#MyUnkemptHair: The Politics of African Women’s Hair

I grew up with my cousins, six of us. Like most Swahili families, we were various shades of skin tones and hair types. Our hair varied from straight Arab hair, to thick curls with everything else in between. Mine was what most would at the time consider as “regular African” hair; just a bit softer with a looser curl pattern. But compared to my cousins’ it was kinky. So, while my hair was always in cornrows theirs was in pony tails and ribbons. We used to go to the salon together and every time, there were questions about my hair. Why wasn’t it curly enough like the rest? Wasn’t I a real Swahili? I eventually stopped going to the same salon as them. When I was in high school I finally  relaxed  my hair like most girls who had my type of hair. 3 years ago, I decided to stop relaxing and transitioned into natural  hair. Throughout the time I had relaxed my hair, the comments never stopped. It was either too thin, not long enough, too hard, or not Swahili enough. One of my favorites was when non-Swahili people commented on how sure they were that my hair was awesome under my hijab and how they wished that they had hair like mine.

My decision to go back to my natural hair was informed in part by social media, having seen the natural hair movement by African-American women where they reclaimed the meaning of beautiful hair. The other reason was that I wanted to do this thing that was unheard of in my community for my type of hair; to keep it as it grew. I  also wanted to prove that it could grow long, even though its texture and type was not the kind associated with long hair. But eventually, I got over that and I have learned to love and enjoy it as it is. Right now I’m at the point where if I wanted to cut it, I wouldn’t think twice about it. It’s just hair, it’ll grow back. Not that I don’t care, it’s just that it doesn’t define who I am anymore.

A few weeks ago a Kenyan man tweeted that African women are using the “natural hair movement” as an excuse to keep untidy and unkempt hair as long as “we’ve put a flower or ribbon on it”. He also said  that natural hair works for only some people. It was pretty clear he was trolling. It has become common for men on Twitter to say controversial things to get the attention of women, especially feminists, so that they can use the reaction they get to reinforce their sexism. If they get a backlash, they will then backtrack and say “the feminists are coming for me” to show that feminists are unreasonable and cannot handle criticism. This is a silencing tactic, because they know eventually women will stop engaging with them and they can continue being sexist without any recourse. I am very aware of this. And most of the time, I ignore such trolls. However on this day I chose to respond. But I did not engage him directly but instead posted pictures of my hair using the hashtag #MyUnkemptHair. Other Kenyan women joined in and before long our TLs were filled with natural hair in all types and textures and lengths and it was a glorious lovefest.

I chose to respond for two reasons.  The debate on African women’s hair is a long and complicated one. In a world where women are expected to perform beauty for the male gaze, and where hair is considered a marker of beauty, a lot of women consider hair to be a part of their identity. And in a world where whiteness informs the standards of beauty, there are specific types of hair that are considered beautiful depending on their proximity to whiteness. Therefore, in the global scale of beauty, black women’s hair is at the bottom. Disdain and demonization of African hair in its natural state has been pushed by a media machine which elevated straight hair of white women or hair close to it(Asian, Arab). In Kenya and most African countries the shift to straightening hair happened sometimes during the 70s and 80s when women started applying curly kits and relaxers into their hair. Hot combs and blow drying was also used for temporary straightening. For most of us, cornrows were for school going children and grown women had straight and sleek hair. And in the last 15 years weaves became common.  This is what you call assimilation where members of an oppressed group takes on norms of a dominant culture so as to fit in and avoid dehumanization because of being different.

In the last couple of years, more African women have started wearing their hair natural. In the beginning there was a backlash that natural hair was unprofessional, as it didn’t look “attractive” and even though this has improved, this notion still persists in certain sectors. In 2015, I have heard cases of African women, in corporate spaces still missing out on career opportunities because of wearing their hair as it grows. In addition, there are hierarchies in which types of natural hair is acceptable. Looser hair, with big curls is preferred where kinkier, tight curled hair is still frowned upon.

