On Writing, Voice and Biko Zulu

It’s been so long, guys. It’s been a while since I talked about boob tattoos, twerking or camel milk tea, or anything for that matter. It feels like the world has changed since then. There is a racist, sexist, egotistical maniac in the White House. Miguna is back, and a host of other bizarre things. What is happening people? *Shock emoji* *Shock emoji* First off, I am sorry folks, for disappearing without notice. Please excuse my absence. It has been a crazy few months.

As usual, life got in the way.

In trying to finish school and earning a living to pay the bills, this blog had to take a back seat, for a while at least. Why does life get in the way of everything? Why does life get in the way of life? Of living? This must be one of the biggest questions we grapple with all our lives.

This is one difficult question. It is a question that goes to the very heart of our very existence. We are often with a choice; to follow our passions, our desires, our creative journeys, or to do the ‘sensible’ thing and be a responsible and focus on livelihood. Livelihood. Why does a word that is supposed to be good instead sound so..grim? Is livelihood the enemy of passion and creativity, and living extraordinary lives? Can the two coexist in harmony and balance? Does choosing livelihood mean sacrificing what we love? Is choosing the dream the same as neglecting your livelihood, unless it is one of those rare occasions one gets to make a living out of the thing you love doing the most? What are the chances that that will happen?

To be honest, I don’t know the answer to any of these questions.

But what I do know, however, is that it is immensely exciting to experience this- to be at the center of an existential tug of war, the pull and push of the entire cosmos. It is quite a thrill, isn’t it, to be shipwrecked in the vast sea of your own existence? Undecided between two passing ships- one that is strong and is steered by an experienced captain and bound for the safely shores and the other weak and in shambles, steered by a shifty pirate (Jack Sparrow?) and is going deep into the dark crashing waves, promising a journey full of possibility, danger, adventure and thrill. It is exciting. And scary. It is a terrifying prospect because even if you don’t move and make a decision, you are doomed. You drown in the depths of your indecision and timidity.

The truth is that we all want more from life, whether we are conscious of it or not. We all want fulfillment and satisfaction.

When we were little children, innocent and wide-eyed, we had a spirit of wonder and curiosity that we were born with, we had a natural ability to see beauty, and as the poet William Blake eloquently put it, “to see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.” Perhaps it is because we were seeing the world for the first time. But as we grow older, we are forced to “grow up and do grown-up responsible things,” and lose our spirit of wonder and become indifferent to

When we were little children, innocent and wide-eyed, we had a spirit of wonder and curiosity that we were born with, we had a natural ability to see beauty, and as the poet William Blake eloquently put it, “to see a World in a Grain of Sand /And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.” Perhaps it is because we were seeing the world for the first time. But as we grow older, we are forced to “grow up and do grown-up responsible things,” and lose our spirit of wonder and become indifferent to

William Blake eloquently put it, “to see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.”

Perhaps it is because we were seeing the world for the first time. But as we grow older, we are forced to “grow up and do grown-up responsible things,” and lose our spirit of wonder and become indifferent to

Perhaps it is because we were seeing the world for the first time. But as we grow older, we are forced to “grow up and do grown-up responsible things,” and lose our spirit of wonder and become indifferent to the imagination. But we don’t really truly lose this spirit, do we? It lies dormant in our being and only comes out when we are locked behind closed doors, tucked underneath our blankets when we read a book or a story that sparks the last remains of our childhood. For that brief moment, we are not subjects of the hands of time and our livelihoods. For those few moments, we are free in our wilderness, we are wanderers who do not care for rules and customs, we don’t fight against time and life passes clean, with passion, like water.

Pardon the philosophical tone, sometimes I can’t help it. Well, most times. Tonight is one of those nights. There is nothing like a cup of hot coffee and a Bob Dylan record at 2 am in the morning to get you in that sentimental, reflective mood (Old Bob won the Nobel by the way, yeeeey!). There is something about the rain, the sound it makes as it hits dark surfaces. Its drops find their destination even in the dark, not doubting where exactly it is supposed to land. The harmony and certitude that the natural world exhibits, a stark contrast to what us human beings, who are a symbol of uncertainty and internal conflict. There is a powerful lesson in it, in the world around us. It reminds me of predetermination and destiny.

