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Red Suede Mules

Nachire musome, nanyola khakhanga, Khakhanga khafwa khale Namkhuju
jusa engao khukupane ni wekhichu…
Wekhichu kuyuni kukali…
Kwakhupa kwa njoveresia, kwanjusa uwunyokosi …

No! Why can’t I remember!
Is this all I have left, legends and half remembered stories.
I am so surprised it has come to this.
My world is lost, misplaced without trace!
Legends and half remembered tales,
Bare bones with no meaning attached to them.
My badly tied lesso falls off my hips threatening to expose my virtue.
I make ugali so full of uncooked lumps, my husband won’t eat it!
My hands are unskilled, my kiondo unravels, falls apart in a minute.
Home is alien,
Or is it me an alien at home?

I lost my people as easily as that time in 1979 when I lost one of my new red
A gift from my father, for me, the first born mwana mbere, the golden child.
I lost one of my new red mules, suede like Elvis Presley’s,
Heels, four inches high,
I walked with the coltish uncertainty of a new giraffe.
Red and soft, of no use at all, except to declare love.

Red and soft, just to please the eye, my red suede mules.
I lost one shoe in a sudden rainstorm,
Gushing water from the sky swept everything away,
Tumbling water emptied into open ditches.
I slipped, one red mule flipped, and was swept away by the flooding water.
I abandoned all dignity, chased that shoe.
I got down on my hands and knees,
Blinded by torrential rain, I fumbled, frantic!
I watched my shoe disappear into the mouth of a yawning culvert.
I never found it.
Like that red mule I tried hard to hang onto some of my culture.
In the end I just had to let it go.
I realized it was always a mirage anyway.
Looking back all the time filled me with nostalgia for a skin I had shed even
before I really
knew it.
Before I could own it as mine.
For those of you who have wondered how a culture, a language, a people are

Forgotten without trace?
I am one of those answerable for the loss.
That’s what you’re thinking isn’t it?
You’re thinking yes, she is just the type, just the type to lose her red mules.
I thought so too, once.
I was dissatisfied,
I was tormented by the desire to return to a place that does not exist for me.
It does not exist for me!

Or so I once thought.
Once, I berated myself.
I gave in to a chorus of false accusations.
You are alien.
You are not a real African.
Are you enough?
I thought so too, once.
And then; I stopped beating my chest.
I stopped listening to my detractors.
I opened my eyes;
I found myself right here; at home.
I had never left.


by Sitawa Namwalie

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