When I posted my pictures, I deliberately picked pictures where my hair was uncombed or unstyled. Majority of them were wash and go (where you wash your hair and basically, just go). But because I have a certain type of hair and texture, my hair is considered the “good” kind of natural hair. But if a woman with coarser hair did the same, her hair will be considered unkempt or untidy. It is also ironic that right now my hair is considered “good” hair, a far cry from when I was younger and it was compared to that of my cousins. What this also shows is that for women, there will never be good enough. No matter what we do for ourselves, a patriarchal society will always tell us that we need to do more, change more to be desirable.

Through this socialization most of us have internalized these standards of beauty. We no longer have to be told by the media, we do it to ourselves and to each other.  And so it has become commonplace for fellow Africans to call our hair in its natural state unkempt, dirty and untidy. On the other hand, it is rare to find someone describe straight hair, whether it’s uncombed or just washed as unkempt.

And it’s for this reason I responded. In this kind of environment, our hair becomes political. And when African women choose to wear their hair in its natural state it becomes a statement of defiance. So when an African man comes out and makes derogatory remarks about our hair, or how we look, or our skin tones, he is not just commenting on physical aspects, he is actually reinforcing years of damaging and dehumanizing notions about black women, which are used to continue upholding white supremacy. What this man and many who think like him need to understand is that they are being used as a tool of our oppression.

The second reason I chose to respond was basically what the hashtag morphed into. When other women joined in, it was Kenyan women showing their hair to each other, loving on each other, supporting each other, uplifting each other. It was us telling each other, I see you, you are beautiful and appreciated. On that day I saw us, taking the power back, choosing how to see ourselves, how to express ourselves. Choosing that we, alone, decide what our beauty is and that it is vast and diverse and all valid. It was amazing. And since then, every time I see a woman wearing her hair as it naturally grows, I give her a smile, an acknowledgment that we are enough

And even though some men tried to change the conversation on this powerful thing and reduce it to us performing to them and seeking their approval, , in reality it was us showing them that not everything women do or how they look requires their nod to be termed as beautiful. And we do not need their permission to exist. On that day I saw the manifestation of what Ann Daramola repeatedly tells us, “Power, not Permission.


How To Make a Feminist Chicken Biriani

I haven’t blogged on here for 3 years. It feels kinda weird but also nice. I’ve missed this.

Feminist Biriani 

So earlier this year, I had invited a couple of friends to my house for lunch and tweeted about making them biriani. Some random dude on Kenyan Twitter decided to use that to mock me and Feminists in general. And so the term #FeministBiriani was coined. The food and the day ended up being dope and the sad man yelled at his keyboard because his plot to ruin my day was defeated. I took some pictures that day cos I wanted to tweet the recipe but then got lazy and too full.

This week, someone asked for a pilau recipe and as I was sending to her and a few others I decided to finally put down the recipe for the #FeministBiriani. Hope y’all enjoy.

*Warning* Using this recipe might turn you into a Feminist. Tread carefully. 

Ok, so Biryani itself originated from South East Asia, although even Wiki doesn’t know from where specifically. I’m assuming the Swahili learned it from Indian traders who came to the Coast back when. I’ve noticed that there’s slight differences in how the we make it and how Kenyan Indians do it today.


Image from Google.com

Like with everything else, there’s a specific way that biryani is cooked that’s considered the authentic way. In the older days there was no gas cookers and pressure cookers or meat tenderizers and all that. I remember the biryani meat used to be marinated in yoghurt and raw pawpaw to soften it. This also works with kienyeji chicken since it’s tougher. Sometimes they used to marinate and then slow cook it the whole night. The deliciousness of this cannot be described. Oh Em Gee! But I haven’t seen this method used in ages, especially the raw pawpaws.

Image from Google.com

Image from Google.com

Biryani basically is a rice and sauce dish. The rice is cooked separately and the sauce separately. Some versions of it have the sauce and rice mixed during the last stage of cooking and then served as one dish and another, they’re served separately. The mixing version works best when cooking either in a jiko or using kuni and is mostly done for huge quantities during functions. If it’s done well, I like this version cos the rice absorbs the sauce and it’s quite delicious.


