Visions of Kenya ex cathedra

In Summary
  • Nationalism and patriotism are arts, not acts, of patience.
  • In Kenya and Nairobi, the most beautiful Art is not imagined. It is experienced. It is like Religion or Aesthetics.
Men at work at a construction site.
Men at work at a construction site.

A man waits for a date outside a chapel. Next to him is an open grave. The colour of the roof and that of the grave floor is ochre. There are distinct faraway sounds of roving traffic. 

There are moments when his wait is a litany of four things. Then there are other moments where the rays of the sunny day initiate a sequence of daydreams, suspending him in a hammock of philosophy, lulling him into magical realisms of Nairobi today. 

One thing bothers him today. How can one measure the perfection of a grave? Approaches of height, width and length shift ever with sizes of the newest tenants. Such a parameter is malleable. As such it forms a dubious unit for the citation of value. A universal standard of measurement is considered a good starting point for better establishing of worth of many things.

Another thought dances with the aspect of texture: the finer the soil the dearer the grave. This one rests on a rumour. A woman of great beauty fell off the radar of remembrance because her jealous husband buried her in a grave of clay.

Toads became hoarse serenading her as she decayed into a gathering of reeds. Her jealous husband died and could not stop her lover from using her grave reeds to thatch his talisman hut behind where his wife cooks him hope!

A black cat with yellow eyes and a yellow bird with black eyes do a mock chase. They gravitate towards the fresh grave next to the waiter of a date. He daydreams as a jacana placards the fine blue skies with swishes of its tails in a speed rush. Where to? Is emptiness a measurable beauty or are all voids ugly? 

The third idea is more spiritual: ruins of all types are homes of essences. Here is a grave that rests by a church. It is effluent of a life in ruins. It expects such a life to be mourned. It will. It expects such a lost life to leave remnants. Fragments of experiences. It will. A grave is never empty even when not full. It is a ruin in which Time is sustained as suspense of the unknown.

Finally, the shadow that was to his patient left has now become one with his frame. It is like the hands of the clock at a given hour. Aligned. The wait he executes is in vain. Can a grave that open is, find meaning without occupation? Can one who waits without success be redeemed?

Redemption is a church that finds meaning in words. There is religion and then there is language. Which exists ex cathedra here now? 

The choice of nexus at the exit of a church and life is one that commemorates meaning. Wherever there has been a moment, a split of Time on the calendar of comfort, a bracket of measurement at the edge of senses, a foot of Form that bridges the one and the other, a trace of Existence upon the hue of silhouettes, Nairobians and Kenyans alike have captured Aesthetics.


This is one of the daydreams. Read it ex cathedra. He dreamt that he attended a redemption service in a famous attic church inside one of the seedy high-rise buildings not far from St Peters Clavers near OTC, our old hideout of pickpockets and their protégés. The prophet who conducted the six-hour marathon service verily and eventually went into a trance in slow motion.

It is unclear whether fatigue is spiritual. What is confirmed is this: the prophet is a self-proclaimed Doctor and a Bishop. He also fondly calls himself repeatedly, in tender baritone tones: professor of spiritualism.

To be honest, even I do not know what that means though I know many things in this world where Kenya exists as a postmodern dream.

He tapped him with a flywhisk of interesting colours without names. He did not fall as expected. He uttered something close to: Suntarabababara Ex Cathedraaa! Misalapolokotokoto….Et cetera.

The dreamer remained erect on the spot, where he stood. His shadow, absent.

Soon he felt a nudge from a neighbor to the left. Both stood at the centre of the melee, in this heated make-shift cathedral, and under the massive whirring air conditioner above whose shadow resembled a massive bird of prey.

The nudging neighbour was using her V-shaped elbow as she capered shimmeringly on her standing spot hither and thither, buoyed by pray tides. They locked eventually eyes.

She was saying silently: angularly fall. Wasn’t he a student of theatre arts aeons ago? He remembered. Role play is key: enactment is central.

Hours later, he emerged out of the kaleidoscopic kesha in the wee dawn with hundreds of other hustlers of this sprawling city of survival is for the fittest.

It was an experience that was professorial, doctoral and bishopic. Later, I met him sitting at the edge of a grave, at the massive hem of the famous cathedral. We addressed each other formally as doctors, I of the arts; him of the heavens.


Whenever I recall this encounter, I remember that nationalism and patriotism are arts, not acts, of patience.

When you truly wake up, you find out that the dreams above are reality itself. In Kenya and Nairobi, the most beautiful Art is not imagined. It is experienced. It is like Religion or Aesthetics.

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