The day I got a new suitcase is also the day I left home for good. I had just turned 10 a month before; I was a troubled child, split between two worlds. My grandmother raised me, when they came for me, I was already eight, I didn’t want to go. So when I came to Nairobi, I never really settled, I hated my new home. I would go to school but would dread going back home, so I started running away from home. I would sleep on the streets, buildings under construction anywhere but home. The weekends were the toughest because I had to stay at home for two days and there was so much violence.

This went on for the better part of two years, no one asked the question why I hated home so much but not school, even when I ran away from home over the weekend, I would still show up in school on a Monday, one time my late uncle had gone to school to report that I was missing and the teachers were puzzled because I was in class, sitting in the front row as if nothing had happened. They got me out of class and took me to the headmaster’s office. By then I had gotten accustomed to the beatings that would follow, I was stubborn and wouldn’t cry while being beaten, the only thing that would stop the beatings is if I started nosebleeding and even then I wouldn’t cry. I just wanted to go back and be with my grandmother, that’s all I wanted.

In April 1987, my grandmother and Aunt come to visit in Nairobi, I had run away from home as usual and they came looking for me, I had taken off my shoes and schoolbag and hidden them at a thicket near home. So much construction was going on in Mathare then and I had slept in a building under construction, I was scared at night especially by the stray cats that would fight or mate and make too much noise, but I found that better than going back home. I was sitting near a dumpster when I saw my grandmother, I was so excited and didn’t know whether to run away or to run towards her, I hadn’t noticed that my auntie had gone behind me and she caught me by surprise. They took me home, cleaned me up and fed me. They asked me what I wanted and I said I wanted to go home with my grandmother, she took me with her and I was so happy.

My joy was shortlived, I stayed with my grandmother for the April school holidays, this was my best time, I was on top of the world but come May, the schools opened and I was taken back to Nairobi. I couldn’t take it and would run away from home for longer periods. I learned how to survive the streets of Nairobi because I would always show up in school, I would be caught and taken back home, I’d stay a few days then ran again. I don’t know why the adults in my life couldn’t notice a pattern, why wouldn’t they allow me to go back to my grandmother? To go back home?

So around June 1987, I was bought a new suitcase, a new Kaunda suit and new shoes, I was told that they had decided to take me to boarding school. To date, I still remember my excitement, that I would be away from that place, that I would go away for three months to boarding school, I was elated. My journey to Nyeri begun, Nyeri became the place of my oppression, it became the place where I lost my freedom and my rights, it is at Nyeri that the journey to my activism began, it is in Nyeri that at 10, I realized the law doesn’t work, that justice is miscarried, that money can get you anything. It is at Nyeri that I lost trust in humanity. I have gone to therapy many times but the pain and trauma from this period really never goes away, this was where my depression began.

I spent the night at my late Aunt’s place. I think she suspected something was amiss because she asked me “Muhaari, where are they taking you”? and I told her that I was going to Boarding school, little did I know what was waiting for me. That morning we went to the Nyeri provincial headquarters and on the 10th floor I was introduced to a hawkeyed short Man who I was told was the headmaster of the new school. I later learned that He was the provincial children’s probation officer, a nasty, corrupt idiot of a Man. The Nyeri Lawcourts were directly opposite the provincial headquarters and so when we crossed the road to children court number 4. I didn’t suspect anything.

I later learned that I had been arrested, without my knowledge and I was presented to a magistrate and charged. I was just learning English so a lot of what was said I missed. But I heard words like vagrancy and committed to a juvenile remand home being said. The court session took less than 15 minutes, id never been in court before, the police presence shook me and I started suspecting that something was not right. After the charges were read, the commitment process began. I later learnt that the magistrate required witnesses and because I was accused of being a flight risk, He jailed me at a juvenile remand home.

At 10! I got jailed at 10!