The original Feminist Biriani

This recipe I’m gonna share is my mum’s version of chicken Biryani and it’s my favourite because it’s pretty easy to make but also delicious. The taste doesn’t stray from the original biryani taste.

Ok, let’s start.


Sauce- For 4-5 people

  • 1 Whole chicken
  • 5 large onions
  • 10 Tomatoes chopped into pieces
  • 6 large potatoes split into fours
  • 1 medium sized garlic head, peeled
  • 1 medium sized ginger root- peeled
  • 2 table spoons of tomato paste
  • 1 bunch of Dhania
  • 1 Capsicum- chopped
  • 4 large Carrots- chopped
  • Oil- Enough to fry the chicken, potatoes and onions.
  • Spices- Cinamon, cardamom, cumin, black pepper. Grind loosely so that it still has chunks sticking out.
  • Alternatively, bottled Pilau Masala
  • Optional- Spanish Paprika, parsley and rosemary.
  • Secret Feminism Potion


  • 2 Cups Rice
  • 4 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • Food colour- yellow, orange or red (or all)



I prefer cooking the rice first since it’s faster. This is cooked the way you normally cook rice depending on how much rice you’re making. Boil water with salt, add rice, cook. Or in a rice cooker as I did mine


One distinct feature of the biryani is the colourful rice. There’s really nothing much to this other than food colour. When the rice is almost dry, before you cover to leave it to dry completely, mix a little bit of food colour preferably yellow/orange or you can do both colours and maybe some red, the more colourful, the better with a little bit of water, (don’t make it to watery cos we don’t want to make the rice soggy)


Dig shallow holes in the rice and pour bits of the colour, each colour on a separate hole. Cover the holes and your rice and let it cook completely.


Before serving the rice, mix it so the coloured parts can spread.


Ok, now for the chicken sauce

Cut your chicken into desired pieces. Set it aside to dry. When it’s dry, dust it with salt and black pepper.


Heat some oil and fry the chicken lightly. About 2 mins each side. We just need it to cook a little at this stage. Set it aside.


Next, fry the onions until they’re dark brown. Blend them with a little water into a paste. Alternatively if you can find bottled onion paste, you can use that.




Next, put some yellow or orange food colour on the potatoes, toss to coat them evenly, then fry them until they’re completely cooked. Set them aside.

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Next, put all the other ingredients including the Feminism Potion in a blender and blend them into a thick paste. The trick here is to use the tomatoes as a base so that you won’t need to add any water. This sauce is supposed to be very thick so use as little water as possible.

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Pour this mixture in your pan. Add the spices/pilau masala and tomato paste. I like adding spanish Paprika cos it adds a certain sweetness and some herbs, but this isn’t compulsory. Add salt to your taste.


The essence of this dish, is to allow the ingredients to simmer rather than boil. At first, bring it to a boil for about a minute then reduce the heat and let it cook until it becomes a thick stew. It should almost dry, no visible water just oil.


When the stew has reduced and is almost dry, put in the chicken, add the potatoes and pour in the onion paste Stir thoroughly so that the chicken and potatoes are well mixed with the sauce. Increase the heat and cover for about 2 mins

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Meanwhile, reheat the oil you had used to fry the chicken and potatoes. When it’s completely hot, pour onto the sauce, all around the pot. Turn off the heat, put in the dhania and cover and let it sit until serving time.


And the sauce is ready.

Serve with a kachumbari salad and pilipili.

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Extra: Pilipili



Blend the following together. The quantities don’t really matter, depends on how much pilipili you want to make and how hot you want it to be. If you don’t want it too hot, reduce the number of chillies. You can make a lot of this and put it in a jar and store in the fridge to use for later.

