5mins38secs In Love with a Stranger

Some years ago. Maybe 10, maybe more, I fell in love with a stranger.

In D.C. One of those nights out with the girls. I wasn’t looking.

All I wanted to do was dance.

2am. I think it was a Memorial Day Weekend, a stranger drew me to the dance floor. He lifted my hand and gently guided me. For 5mins and 38secs, I fell in love.

2 afternoons ago, sitting in traffic, I remembered the stranger. The one who held me tenderly and we stepped together in the name of love.

I didn’t get his name, I didn’t need to. He didn’t ask me mine. He didn’t need to. When the song ended, he went back to his table and me to my table with my girls.

All I remember is that we were so perfectly instep and for 5mins and 38secs we were one – not speaking, not hoping for more.

Pure love. Pure happiness.

Just 2 strangers dancing to this:

Terence Ranger (1929 – January 2015) #RIPTerenceRanger

TROne of the most pivotal pieces of academic writing I came across while doing research on African history, was a book edited by Prof. Ranger – The Invention of Tradition.

I argued against the book and then gradually understood and argued for the book. It will be the subject of an upcoming art exhibition.

I never thought that the author, at the time, what I would describe as a dusty  Oxford lecturer, would become a friend.

One evening, following a lecture where I had vehemently argued against the speaker over a topic that I thought she had misunderstood, Prof. Ranger made his way to me, stuck out his hand and introduced himself as “Terry.”

I was ofcourse taken aback and slightly tongue tied. THE Terence Ranger. Right there. In velvet slippers, wispy hair and a very, very red nose. Saying hello to me.

He told me he liked me. I was feisty and maybe that is what Oxford needed. He quickly became a friend.

I visited him a couple of times to talk about life at Oxford and the research I was undertaking. Each time I left even more inspired.

His youthful fight became my push to continue and at my lowest point, he offered great support.

On my last visit to Oxford I contemplated visiting him. Choosing instead not to. I would have been heartbroken to see him sick.

Rest in Peace, Terry. You will not be forgotten.

History will be kind to you for you have written it.

Thank you. Thank you.

I Want a Willow Smith Child

One of the hardest things about raising a daughter is getting her to be ok with who she is in a world that will try to dictate how she should look and behave. This thought is one with the definition of what a “good girl” is.

Perceptions on what is pretty are so ingrained in what being a girl is all about. Good girls are meant to look tame. Good girls are supposed to fit the model of what a girl looks like.

In looking for ways to explain to my daughters that an afro with a clip is a “good” as long blonde hair that falls tamed behind one’s shoulders, I came across, yes, my favorite – Sesame Street. The creator of this song, has an adopted daughter from Ethiopia and he noticed that she, like my two daughters wanted “good” hair.

Which led me to Willow Smith. This video inspired this video by this not considered “good” girl:

Now I am not saying that everything this girl does would not give me nightmares if my own did the same; what I am saying is, in light of the choices that my little girls have to make, I will take a Willow Smith Child.

I don’t want “good daughters.” I want badly behaved girls who make the world spin, because society will not be the measure for what is “good.”

Well-behaved women seldom make history.” – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“Good girls seldom make history.”

All About That Bass

Maybe now, we can get back onto that course of sanity over women’s body sizes (DOWN with thigh gaps and all that nonsense that will imprison my daughter into thinking she is not enough). *wiggles my bass*

The Too Official Past of the Mau Mau – Remembering Prof. Ali Mazrui

All but the most dogmatic of “students” of Kenya’s recent history are going to revise their views to a certain extent. They are going to do so partly because the assessment of ‘Mau Mau’ they had until recently was a little too “official.” But they are going to do so also because, all around them, the ostensible ends for which ‘Mau Mau’ fought are increasingly regarded as historically more enduring than the means to which they resorted in pursuing them.[1]

[1] Mazrui, Ali. “On Heroes and Uhuru-Worship.” Transition (1963): 23.

