An Old Conversation - Bikozulu
4 months ago, 13 Feb 13:54
When I get to City Market I don’t know where stall number one is. I linger at the entrance facing Muindi Mbingu street like a pickpocket. It smells of fresh roses and Maasai carvings, bibelot and curious, touristic paraphernalia. It’s 1:42pm and I’m to meet a 90-year old man at 1:45pm. It’s Saturday and I’m in my dirty trainers and track-pants after a morning of cycling with my kids at Karura forest. I could have gone back home for a quick shower and a change of clothes and looked presentable but that would mean being late and the gentleman I’m meeting didn’t sound like the kind who took kindly to tardiness. I ask a vendor where stall number one is and at that exact time I start to hear the tapping of a walking cane. I turn and I see the back of an old man walking further inside the market. He’s whistling. I instinctively knew it was him. “Is that Mzee Nthenge?” So I catch up with him and I introduce myself. He doesn’t stop walking, neither does he stop whistling. He doesn’t turn to look at me, he keeps shuffling along slowly, his walking stick tapping the floor. Then he stops whistling and says, “Is it you who called? Follow me.” And we slowly amble along to the tap of his walking stick and the music from his lips. Stall number one is a big forest of Maasai artefacts. He lowers himself into a seat next to a table at the corner and points at a stool with his walking stick. I take that gesture to mean sit, so I sit like a good dog. I sit next to a handful of spears and an old man in a canoe, who is holding his chin. I avoid the eyes of the old man – er, the wooden one. Mzee G. G. W Nthenge regards me slowly. His eyes are rheumy, the colour of honey. His eyebrows have been eaten away by age, leaving behind wisps of hair. His complexion is more fair than it is dark. A white crown. His face looks like those Khoisans we learnt about in primary school. In contrast to my shabby self, he’s in a red tie, white shirt, a cream coat and navy blue pants. Dressed like he’s about to stand on a podium. “What did you say your name was?” I tell him Jackson Biko. He says, “my sister in law has a son called Biko. Anyway, how do you know Matthew?” I tell him I don’t. “He emailed me and mentioned you are an interesting person to interview.” (His exact words were, “He [my dad] will rough up your feathers.”) “So you want to know about my life?” “Yes, sir.” He stares at me. He’s doing this thing which some people – especially much older/ wealthy/ powerful men – do during interviews where they just sit and regard you for a while, looking directly into your eyes and into you, ...
Category: blogs bikozulu
I have always said that I would never broach this subject but recent events in my life have forced my hand. Single parents. ...Category: blogs
The freedom of expression crusaders can say what they like about this new law that criminalises the publishing of false information, but looking at it from the prism of freedom alone is a selfish way ...Category: blogs
It is time to declare war against the arrogant and rogue pastors who, because of their money, power and connections, are getting away with many crimes. ...Category: blogs