  • Green chillies
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots

Put the mixture in a pan, add oil and salt, put in low heat and cover. Put some lemon juice or if you have tamarind paste, or vinegar. Allow to simmer until it becomes a thick paste with no water, only oil. Adjust salt to taste and it’s ready to serve.


(NB: Pics aren’t of the best quality, poleni)

Response to: The Big Brother Africa Fights: Another Feminist Facade

(Disclaimer: This is an old post, and I have grown since I wrote this. I now proudly identify as a feminist and feminist activist. I leave this post up to remind myself of how far I have come and that I should always be open to learning and unlearning)

I was seriously done discussing this issue because I felt I had said all there needs to be said. But I came across this blog post earlier today on willpress.blogpost.com

I wanted to comment on the  post but my comment was too long so decided to put it on my blog.

To the Author of that post,

First, I am not a feminist. I do not identify with any feminist movement, I don’t read any feminist books, and I can’t name a single prominent feminist to save my life. But I am pretty vocal about issues pertaining to women. Why? Because I believe that a healthy society requires healthy confident women. Sometimes I berate men like   here and sometimes I talk about women. But whenever a woman is vocal about women issues, they are quickly labelled feminists so that they can be put in a box which can ridiculed, and disregarded as “those feminists making noise about nothing again.”  These issues affect everybody. Why should I have to be a feminist to talk about them?

Secondly, I would like to draw your attention to an incident which occurred earlier on in the show (I can’t find the clip on their site, anyone has it?) where the said DKB and Prezzo were involved in an altercation for an hr where Prezzo repeatedly goaded him and asked him to hit him if he could. That argument ended without anybody slapping or hitting anybody. If you watch the clip you would agree that Prezzo was way more disrespectful that Zainab was. But DKB didn’t hit him. Why do you think that was. That is exactly why this isn’t simply bad tv but a “feminist” issue. DKB didn’t hit Zainab because she was all over his face. He hit her because she was a woman and he could.

Third, the reason there is a standard rule that you should not hit women because our biology is very different. Men are generally bigger and stronger than women. It’s interesting cos this is the first argument thrown at feminists isn’t it? Men and Women can’t be equaled because we’re biologically different? If a man chooses to properly beat a woman, then because of his biology, he can kill her. I know there are cases of women hitting men, women being stronger than men but those incidences are exceptions. An average man can beat an average woman to a pulp before she even lifts her hands. Physically, women (most) are weaker. Men shouldn’t take advantage of this.

If we allow for situations where it can be considered acceptable to beat a woman then we’ve lost the fight on violence against women. Who decides when it’s ok to hit a woman? How far should a woman go to provoke you before you hit her? How much should you hit her for each offence? Say if what Zainab did deserved a slap, if she had mentioned his mother, was he then allowed to kick her? Maybe the guy who slit that girl’s throat felt she had become too much. Hell, maybe she did mouth off to him. Did she deserve to die?? We live in a continent where in many parts women are still considered less than men. This isn’t a feminist issue. This is a society issue. We are either against violence on women or we’re for it for it.

Finally, there are very few situations where violence of any kind can be right (e.g. self defense). Two men using their fists to solve a problem is as bad as a man hitting a woman and vice versa. A true measure of a person is determined with how they stick to their principles when faced with a situation where they are pushed to go against them. Situations should not change who you are.



Love Actually

It is with horror that I find myself drawn to write a post on Valentine’s. About love. It’s especially curious because I’ve been trying to  complete my holiday posts and it’s been difficult finding the right words and everything I write doesn’t feel good enough to be posted.  And yet here I am with sentences rushing through my mind begging to be let out. So here goes. But be warned, this post is more rambling than anything specific so bear with me.

Never is an emotion revered, vilified, ignored, ranted at and blamed as love is during this time. The ones in love can’t gush enough about it. The heartbroken are asking why, the cynics are dressing it in sarcasm. Love is everywhere.

