Essay – How Well Do You Know You?

I am an ardent art enthusiast- and I mean art in all its forms- from music & musicals, to plays & movies, then dance & poetry; you name it. I find it beautiful that one can through the use of words or pictures or movement take you on a journey so engaging that at the end you are left wondering how the rest of the world can move on so….casually. It is no wonder then that I am a faithful at any and all spoken word events, I’d be hard pressed to explain why- if ever- I miss a theater showing, or fail to show up at an expressive/interpretive dance routine.

Today though, I will concentrate on the former and what happened scarcely 2 days past. Kwani Open Mic happens on the first Tuesday of each month inside Phoenix Players at Professional Centre on Parliament Road (yes, the same one some idiots want to shut down). Now usually performing artists are expected to arrive earlier than the rest of the audience- show runs between 7:00 PM and 9:30 PM and each are given roughly 5 minutes on stage to do their thing. The last performance however, the Featured Poet, is given 15 minutes to showcase their skill. This Tuesday was no different, or rather it wasn’t to be, we went in expecting either a spoken word piece or like on infrequent occasions in the past a band.

What we got instead was a mini- play; Grammar Nazis will have to forgive me for that slight because this was more than a skit without achieving the heights of theatre. An experience nevertheless, but not one usually put on. Sorry, I digress, where was I? Aaah yes, the night’s headlining act, the reason for the season, the crème de la crème, the cherry on top of the icing covering the cake, the one- the only Ngartia (J Bryan)! What made his performance as memorable and his execution so spectacular was not only the delivery (and the creativity behind it) but rather how well he married his act to the evening’s theme.

Let me ask you this, how well do you know your history? What was that, my query is much too vague? Okay let me re-phrase that then, what makes April 15th 1922 significant to The Republic of Kenya?

……….don’t worry, I’ll wait………

Now yours was my exact reaction when I realized I didn’t know as much about my own history as I thought. That incredulity you feel at the outright lies and half truths you were fed all through your school life is the same tempest my mind went through when it dawned on me that the “birth of a nation” as I understood it was flawed. The anger, resentment and confusion my soul is suffering through as I imagine sacrifices made and lives laid for me to breathe this somewhat free air I enjoy today; and the realization that many of my heroes won’t ever be feted or even recognized threatens to consume me.

But I applaud myself, and I’m not ashamed to proclaim loud and clear the patting of self on back, because I know now that I have landed on the path of self discovery, the road to veracity. Because on this most glorious of nights I learnt of the brave and fearless woman who rallied a crestfallen group of men. And though this day calls for national acclamation and international condemnation, it is also a testament to the pivotal role that the woman- THE INDOMITABLE AFRICAN QUEEN- played not only in securing our sovereignty but in shaping the Kenya we know and love.

So I invite you on this journey with me and with mine as we seek to discover the truth about our today, from the chains of our yesterday and forge towards the wings of our tomorrow. And it starts with understanding the role Muthoni Nyanjiru played in our history.

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