I really wanted to talk about this film that I’ve just watched. Man! I’m beginning to reconsider South Africa. I’ve always thought that with my kind of crazy, I should have been born in South Africa. But these few films from Mali are making me feel like my heart and their ways were just made for each other. Because I don’t see Kenyans enjoying this kind of stuff. Yet my soul thrives on their brilliance in film creativity.
So guess what this one was about? Genesis. Yap! That same bible book. And yet I watched it despite not being a Christian. Simply because it had same actors as the ones that acted Taafe Fanga that I talked about here So I remember reading the description and thinking, if there are a people that would do justice to an African rendition of the Bible, it is this cast. The one film from them that I watched was so damn well done that I would bet on them any day.
And true to their spirit, they have done more than justice to those 2 chapters of Genesis that they’ve acted out. Forget about this Bible plays we see on TV that either act word by word of the bible or complicate matters too much till you are not sure its the same Moses of the Bible we are talking about.
This cast from Mali owned the damn story. Like someone who has absolutely no idea who or what genesis is, would actually enjoy the film. They incorporate their culture in it. And one reason I realise i’m biased towards their films is the use of their mother tongue. It brings out everything so vividly. Like yes, I’ll be reading the subtitles the whole time but you should find me increasing the volume, just to hear this sweet African language I know nothing about.
My heart is almost always bursting when watching these people. Yaani everything just draws me in. From the environment. Especially the environment. This film has been acted in a desert or arid area. Houses were tents or semis structures. Unlike other films from Africa where its like the producers were looking for a good looking house to act in, these ones didn’t even bother. They worked with nature as it is. It makes my heart so full to see Africans being unapologetically themselves. No poverty porn. No being pretentious by acting while considering your audience thus changing names or words to English or something.
These ones acted for themselves. You feel it in the way they are comfortable in their skin and environment. In the way they walk proudly with their heads held high. In the way they incorporate their culture without explaining it to scenes. In the way songs are a part of their everyday life. In the way sarcasm, especially African kind of sarcasm drips from their lines.
Its always magic for me watching them. Don’t know why I don’t do this as often.
Anyway, that’s what I wanted to tell you. Or rather, me. To store it for my future. Remembering when I started really watching African films. And how alive they made me be.
Speaking of being alive, someone I love triggered me really badly . Like really badly. Those things that take you back to thoroughly unhealed parts of yourself. Hadi I was feeling pity for myself because I knew the kind of falling their perceived action would cost my peace of mind.
So I woke up, heavy in a raw way. Totally destabilized inside there. And tired. The kind of sadness that’s just tired. A heart so heavy it didn’t want to get out of bed. And as I semi-slept thinking, I started really thinking about this incident from primary school. And how badly it scarred us. To date.
I was in class 8 or 7. I don’t remember clearly, but I was almost done with my primary school. I had stayed in this school since class 3. And along the way, the director built a secondary school next to us. So we now had same management for most things. Till this one time, when a manager was hired. And none of us could understand what was his role. Like he wasn’t exactly a teacher or staff like the matron, so what exactly was his role? And he even came with his wife.
So sometimes he would pop up in class encouraging us while other times his wife would call us upper primary class kids and talk about sex. Saying how it was so damn good that she had it everyday, and as a result we should wait till we are adults to have it. Like I think she had mixed up her thoughts and intentions. Because if there is anything her talks made us want to do, was to actually now experiment with this sweet activity she keeps on praising.
Anyway, we just thought they were both trying to keep themselves relevant to us. And for most parts, we all had a cordial relationship with them since we didn’t feel their impact on our lives anyway.
Till this specific national holiday. Our school had this habit of refusing to acknowledge public holidays in Kenya. We would have either classes as usual, or they would give us a free prep. Or compulsory preps minus teachers. So with time we complained about it. That there is no way we can be the exception in our country. That everyone else is getting an off day except us.
So this specific holiday, the school agreed to let us be. Do nothing the whole day. We were happy. That was all we expected.
Till the night before, when this manager decided to walk around in classes telling us about this surprise they had for us for the next day.
That instead of our usual githeri for lunch and supper, for the first time in the history of that school, we would eat chapos. Of course, none of us believed him at first. We had been around long enough to know that this school was good just not that generous with free offers.