Most of us, especially girls, got our idea of romantic love from the Cinderella and Snow White books that we read at a very early age. We would suffer, then our prince would come rescue us, and then we’d live happily ever after. As teenagers this notion was reinforced by the Mills and Boon books we sneaked into our rooms, filling our young impressionable minds with fantasies of tall dark handsome men who will come sweep us off our feet. This mindset usually set us up for our first heartbreak. Of course nothing works out as the books had suggested. Some of us become quickly disillusioned while others continue to hold on to the idea that he was just the wrong one. The real prince will come. Years later, we get on with the business of living and the dreams we once held about happy ever after are forgotten.

But there’s something I’ve noticed about my age group as far as love, especially romantic love,  is concerned. We don’t like admitting it’s a big part of us. When in a relationship, we try hard not to appear too in love. When we break up, we pretend it didn’t matter. Tuck it in out of sight. No one likes to see love’s disappointments  . Better go get drunk. We seem to be a generation scared of our feelings. My apprehension at writing this post shows how much we avoid expressing or talking about love. Don’t wear your heart on your sleeves, it’s unseemly

What am I on about? I guess I’m just lamenting the loss of love. These days people love in bits, always with an exit plan. We’re disillusioned and cynical. And afraid. That’s why the men walking with flowers today are behaving like they’re committing a capital offense. Yet I know of someone who married her first love, years after they broke up and lost contact. 2 people in fact. Then there’s also the couple that dated for 10 yrs. There were so many obstacles in their way, it always looked like they will never end up together but finally got married. Stuff that romantic books are made of.

So maybe there’s still hope for us. Maybe love actually does exist.

The Traveller: Getting to Dubai

I’ve always wanted to travel. The idea of going to far-away places, meeting different kinds of people, experiencing different types of cultures has a certain appeal. I always say that if I got really rich, instead of acquiring material stuff like most people would do, the money for me would mean freedom to go anywhere I want to. Live a year in Brazil, 6 months in Nepal , 2 years in Egypt (may they get peace and stability soon). Different places, different people.

Last year I finally decided to actually do some traveling rather than just fantasize about it. Even if it’s on a low-budget. So in December when my friend told me we should visit our other who lives in Dubai it was the perfect opportunity. The three of us have been friends since we were like 10. The friend who lives in Dubai has been asking us to visit her for a while but it’s never come through. So it was pretty exciting for us to finally get a chance for the three to hang out. At first we weren’t sure we’d make it this time either, and we almost cancelled a couple of times, but luckily we managed to get our stuff together and set the date for end of January. Due to logistics we ended up traveling on different dates with me travelling a day earlier and my other friend travelling the next day.

My trip was uneventful, thank God. Since this was my very first time venturing beyond our East African borders I was a bit apprehensive and my mum gave me enough warnings of “”don’t help people with babies, they hide drugs in their diapers!’ My flight was for 1640 and I arrived at around 11.pm Dubai time. Dubai airport is pretty simple cos everything is clearly marked and I went through immigration ok, though the guys there were rather unfriendly. Guess they didn’t like working at that time of the night. But I was happy that I was out of the airport in a short time.

I managed to get a taxi and direct it to where I was staying. My first view of Dubai was at night and it was amazing. Lots of lit up sky scrapers decorated the skyline.

Dubai at Night. Sorry for the not so clear photo

The taxi managed to get me to my friend’s house with her giving directions. One thing I noticed is driving is complicated. If you miss a turning, you have to go quite a distance to get back on the right road. There’s no U-turning on random places and you can’t go up pavements. Someone said as much as fuel is cheap, they do a lot more driving for short distance.  Oh, also the driver stopped at a red light at an empty road until it turned green. I imagined what our Kenyan drivers would have done. lol.But the roads are amazing. Super highways and complicated networks. Hopefully this is what the Chinese have in mind for our roads.

I spent the first day doing some mild sight-seeing while waiting for my friend who was arriving at 2am. I feel asleep at around 9 and was woken up by her “We’re in Dubai” screams.  She had arrived safely.

Finally the 3 musketeers were reunited!

