Guest Post: Mathare Futurism: From Beggars to Masters Of Our Own Fate

Words: Wyban Mwangi

Allow me the joy of teaching you a new word today. The word is ‘duru’. Most of my millennial peers, where I come from, have an extensive grasp of what it means. It is simply the art of approaching a stranger, after careful analysis, wearing a sunken face then stretching your hand to them the same way a customer does when asking for their change. I am emphatic about calling it an art, since it is a skill that requires a lot of practice and experience. Mothers and aunts are the best teachers for this skill set. At least that is how it was set up for my family and many other families within my community as I grew up.

Let’s Talk About Sex Shaming

Let’s talk about sex was a hit song from the American all girl hip hop trio, Salt-N-Pepa released in 1990. For the conservative nature of the times, it went straight to the banned list. But anyone alive and young during the 90s remembers Salt-N-Pepa for this song and not because of the safe sex message. Talking about sex in the 80s was stuff of taboo. We only talked about what was wrong with sex in public and regurgitated borrowed notions of what we imagined was great sex from popular media in private. The 80s and 90s were incredibly traumatizing times for young people in the blossoming stage of their sexuality. The ‘killer’ disease AIDS was ravaging lives in Africa and the dread of sex went viral. The HIV virus had weaponized sex to kill and the 90s gave birth to a sexually repressed society burdened with the shame of sexual desire.

Caged Man In A Human Zoo

About 5 year ago, I encountered  a turtle by the banks of the river Yala in Gem district whilst doing farm work. We were five men busy digging, preparing a patch of land by the river to plant arrow roots, when one of the men nearly struck a solid shell that moved. He had discovered a turtle. In all my years since childhood, I had never seen a turtle in these waters and I was pleasantly surprised. The turtle, true to its nature, retreated into its shell as we gathered around to contemplate the best course of action. Two of the men debated on whether it was edible. Perhaps it could be sold for a tidy sum to a group of Chinese road construction workers reputed to pay premier rates for exotic dishes. Another suggested instant death launching into overdrive with his bad omen theories.

The Shame Of Broken Men

Shame on you. It is an amazingly effective word. The simple rebuke, “You should be ashamed of yourself”, uttered by someone in a position of parental authority has the potential to deeply affect the shamed individual. There is an old stereotype about African parents. Do what you must but do not bring shame to the family name. That is how we ended up with the black sheep characterization. African parents particularly of the staunch religious ilk had a low tolerance for non conforming behaviour.

Our Dreams Are Valid

On March 1, 2018, two weeks after its release, Black Panther movie was approaching a billion dollars in ticket sales. 10 days in, the movie leapt past the $400 million mark in domestic box office in the USA and over $700 million across the world. That is Stars Wars territory but with an All Black Cast to boot in a Marvel feature. This is the movie equivalent to the US Dream Team, at the 1992 Olympics at Barcelona. Never before had a finer group of talented basketballers come together and when they did, they took the world by storm. Black Panther is having its dream team moment as the showcase for black excellence and representation in cinema.