“What do you mean we need integration? We don’t need integration, we need development!” My local butcher growled at me this morning when I went to pick some sausages. I flinched and said nothing, looking at him straight in the eye calmly. We stared at each for a few seconds. Me; calmly. Him, nose flared in anger. Eventually he lowered his gaze, softening abit. “I’m sorry. I lost it for a bit there. That was uncalled for.”
My local butcher and I are good friends. He is of Swahili Arab origin, a very social character and one of the humblest people I ever met. Which is why I was very surprised at his reaction to my question of what he thought of the #mshikakifest. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s a local event organized by the county government of Mombasa every month. It’s a colorful, vibrant event. And I love it. Hussein though (the butcher) believes we should be “repairing roads, creating business friendly environments and generally developing the county. Not building pavements and throwing parties around.”
For the past few months, Mombasa has been burning. As a person who was born and bred here, the difference between then and now is so glaring it can’t be ignored anymore. The tourists are gone, businesses have been shut down and religious differences have never been deeper than they are now. This December I visited Watamu, Wasini Island and Diani. Renowned tourists destinations the world over. Towns that used to flock with tourists from all over the world. Towns that used to be happy towns. Now dead shells. Shadows of their former selves. You can see the hunger in the eyes of the local business people. Or rather those that have remained. Most closed shop and left. Maybe for good. Five star hotels now looking like haunted houses. Run down. Others in ruins. Someone needs to document this, by the way. Because one day, all there will be is the history. With old men and women telling tales of how their town used to be vibrant, colorful and hospitable.
photos courtesy of the sunsetter and @lifeinmombasa
Forgive me, if my mind wanders too much. I am a sad coasterian. Coasterian by default, because my roots are in the land of hills and mountains and fresh water running through the forests. The most blessed county in Kenya. Full of hardworking Kenyans. Kisii. Still, I consider myself a coasterian; because that is the place I love most. The place I consider home.
Again, forgive me if my mind tends to wander. I was talking about the #mshikakifest. A welcome idea in these turbulent times in Mombasa.
A great person once said – I don’t remember his name. I never remember these great people’s name, sadly- that it is a people that make a nation. The people. Not roads, not schools. Though who I’m I kidding, education plays a vital role in shaping any society’s future. But what is education if at the end of the day people butcher each other because of religious or tribal affiliations.
When I was at the #mshikakifest and saw all that energy, happiness and mingling. I almost shed a few tears. Maybe I did. I don’t remember. All I know is Mombasa seriously needed this event. I saw people happy irrespective of their backgrounds. These were not tourists. There were not white or Chinese guys. They were not people from other counties. If anything, this year no one visited Mombasa, not even the infamous nairobians that we love to bash so much. These were just local Mombasa residents. In their bui bui’s, in their kanzus, in their hot pants, in the sundresses, in their skinny jeans. And for once, no one cared. Thousands and thousands of local residents. Everyone was happy. Some people went home with new lovers. Potential spouses even. You want a lover? Don’t send an sms to 45453. Visit the #mshikakifest next month.
Thank you, Mombasa county government for that great initiative. I hope you shall keep your promise of holding the #mshikakifest every month. We not only want this event. We need this event. A glimpse of the old Mombasa, it gave us.
Before I forget, I didn’t know how good of a performer Ali B is. My oh my, I think I’m in love! He has a new fan in me. A diehard fan in me! Please holla at a sister, Mr. Ali B! And another thing, that kaya beat (the distinctive mijikenda music) my God, that sound is beautiful. Even the Borana beat, great is an understatement. I realize that there is a silent revolution of African musicians going back to their roots and using traditional beats. Which is why, somebody needs to explain to me why no one from East Africa has made some smash hit using this amazing beat yet. Please Kenyan musicians wake up and smell the coffee. Before Nigerians steal it. For fucks sake, they have already stolen the chakacha beat!! And owned it, I must admit!