Bagamoyo is in my 10 historic destinations to visit in Africa. Also on the list is the House of Slaves and its Door of No Return museum on Goree Island in Senegal that is a memorial to the victims of the Atlantic Slave trade. However, it is Bagamoyo that I have to start with next door in Tanzania. For a long time Bagamoyo was a name out of the sketchy history lessons in school. I knew little about the East African slave trade, the notoriety of the slaver Tippu Tip and the slave markets of Zanzibar. My reading of slavery in pre colonial Africa dwelt on the Trans Atlantic slave trade that devastated Central and West Africa.
Zeituni Onyango was Barack Obama’s auntie. Obama writes about meeting her for the first time his best selling memoirs “Dreams of My Father” the story of reconnecting with his roots and finding a sense of belonging in Kenya. His sister Auma had given her ride to her place of work in a temperamental VW Beetle in Nairobi. As Auntie Zeituni was leaving the car for her office at the Kenya Breweries, where she worked as a computer programmer, she kissed Obama on the cheek and then turned to Auma and said, “ Make sure he doesn’t get lost again”.
This was an expression that Obama had never encountered and he asked his sister Auma what his Auntie Zeituni meant by getting lost. Auma explained the two meanings.
Why don’t we have a grandmother’s day? I wondered about that as I browsed through the list of international days currently observed by the United Nations.
Strange, considering the United Nations goes to great lengths to find solidarity with all of humanity. There is an international day for happiness, to remind everyone that joy is what the planet needs.
A World Rabies day to raise awareness around proper interaction with dogs and why you should remember to schedule your vaccination.
There is a World Toilet day because 1 billion people on earth have never known the luxury and privacy of a clean flush toilet.
A World Television day to celebrate the incredible power of TV to shape the world in its own image. A day of Yoga, a polite reminder to the progressives that mastering the downward dog is what healthy living is all about these days.
I suppose someone in the UN think tank decided that grandmothers were adequately covered in the day for Widows, Older Persons, Rural Women or the World Elder Abuse day.
They could be right.
African grandmothers tend to fit the profile well; aged, widowed, rural and neglected.
You have heard it repeatedly that the unveiling of the cabinet secretary nominees was refreshing. No protocols were observed and President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto relaxed demeanour was the major talking point. Their matching dress code, informal speech delivery and openness overshadowed the debate on the credibility of the nominees. We are not used to a president dressing down during a live state function.
Traditionally, presidents only lost the suit when they went to the coast. I have to admit, they looked cool and cool sells.
It is quite obvious that they are big Obama fans. Ever since the Obama effect took over America, many Kenyans have behaved like jilted lovers who felt dumped. “That should have been our president!”
Invariably, there has been a secret longing for a cool president and Uhuru and Ruto joined at hip like Siamese twins are bleeding the prospect for all its worth. Uhuru’s casualness, calling journalists by name, inviting them to tea had the media corps gushing.
When you have lived through the stereotypical African big men presidents, Uhuru and Ruto’s buddy swagger in public engagement becomes something of mouth gaping spectacle.
When I was starting out in the writing business in the late 90s, my business savvy friends advised me to get a card. I had a popular column, called Mantalk, which focused on a male point of view in contemporary urban relationships. Within the first three years, the column started to generate countrywide interest and it seemed smart to seize the moment and milk my popularity for what it was worth. Had I considered a TV show, a speaking circuit or at the very least a cookbook? Anything to leverage my five minutes of fame. I was big on resolve and psyche but low on resources and the advisers told me to run lean. Start with a business card. People will take you more seriously.
Since I was shaping up as the go-to guy as far African masculinity challenges were concerned, I had to choose a card that reflected a manly profile that was not too cheesy nor too flimflam. I chose the color blue because I had read in some astrological profile that it symbolised strength and power, a tad bit more original than plain white. I grappled with some fancy titles.
“Journalist” was not accurate because I was not formally trained in the craft.
“Columnist” seemed a bit boxed. I did more than write columns.
“Media practitioner” had all the undertones of a PR overload.
“Anthropologist” sounded stiff and academic.
“Wordsmith” gave the impression of self-aggrandizement.
Eventually I ended up with no title under my name because my advisers added that, if I was any good at my craft, my name would be able to carry its own weight. At the back of the card, I decided, to add a little witty touch and wrote, “Lose the box”.