The view of the city, bathed in its tiny yellow lights, is dazzling and inspirational. The world is beautiful when people are asleep, isn’t it? When we are not stinking the air with blood, sweat and tears. When we are not lined behind each other on the roads, choking up fuel. When the elements take control as we take a take a brief rest to go back to our fast-paced but miserable lives. Again, ironically, it seems life seems to happen in the dead of the night when we are knocked out dead. I can’t help but think of those men and women out there, sitting behind those glowing windows, doing what they love doing, perhaps so engrossed in it that they do not realize the passage of time. I have always been fascinated and even envious of this lot.

I have always been one to expect more from life. But I’ve also been one who believed life is not as serious as we take it to be. I know, the irony stinks up the screen.

I guess my life has been one of many ironies: wanting to do more but not really getting rid of that nagging horrid chronic laziness; living in that comfort zone when your entire existence feels it was made for everything else but comfort zones; and being typically perfectionist but only to a select number of things. Irony is a word that describes the hell out of me.

I’m reminded of the time I started this blog. This small space that has become a part of my life. It was earlier this year, y’all folks recall right? I don’t know how it happened, to be honest, it wasn’t something that I had planned to do. I have wanted to write somehow, but I never knew in what form or platform I would do it. I never actually thought I would actually go through with it formally. But I have always thought my writing would probably not suited for most people. I have a weird mind. Seriously. I mean who writes posts about camels making out? Or boob tattoos? Anyone? No? I thought so. Anyone would say starting a blog shouldn’t be a big deal. People start blogs every day. But it actually is. Anyone who has started one will tell you that. Everyone has their own fears or stumbling blocks.

For me, my primary concern was that my writing would be too weird (and it still is) so I was quite reluctant to share my writing. It is not that I didn’t believe I could write. Trust me I have that self-belief- it can border on arrogance sometimes. But what bothered me was the consequences of putting oneself out there. You see once you put yourself out there, there is no coming back from it- there is the creation of expectations, the nagging chance of failing and making a fool of yourself. Once you put yourself out there, there is no turning back, whatever happens, is mostly beyond your control. I also wasn’t sure about why I should write; I mean why my voice really mattered. It was a battle between vanity and the higher good of art.

However, my reluctance, clearly, didn’t last long. Not sure if it was vanity or the duty to art that prevailed, but I did start this blog regardless. There are a couple of things that made me share stories. There was someone special to me who pushed me to explore this side of me. Their belief played the biggest part in taking that leap. And however my writing will turn out, I will forever be grateful to that person. It is amazing how the people in our lives play a part in our dreams.

The other factor was Biko Zulu. ‘Chocolate Man’ does not know the number of lives he’s touching, someone should tell him that.

I discovered Biko’s World (yes, World with a capital W, he is Luo, don’t ask) around that time and I have to say it was an interesting discovery. I loved Biko’s unique perspective, his impeccable creativity and humor, his mastery of the language (again, it comes with the Luo territory) and rare honesty. Biko is real and doesn’t shy away from the real and often uncomfortable issues. Forgive me for stating the obvious but he is immensely gifted. And silly. Very silly. Silly people though.. Very wise. And serious. It is a gift, silliness, I think. But what really influenced me about Biko was the discovery that he could be truly himself and write all the silly crazy things that make him who he is and he could still be widely read. I mean he could write about oversized mothers union panties and still brighten your day! Only Biko of course. Only Biko. Biko inspires us to recognize that our “crazy” ideas are actually what make us who we are and that we can live our passions and pursue the things we love.That our everyday experiences can contain powerful lessons, if we are discerning enough, of course, that can make people reflect, or just laugh. Because, in the end, we are all going through the same shit. So thanks, Biko, I hope to see that famous Forehead someday (Yes, with capital F, because it has own personality). And Tamms too.

