Beauty in a Place of Darkness

5

“We were already living in some kind of Hell in this strange place of broken beauty.”  

Kassie West.

‘I suppose I’m one of those lucky few  to have survived the Massacre,’

It was terrible and almost disheartening to listen to all their stories without bursting into tears. The most prominent memory she had was that of her mother giving up everything for them. Since her mother’s death, Todima had become invincible in this paradise of shattered dreams. 

‘For so long I have hated this place, until recently when I realized it wasn’t a place to hate but a place to mend broken hearts.’ Getting lost into her mellow voice and the sweetness of this eleven year old girl. I sunk deep into her mind; and somewhere beneath the melody of her words, I found myself trying her shoes.

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The cold inside her made me tremble and envious of my own position. Despite hailing from what I had considered a worse background, a while before relating to the stories of these children;  I realized that we held so much luck in ourselves for having a home. Yet, Todima and millions of others like her spread in refugee camps across East Africa; were learning to find a home in a place of devastation. 

In her eyes, I observed every child’s undying wish. The heart-wrenching need to not only be seen but to be heard. One of the shy  boys in the group handed me a drawing. It was a beautiful painting reflecting a woman drawing water from a well. Pulling him closer to hug him ‘thanks’, he whispered close to my ears: ‘I hope it makes sense to you.’

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He still looked unsure whether it was good enough but I was completely taken aback by the piece. Taken aback by a piece of art, given to me by a refugee kid, that reminded me even in the face of adversity; one could easily find peace and yearning in art. His name was Brahman.

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Brahman, just like his friends had experienced unbelievable hardship.  Brahman’s family spiraled into homelessness after the 2014 Bentiu Massacre. His mother, a victim of soldier gang rape succumbed to depression. Brahan hasn’t seen her for two years now. Among his personal collections are hundreds of tiny pieces of art, some mud sculpting, other drawings and a few of them poems. His worst memory is that of his father’s suffering from a mental illness.

‘ In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” 

Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

 

The harsh realities pieced behind the camps are those of desperate families finding peace and meaning.

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In the heart of Ifo Refugee Camp; are millions of families united by the common spirit to one day mend  their shattered lives; thousands of them are striving to rise above the fray of physical abuse, psychological torture, drug addiction, poverty, child apprehension and life’s uncertainties.

My wish is they find meaningful lives. 

Ifo is among the three refugee camps set up under the flagship of the Dadaab Refugee Complex to increase humanitarian efforts for families facing continued displacement, drought, conflict and instability in Somalia. Mid-May, the Supreme Council Of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) launched a support campaign in a bid to alleviate the suffering of millions of refugee families. You can reach out to their website and see how you can help a child secure their future.

Kid no More

2

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If I ever had a prayer of making any good out of myself, I would beg God to make me better every single day.

I don’t remember asking for ABS, sought of what males of my age kept pushing for to make us jealous. Every prayer lied on my talents and my abilities; Strength of mind, ability to pull out of any situation and love.

 

Yes

 

I wanted to find love too.

 

Anything, someone, or something I loved to do. Perhaps this would draw away my self-longing and replace my boredom with a sense of belonging.

 

But I had resigned myself to the judgment that in this world people deemed it worth to secure their comfort.

I would never find a place in the hearts of Individuals. Besides, no one was opening up and the few that did, it was almost unbearable to mind read their intention.

 

So I resigned myself to a gauged cocoon, a cage filled with emptiness and overflows of hunger, anger and ambition. I would be in a crowd, a gathering of friends, walking across town, waiting for a matatu at the bus stop; but suddenly my mind would drift away.

As if I had not the language to express the art of my passion , my dreams , as if this was the only magic into which my mind would get lost; This way I didn’t let people inside my turmoil, as much as I was willing to, I found my thoughts serene but frustratingly lonely at times.

 

During those moments of escape, when my mind would fall into a subliminal slew of inquisition; I would be in a factory , forging machinery or textile, riding my favorite car, reminiscing my bitter childhood, sharing dinner with my favorite writer ; probably packing my clothes for a trip far off land.