Next: The Traveller: Confessions of a Shopaholic  

The Last Blog Post of 2011

For some reason I had an urge to write a final blog post for the year 2011. Ironic because I wasn’t much of a blogger in 2011. As someone likes pointing out, the term underfeeder has described me perfectly this year.

As far as my writing is concerned the second part of 2011 was hard. I simply couldn’t write. Not just on the blog but anywhere else. There’s nothing in my drafts, my laptop or scribbled in notebooks.

But I don’t want to write about not being able to write today. I usually do my resolutions and recap of my year on my birthday, but 2011 was a year of lessons so I thought I’d share those here.

  1. Friendship is a two way street. You give some you get some
  2.  You can’t be there for everyone.
  3.  Not everyone will understand No. 2
  4. And people won’t be there for you sometimes. Don’t judge them too harshly
  5.  Dreams require work to be actualized. Hard work.
  6.  There is no end to growing up. Just when you think you’re finally there, you find that you still have more to go
  7.  There is no end to making mistakes. And doing things you thought you’d never do.
  8.  Relationships take work. And patience. And pride swallowing. And ego-beating.
  9. You can make good friendships from the internet. But I already knew this from the last batch of friends I made back in 2004.
  10.  If you don’t take your talent and your work seriously, then don’t expect others to.
  11. Opportunities rarely come back a second time. Grab them the first time
  12. Manchester United can make me cry. I don’t know what that makes me
  13.  Love can eff you up. It will also jack your thug and you’ll start awwwing at cute kittens. SMH
  14. You can’t tell your boss what you think of them and expect no repercussions. No matter how right you are
  15. I am still stunted by my fears
  16. Everything has a lesson in it. Be open minded enough to learn
  17. I really don’t know anything about this life
  18. Surround yourself with people who inspire you to be better. Strive to be that to others too
  19. God knows best. All the time.

Ok. That’s all for now. I’ll do a proper post in April Inshallah.

Be true to yourselves. Stay blessed.

Love Aisha 


like the breath that’s trapped beneath your tongue

the breath that spoke my name

scented with memories of our tomorrow

memories I try to capture between our entwined fingers;

i should have seen it in the way your hands claimed mine

that first time we touched

an extension of mine, trembling.


your smile pierces through my chest

stops to marvel at how well your rib holds my heart

dissolves into the butterflies in my stomach

and melts into the liquid holding my weak knees

i try to stand upright.

stubborn in my quest to remain unmoved, unaffected

a quest I lost when my heart answered your call


you came to me on a sunny day

took me by surprise

i was looking for you in the shadows

whispers against the dark clouds

steady, your light was shining

showing me the way,

leading me

guiding me to you


i trace the lines of your lips

as if they hold a secret

i memorize their shape

when you say my name

i commit them to my eyelids

because when it finally rains

i’ll harvest my tears in their grooves

Short Story: The Jasmine Tree

The rain had finally stopped.

She walked out of the house, closing the door behind her. She was careful, dragging it slowly so that the rusted hinge didn’t make a sound to announce her departure. She stood still for a few seconds, listening, making sure no one heard her leave. Once certain, she continued across the yard, slowly making her way to the edge of the cliff. When she got there, she  allowed herself to breathe in the cool air.  It was always crispy for a short while after it rained, a relief from its normal hot and sticky. She was free, even though it was just for a few moments.

She looked out at the sea below, in the fading light of early evening. When she first came to this house, her first glimpse of it gave her the one ray of hope from the darkness that her life had become. In the early morning it was a soft grey, waiting for the sun to wake from its slumber and illuminate it. During the day, in the height of Mombasa’s unbearable heat it was a bright blinding blue throwing shards of lights. It was difficult to look directly at it. When it was raining it turned an angry metallic grey. Right now, in the aftermath, it was a darker blue. By night fall it will be an inky black, deep and mysterious and a bit daunting. She loved how it changed colour at different times of the day.  In the distance the sun was in its final descent, almost touching the water; a liquid ball of orange fire. Birds dotted the sky, returning home from a hard day’s work. It was quiet now. In a few minutes the calls for prayer will signal the beginning of night.