What happened next replays in my mind, 32 years later, I still see this day clearly, I wake up sweaty at night, scared shitless. I was taken to the police canteen, they bought me bread and handed me over to a policeman. He took me to the court cells, they were in the court basement of the Nyeri lawcourts. Me and my new suitcase, new shoes, new Kaunda suit and my bread, that’s how I entered the Kenya justice system, at 10! unprepared, unaware, alone.

The policeman asked me to take off my shoes, took the suitcase and threw me inside a dark cell. Now if you have been to a Kenyan court cell, the first thing you notice is the darkness, the second thing is the smell, court cells are temporary holding for people waiting to go to court, or those who are awaiting transportation to either prison, remand or police cells. I don’t know why the policeman saw the need to put a 10-year-old in a male holding cell with all sorts of criminals, it is not the standard but the stars were not working for me this time. I was lifted high in the air the moment I was thrown in. I was in the air, scared and confused, up to this moment, I was still foolishly thinking that I was going to boarding school. I think I let out a loud scream. I was saved by the bread, the men started fighting over the bread and they lost interest in me for a moment.

The commotion and I think the scream attracted the policeman’s attention, they opened the door and quickly realized their blunder, they got me out, my new Kaunda suit now all crumpled. One policewoman was so concerned that a child was put in a male cell. To this day, I still think I escaped Rape or worse, death. I was put in the female cells. The women were kinder, more gentle. I stayed here for some hours and in the evening, I was taken to the Nyeri Provincial police station, I spent two days in the police cells, they kept me with the women. On the third day, I was transferred to the Ruring’u juvenile remand home. I would spend 6 years in the prison system. 6 years and all I wanted was to go and be with my grandmother.

I might write or not write about those six years, if I get strength, I will write about the court case, the surprising witnesses, and my eventual commitment to an approved school, I might get to write about Ruring’u juvenile remand home. Gitathuru Approved school, Kericho approved school and Othaya Approved school. These were difficult years, I survived by sheer luck, my first attempt to commit suicide was at 11 years. I carry these years with me. I hate therapists who tell me that all I need to do is to let go of my past. Fuck you! I carry my past with me, I relieve it every day, it impacts who I became, I didn’t have choices and I will forgive when I am ready.

That’s how I got a new suitcase!


Muhaari    09th 12 2011

I Did this little piece on December 09 2011. I had just attended a movement building boot camp that changed my life in activism greatly, it seems my past self was going through an interesting phase, I have removed some potentially controversial language from the piece. This is/was my 34 years old Self, of course I edited a bit the 34 yr old had poor grammar.

 I live in a forest,

I live where shadows come alive and others fret,

I live where beautiful coloured necklaces morph into poisonous snakes and poisonous snakes become beautiful necklaces,

I live in a utopia where self-validation is the norm and others opinions are unheard of,

I am an Ogre in my forest, full of mystery, ugly, hungry, lonely,

In my forest, I transform to fit, I hide in plain sight, I have multiple identities, 

Yet others think me unsightly,

yet others  think me evil,

yet others ostracize and condemn me for who I am,

yet others think me a misfit, a misnomer, not worthy of their approval,

yet I live, and love, and play and pray and prey, like everyone else.

Yes, I am the fabled ogre,

Comfortable in my metaphoric forest,

Here I am, here I will stay,

No wonder what others say.

Rock bottomless

They say that when you hit rock bottom you use the solid rock to rebuild, but that’s probably theoretical balderdash, it’s a nice soundbite when you have nothing to say or when you lack context for an issue. I wonder how many rock bottoms there can be? My very good friend tells me that after rock bottom the only way is up! I have no problem with inspirational quotes, they give us short doses of unrealistic hope, the let us live a minute at a time they ground us just for a moment and blot the reality for a second.

I haven’t written for so long because my writing comes from a dark place, I am not depressed. No! this isn’t about that, it’s about a series of fortunate events. A mix of new learning, a new struggle, new horizons, new experiences, a newness that is aged yet not experienced. It’s about nothing in particular. It’s just rantings of a troubled soul, a traveller’s journal, an accidental tear in the fabric of reason. Yes! A communication with future self!