 

Sometimes in those dreams, I would also get married, preach vows to an undeserving wife, and if the surrounding thoughts were calm enough; I would think myself a King, in a distant fairy land where nobles wore golden robes and beautiful maidens attended to the royalty.

 

Even though there had been a lot going on in my life then; I will admit I was following through none.

 

I had convinced myself that writing was my splashing talent; but I had not yet figured out what it meant to scent words into a page.

 

So I spent days and nights;   forming stories and punching them into my word press back end; only to trash them later on. Who the hell would read my posts anyway? Stories from a naive downtown kid who’d recently overgrown his pain and found love in the dictionary.

But then years ago; I had wanted to be an IT consultant , my life’s earning would rely on building technical solutions for businesses, punch code into computers and sit back ; just to witness the design unveil.

I was fascinated by computers. Yet I had never sat in the cool shades of nerdy conversations that had happened at the basketball court, I didn’t even wear a hoody inscribed with sudo like terminal commands. For the life of me, I had never considered myself cool and that’s what nerds are. Cool. I couldn’t even build a simple Android application to save my drowning life.

Despite all this theology of business, technology, programming, AI, ML and the Internet of Things, all encrypted into my mixed ambition; I hardly saw myself a nerd.

 

Perhaps movies and contemporary lifestyles had convinced me into believing that nerds only existed in Yale, MIT, and Princeton; and for sure these were the schools I had yearned to attend; it was a dream that had almost crawled into an obsession.

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Maybe it’s the only place that people like me would mold themselves into reputable technology players. Or what would the best engineering university in the world such as MIT mold someone into, probably a sophisticated human just cracked enough to have geeky functionalities.

 

 

Every fortnight I would sit and pray to God that at least for once he would make me intelligent. It didn’t matter in what aspect , but for the sake of me and mine to come ; I wanted to become a prodigy.

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Since third form in high school, I had seen writing as a viable opportunity for income. In as much as it was an avenue for learning and challenging myself; sometimes I found writing hectic, and it is during these times I would slumber into a writing hiatus. Then learn all the programming I could.

Sometimes I would even question God , why couldn’t he just make me a musician , a painter or something ; so that as I walked home from school , or during my dorm hours ,I would compose a song in my sleep , or forge an image in my dreams that would go on to sell for a million dollars to an animation studio.

 

But I was stupid.

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I hadn’t realized that God has endowed each one of us; with some powerful soul stretching gift to move mountains. What we have to do, is heave with inspiration and chase dreams.

I grew up in a typical Kenyan village; sub urban to be precise. My inspiration growing up verged between listening to local vernacular music, watching wrestling, catching up with Shaffie and Kalekye every evening after school on the drive show;  causing mayhem, and fighting gangs of boys to remain afloat.

All the boys saw you as a potential threat to their welfare and each would find a way to eliminate you. Ha-ha. Not from the light of the world however, but from the dark alleys of childhood crimes. Where we stole avocados, scrap metals, or tried to impress a girl. Typical Kenyan childhood.

It is around this time in my childhood that I met J.K Rollins Harry potter and the sorcerer’s Stone. A fantastic book that not only captured my creative attention but ultimately made me realize writing was something else; Sacred, inviting and engrossing

I had been a reader before but quite awesomely, I was still as I always have been; a lover of African literature. So instead of lighting up my world with the infamous Goosebumps series that made highlights with the urban kids my age, the fairy tales of Cinderella and snow-white;

 

mosesI fell in love with quite a typical African story set in a Ugandan Boarding school; The incredible Moses Series by Barbara kimenye; A few others by Nigerian children writers Cyprian Ekwensi and Our very own Ngũgĩ Wa Thiong’o, whom I met in the Njamba Nene series. But of all stories I read then I will never forget Moses and the man from mars

 

However, it’s the Harry potter series that changed everything. It torched ablaze a hidden potential; although i tried to exploit my creative juices back then; by writing a small fantasy series in the style of Harry potter. The book never came to be but has always been a living memory. Once I attempted to write a story at the age of 10.