She walked around the small garden, looking at her flowers. The viluas were ready to be picked.   She absently plucked a rose. But her favourite were the yasmini flowers. They were 5 bushes at the edge of the garden, next to the fence made of old mabatis. The green leaves were dotted by the white flowers. Their scent filled the whole garden.  I should pick them she thought. But she liked seeing them on the tree first, a reminder of their fragile beauty. If not plucked as soon as they opened, they started to die, turning brown at the edges. It was bitter-sweet; how beautiful they were and how short their lifespan.  Some were scattered on the ground, discarded and already turning brown. She felt like that sometimes. Then there were the young ones, not yet opened. They live to die another day. Her youngest daughter, Shadia liked picking them so she’ll call her later. But not now. She needed some time alone first.

She makes her way to the bench near the trees. She had asked her husband to put it up for her, after she was done planning the garden. It was the early years of their marriage and he was still eager to please her. It was nothing elaborate, just 2 pieces of wood erected on the ground and a board nailed on it. But it was enough to sit on and look at the ocean. And it had been a victory against her mother in law. May God rest her soul in peace.  She sat down and finally allowed herself to think of what had brought her here.

She had seen him today.

She had been in the market accompanied by Hamida, her house girl. She was examining the coconuts. You have to be careful when choosing them so that you don’t end up with one too young. Or an overly mature one. She shook it to make sure it was full of  juice then tapped it with a small stone listening for the hollow sound.  She then told Hamida to break it just to be certain. “Ikiwa ni mbaya ujue sikulipi”  she told the vendor. “Mama usijali, nazi zangu zote nzuri” he responded in the sing-song Mombasa accent. She looked around her absent-mindedly planning in her mind what she would make for dinner. Cassavas in coconut milk and fried fish. Or maybe some mahamri. She was lost in thought and at first didn’t notice him. He was standing at Mzee Abdallah’s gahwa stall, a small coffee cup in his hands. At first she didn’t recognize him. He was taller than she remembered. And she could see by the way the kanzu he was wearing fit him his skinny frame had filled out. But it was his stance that gave him away; slightly leaning on the leg he had broken as a child. His face was half turned away from her and she could see he had grown a beard. She almost turned away, thinking it was one of her false sightings. In the beginning she had looked out for him everywhere she walked. Those days her husband didn’t let her out of the house alone. He accompanied her everywhere. So she had been discreet about looking. But she had searched every face. It was torture, those days; His smile in someone else’s lips or someone with  exact shape of his eyes. But never the real person.

But just then he turned as if sensing that someone was watching him and there was no mistaking that face. Her breath caught and the gasp that came out was masked by the crack of the coconut breaking. Their gazes held. It must have been just a few seconds but it felt like hours. She stared at this man, almost a stranger, with the face of the boy she once knew. His eyes crunched as if puzzled, and then he looked away. He hadn’t recognized her. But how could he? She was one of the many buibui clad women moving in the market. Her face was hidden by her niqab, just revealing her kohl lined eyes. She could be anyone. And yet she couldn’t avoid that pang of disappointment that settled in her stomach. She doesn’t remember the rest of her shopping trip only that it felt like her heart was pounding in her mouth.

To be continued…

The Face in the Mirror

I look at the face in the mirror.
A face I’ve seen a million times
I look at this strange face
I feel like there should be some change on it,
Some sort of mark that will signify my life.
But this calm face stares back, emotionless
This face that hides the scars
A face I’ve seen a million times…

I don’t know how long I stood like this.
Don’t really remember…
It feels like a lifetime ago; it should be a lifetime,
I’m struggling hard to remember that girl that I was yesterday
Who was I? And who am I now?
I stare hard at the mirror,
Hoping the girl on the other side would answer
The one who has my face, challenging…
How can that person represent me now…
How can I feel so different, so detached to that face?
This stranger  I’ve seen a million times?


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