the life growing inside them...perhaps imagining what great things the unborn generations will do on this earth...

Women as Life-givers by Sikiliza

I am also very pleased with the wonderful reviews we received from this show...  I hope this encourages more of us women to document and illustrate our lives and our beauty...our lives, our stories....

Women creators of future generations by Sikiliza

Saturday, 19 March 2011

You are another me....

You are a rock of in my life.
Elephants in Amboseli 2010

In you I hear words and see expressions or an impish grin
So familiar as I recognise it each time I look into the mirror.

All through my life I have looked up to the ways
You touch things and turn them to glittering gold.

Stories weren’t just stories with you, they came alive
And you captivated my mind.

You made hard things look so easy

You never let me sink and wallow in those dark places

You woke me up from my nightmares
And gave me real dreams to float away with.

You are another me
A braver one
A me I am very proud of being part of.

Monday, 7 March 2011

"Curving the Visual" Alliance Française Galleries 8-31st March

Tomorrow, Tuesday the 8th of March 2011 is International Women's Day.

To many this day may not mean very much to our otherwise busy lives...it was the same case for me for a long time.

But then I came across amazing women, great thinkers and women who are driven to make a positive difference in palpable ways. Women who are generous with thought, ideas and sharing of skills and experience. Women who are courageous to stand against all wrong. Motherhood and sisterhood meshed together.

And so I paid a little bit more attention to these kinds of women and on what they do to make a difference no matter how small... I consider them all very much as my mentors and I learnt the lesson of replacing self gratification to a much wider scale; that of lifting the lives of others.

This year, I was invited to participate in a journey of art called "Curving the Visual" it involves the photographic art of Wambui Mwangi, Silvia Gichia, Barbara Minishi, Kasyoka Mwanzia and me, Sikiliza. The journey is a documentation of African women photographic African women, these are our stories. We have an amazing text on the collection by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. The show opens on 8th March 2011 at Alliance Française Galleries Nairobi at 6.30pm. The exhibition will run till 31st March 2011.

Please join us celebrating women; come and be part of our stories.



Thursday, 17 February 2011

Stand For Kenya!

We are extremely proud to be Kenyan!

We are proud of our beautiful country!

We are proud of our diversity cultures and traditions!

We are proud of our heroes!

We are proud of our high achievers!

We are proud of being hustlers!

We are proud of our hoods!

We are proud of our tribes and twengs!

We are proud of our kanges and our mats!

We are proud of our artists and musicians!

We are proud of our industries and farms!

We are proud of our sports teams!

On the 28th of February 2011 at 1pm, wherever you are, at work, in the supermarket, in traffic, in school, on campus, in hospitals, in churches, in mosques, in temples, in synagogues, on sports pitches, in court, on your farm, at police stations, at armed forces barracks, in matatus, in buses, on the beach, in the game parks, at the airport, in parliament, in State House, in your homes ..

On the 28th of February 2011 at 1pm, we stand

On the 28th of February 2011 at 1pm, we unite

On the 28th of February 2011 at 1pm, we shall speak in one voice.

On the 28th of February 2011 at 1pm, let’s sing our beautiful and powerful National Anthem, all three verses.

On the 28th February 2011 the world will watch as Kenyans stand UNITED;

1pm, 1 nation, 1 people, 1 anthem, united in 1 prayer for 1 Kenya

We are Kenya!

Monday, 31 January 2011

Certain Nirvana

One day while in primary school, we went for a school trip in Nairobi. We spent a day in parliament and heard the rants and goings on…

All the “know-it-alls” were popping out random facts and trivia like they knew everything…others looked bored out of their pants and got fidgety and had painful looks almost bursting in their seats…others oohed and ahhed…and I sat and listened…one of the things that struck us was when the then Education minister Oloo Aringo asked the house, “So, Honourable Member, how much is too much?”

The question caused a roar of laughter at the session…we didn’t get it…well, not at first...it took a while to get the brain engine revving up. Then like a wave of laughter and looks of sudden realisation we went like…

“Oooohhh yaaa how much is too much…?hahahaha…”

“Ehe how much is tooooo much eh?”

...and all the way back to Nakuru everyone asked each other…“So, how much is toooo much? Followed by hysterical laughter…the more you reaaaaallly thought about the question, the more questions you have…it was funny, left us in stitches....but ahem, seriously.. …how do we deal with the intangible, the immeasurable things and feelings that are so important?

I am not laughing today as I think about this question. Or to be more accurate,

“Just how much is enough..?” it really is a limitless question posed with so many mayhaps and premises….and just when you think you finally have the answer figured out and are close to a certain nirvena….you get a kick on shin that trips you and gets you back on all fours crawling and you wake up suddenly from a dream called happiness …and then you ask again….

“How much is enough and will it ever be too much?”