RIP Prof. Ali Mazrui (1933 – 2014)

Updike on Happiness

There is no such thing as static happiness. Happiness is a mixed thing, a thing compounded of sacrifices, and losses, and betrayals. – John Updike


A Beautiful Delivery – NTV Interview on the Pumwani Art Project #ArtPumwani

The Importance of Public Art in Kenya

What is Art?

Art is the product of the reaction to something you love.

A Beautiful Delivery – The #Pumwani Hospital #Art Project

Last year, I fell in love with two things. Pumwani Hospital and the work of Dr. Wambui Waithaka and other committed and energetic doctors like her.

Pumwani Hospital is an Obstetric and Referral Hospital for delivery of expectant mothers in Nairobi and adjoining districts. Pumwani also caters to HIV+ mothers through its PMTCT program.  Daily normal deliveries are 50 – 100, and Caesarean Sections are 10 – 15. It is the largest maternity hospital in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa.

I was told that I should become a doctor, pilot or architect when I was growing up and because it was important, I suppressed my dream to follow what I actually knew I was – an artist. The last half of 2013 was about actively getting back to that place: Africana

It is in this time that serendipity crossed my path with the other Wambui’s – I can’t even remember how. Then somehow, I found myself at Pumwani with Wambui. And somehow, I heard myself committing to creating art pieces for the antenatal clinic.


Somehow the project took a life of its own. Then Kuona Trust put some money for materials, towards supporting the project through it’s Outreach Programs Grant. Then it seemed befitting to have more artists from Kuona be part of the project. Then Tonney Mugo made a stained glass panel. Then Mondeas decided to support the project further and Kevin Oduor said he wanted to make a sculpture garden bench.

Tonney Mugo’s stained glass panel in progress.

Somehow the project has continued to grow. Wambui Waithaka challenged me a little by asking why only a few pieces. So through Kuona Trust, I made a call to contemporary visual artists to donate art pieces. In the last couple of weeks we have been collecting art from all over Kenya.

It is powerful to see love extended in this way.

I have been selective about which pieces to include and the theme is around nurturing and hope and/ or mother and child. The pieces are by some well known Kenyan artists and they are of the same quality that you would expect from a private hospital that has a budget to commission artists.

Artwork in hospitals can serve as a positive distraction for what the patient is experiencing. It is the ultimate way to demonstrate the healing power of art and its utility beyond aesthetics.

In 2004, a clinical study* showed that placing original artworks within the healthcare environment had the following benefits:

  • Reduction in levels of anxiety, stress and depression
  • Reduction in patients’ length of stay within the hospital
  • Reduction in the use of some medications
  • Increase in staff morale

*Public Art in Health Spaces: http://www.publicartonline.org.uk/resources/research/healthcare_research_evaluation.php

It is because women like Wambui Waithaka exist that change can be effected through unlikely synergies. It is because of artists that we can bring joy and healing through something as underestimated as art.

We need more artists in this, our beloved Kenya. More artists alongside the doctors, pilots and architects.

In a couple of weeks, we will handover the art pieces to Pumwani Hospital and hopefully this will be the start of more projects that put contemporary art in healing places.

The Importance of the Humanities

Judith Butler and the Importance of the Humanities

[The humanities allow us] to learn to read carefully, with appreciation and a critical eye; to find ourselves, unexpectedly, in the middle of the ancient texts we read, but also to find ways of living, thinking, acting, and reflecting that belong to times and spaces we have never known. The humanities give us a chance to read across languages and cultural differences in order to understand the vast range of perspectives in and on this world. How else can we imagine living together without this ability to see beyond where we are, to find ourselves linked with others we have never directly known, and to understand that, in some abiding and urgent sense, we share a world?


You will need all of those skills to move forward, affirming this earth, our ethical obligations to live among those who are invariably different from ourselves, to demand recognition for our histories and our struggles at the same time that we lend that to others, to live our passions without causing harm to others, and to know the difference between raw prejudice and distortion, and sound critical judgment.

The first step towards nonviolence, which is surely an absolute obligation we all bear, is to begin to think critically, and to ask others to do the same.

via http://www.brainpickings.org