Anyways, writing in this space has helped me and taught me a lot. For one, writing is cathartic. There is therapeutic effect in getting things off your chest. It is quite healing to channel my frustrations to you. You see how important you are? I have come to learn appreciate the importance of voice. Apparently, it is important to the world that I philosophize about boob tattoos, animal print tights, and camels. It is highly essential that I rant about chokers too. Very important. Seriously. There is literary value in that noose that chics wear around their necks. Can one breathe? But on the real, each one of us has a unique voice that could benefit others in one way or another. But there is that weird feeling that comes with the territory of writing- the danger in baring your soul to the world, of bleeding on a page. At first, it does bother you because you are human. My friend Ismail Duale (he is also a hippie, this one) poignantly warns,

“To those with the warmest of hearts and coldest of hands,

Those of the thrones who disregarded crowns,

Those who wear their scars proudly,

Those with feeble stems but firm roots,

To the propellers of their own dreams, those who live their purpose and affirm their worth,

Watch out, the stars will be your ultimate footstool.”

Powerful isn’t it? But at the end of the day, the value of putting yourself out there outweighs the dangers. There is a duty to share our unique, diverse perspectives. I don’t like to describe myself as a ‘writer,’ because I believe I am not one, but there is no doubt, regardless, that writers are vain, egoistic creatures who think theirs is the special voice that should be heard. Vanity is the avatar of writers, but voice, one could say, ‘validates’ it. I started this blog not because I have a special talent or perspective (I really suck at story telling), but because, at the risk of sounding vain, I have a unique worldview. We all do. We each come from a distinct ethnic, racial, social, religious and cultural backgrounds, and we each have stories we can share with the world. Initially, I didn’t have a specific vision for this blog but somehow it made more discerning and appreciative of my Northern Kenya background and Somali culture. A Daily Nation comment on this blog stated that this space “tries to portray a side of Kenyan living that most people do not think about, that of the Somali-Kenyan.” It would seem, unfortunately, that little is known of the stories of such a large part of Kenya and its millions of people including a blooming young urban population to which I belong.

And of course it is not just people from Northern Kenya who need their stories to be heard, there is a need to hear the voices of others from the rest of the country and the region at large. There is also the upcoming millennials generation that is as confused as the Americans after the Trump event, who will need people to look up to other than our hate-mongering good for nothing political class. The Nation review reminded me of the fact that this small space is unequipped to tell these stories, but it made me think about the importance of voice. There is a need to propel the many ethnically diverse previously neglected stories of people that are rich with identity, politics, and imagination. Voice, I learned, is bigger and higher than any of us.

We need more people who wear their scars proudly, more Biko Zulus.

It has now been seven months since the birth of this blog. Crazy how time flies. Crazy how babies grow up so fast right? In many ways, this has been a fulfilling and enriching experience. This space has grown to be a part of my life. This space has been an outlet for channeling those crazy silly thoughts that would have otherwise sat dormant in my head. Over those several months, more and more people have come to read these thoughts, keeping this space alive. Without you, the reader, this space would not mean anything at all. You give me a reason to sit down and write amidst all the other demands and expectations of ever day life. So thank you for taking the time to read, share and comment. I am humbled by the indulgence you give this blog.

Image source: cardiffmet.ac.uk

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Categories Writing

8 thoughts on “On Writing, Voice and Biko Zulu

  1. Bless you Biko.! You are the reason i am starting to write!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad he inspired you like he did me. Please do keep on!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sure will. Please follow my young blog !

        Like

  2. My God! I came here so many times looking for another Somali story, another boob-tattoo story until I gave up and just decided to stop running ahead of the email notification. Aaaaaaand, you were reviewed by the Daily Nation! Look at you! Growing up so fast! Good stuff and keep it up and yes, writing is cathartic. Most of us have no serious plans for the things we write about or the platforms we write on but we still write so keep going and may next year not be as dry in this area as the last quarter of this year has been

    Like

  3. You should never stop writing Arry!I love it mash Allah. Keep up .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You should never stop writing Arry!I love it mash Allah. Keep up .

    Like

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