And each disbelieving face he encountered, made him add some vigour to the description of the chapos we would eat the next day. By the time he reached our class, we already knew the whole tale since he had been thoroughly shouting in all classes behind us.
But that didn’t deter him. He started the description afresh . But I think since most of us had been around for years, and had never seen such a thing even implied, we just looked at him tell his crazy tales to us.
That tomorrow would be a day like no other. We would not only eat Chapos to our fill, but there would also be meat. And not the one piece of meat we eat once in a week. No. A good amount of meat. And green grams. That would be our lunch the next day.
Dude spent 30 minutes explaining only that. To quell our disbelief, he even drew that meal elaborately on the blackboard. Like we were all believers by the time he bid us goodnight. All sold. I mean, why would an adult come to our class and spend 30 minutes telling us lies?
To give you context, we used to eat githeri every lunch and supper except Wednesdays when the supper was Ugali, and Saturday and Sunday when one meal was substituted for rice and beans/kamande. So you can imagine, in a setting where not even a single meal of githeri had ever been replaced with rice, we were now to have chapos?
Anyway, we were now on board this chapo train. Our prep became animated as people talked of chapos helped by the visual representation on the black board. We all talked of nothing else as we went to sleep. Yaani all of us couldn’t wait for the next day. When we would harvest manna that we neither asked for nor ever imagined.
The next day most students didn’t bother with the morning porridge or 10 o’clock tea. I mean, we had to be hungry enough for the precious meal to come. No one went far away from the dining hall. Previously, on days we were free, characters like me took long walks in the field down there. While others went to sleep. But on this day. We loitered around the dining hall.
Looking back, none of us smelt a chapo aroma the whole time we were hanging around the kitchen. But that didn’t discourage any of us. I mean, the manager had said. And even thoroughly removed any doubt any of us had.
So lunch time arrives, for some reason we were apprehensive. We didn’t rush to the hall. I mean, if its chapos it means there will be order unlike other days. Plus we didn’t want to seem much excited. This school was really big on discipline, you just didn’t display uncouth behavior like running for food.
Anyway, I remember walking towards the dining hall with some students in front of me. And as I neared the entrance I noticed students standing like statues there. Around 5 or so. With spoons in their hands. Its like they were fixed there. Not moving. Just staring inside the hall with blank expressions.
Getting there at the entrance, I understood what had rooted them to the spot. As you already guessed, in our plates, was our usual githeri. This one didn’t even have potatoes like they sometimes put. Just plain old githeri.
Most students, and remember we were starving, didn’t even bother to eat. Like at all. I remember eating a part of my food. But the dining hall was so damn silent, a passerby outside wouldn’t even guess there were humans inside there.
No one talked. Like at all.
Little girls and boys. We ate, those who could, in silence. And moved on from that incident as if it didn’t happen. Like we were so damn hurt, barely could we put it in words. None of us could understand why an adult, who could eat any meal they wanted in their house, would out of his own volition, come to our classes and promise us a heavenly meal, and instead of delivering, we eat the same old meal.
We weren’t mad at the githeri. Its what we ate anyway each day. We were mad at a broken promise.
That incident replayed in my mind in the morning I think for the second time since I left primary school. The first time I was just getting shocked at the kind of things I found in the boxes I locked away as a kid.
This second time, I was unpacking the immense disappointment we went through. And as my heart grew heavy from the memory, I now understood why none of us talked about it afterwards. If this is how I felt bad about it in adulthood, imagine 11year old kids trying to process that kind of heaviness.
Anyway, life moved on. But I think some of these hurts, come back to haunt us later in life. When someone does something and your heart decides to remind you of such a heartbreaking incident from years ago.
And we heal. And learn that sometimes, our hearts look at present incidents from past’s eyes. And that’s not fair either for us, or those we are dealing with. So we try and feel those hurts we had stored away. Then forge new truths for ourselves. That not everyone is malicious when they don’t keep their word. And that yes, we grew up with people who told us things they didn’t mean, and that made us scared of trusting people. And when we trust them and they hurt us or disappoint us, its so hard to not go back to that little girl who trusted absolutely no one to have her best interest at heart.
A wounded adult, I can deal with. But the wounded child in me is a little hard. I find her so damn small, delicate and fragile to have gone through some of these things. Like she deserved better. But we can’t change the past. So I try make my present as light as possible. And hope.
That above all things, life gets better.