Everything is vain, friendships don’t last, they are for convenience. Adults listen to (WII FM- What’s In It For Me?). The minute one realizes that everyone is self-serving is the moment one realizes that selfishness has been demonized unfairly. But the love of self is the truth! Expectations need to be checked and properly grounded. You are on your own! Everyone else is busy attending to self, there is no shame in that, be selfish, selfless is an artifice.

Rock bottom is an ideological place, our last resolve, the stage right before giving up, that situation you can’t explain, I call it rock bottomless because the pits are many, it’s not one, your path is booby-trapped with many rock bottomless, you can’t avoid them because they ground you, check your pride, check your excesses…

Maybe I’ll start writing again.

Mourning Auntie in the Morning.


A man walks in to the Cafe and takes a seat directly opposite me, He looks weary, defeated, a sad look in his eyes, He looks like He is out of place, the enthusiastic waitress gives Him a Menu, He smiles and declines the menu, He waves at me, I nod back. I don’t know Him but I can tell that He has a heavy load on His shoulders, I avoid making eye contact, I tell myself ‘jipe shughuli’ and I slowly sip my coffee but I am aware that the man is trying to make eye contact.

How did I come to this cafe this early? I cant sleep, insomnia has set in, I am sad, deeply sad, devastated, I am mourning a lovely and remarkable person in my life, I am mourning a selfless woman, an Aunt, we lost our Aunt on Friday, She was brutally and cruelly taken away from us before Her time. I haven’t had time to reflect on Her life, haven’t had time to process the pain, I haven’t properly mourned. I can’t deal.

A lot is said when someone passes on, the nicest things are said, promises are made but people quickly move on, I don’t know how I can move on from here. We lay our dear Auntie to rest tomorrow and the processing begins, we have to process our pain, our denial, our bitterness, our misgivings, the many questions we have, Why Her? Why now? How do we move on without Her? Why? Why? Why?

Auntie was the best person in our family, She never displayed anger, She never raised Her voice ever, She was selfless, always put others before Herself, She was prayerful, She was the voice of reason in the entire family, always bringing people together and mediating and deflating family conflicts, She was so slow to anger.

I cannot forget how She rescued me from a very bad situation, I think I was about seven and just started nursery school upcountry, my parents were in Nairobi and I had been left under the care of relatives, I was neglected, had jiggers, a festering wound in my foot and a bad burn in my neck, so Auntie came to check on me and found me in that situation, She took me away and my life changed for the better from that point onwards. How can I forget this?

I have many other stories about Auntie’s impact in my life and that of everyone in my family, I think everyone in my family has a story to tell about Her impact in their lives. But we all agree that She was remarkable, a nice person, a lovely mother, a farmer, brigade teacher, women’s guild member. When I say Auntie was everything to us, it is true in every sense.

As I think about my Auntie, the man sitting opposite me walks to my table, He has this resigned look, He asks me, “Boss, unaweza ninunulia chai ?” I know this is Nairobi and that there are many types of people, but this man signifies my pain, He looks like the symbol of all I am contending with at this moment. I ask the waitress to give him some food. At this moment, I gather my strength, summon all the positivity I can gather and push all my personal pain away, today is not the day to be selfish and self centred, today is the day I pay tribute and mourn for Auntie Maragi.

“My Aunt is gone; I cannot bring her back, but at least in memory of Her, I can live a life that I know She would be proud of”.

Rest in peace,
Rest in power,
Dance with the angels,
I honour your memory,
It is not goodbye,
It is goodnight,
For we shall meet in the morning.

Things are Elephant

There is an Elephant in the room,

There’s an Elephant in the room,

There, is the Elephant, in the room,

Their is an Elephant, in the room,

The Elephant in the room,

Things are Elephant.

So grammar ‘naaaziiiiis’ would want me to concern myself  and I with pronunciations, enunciations, spellings and such, what I need to do, is express correctly what I mean/or correctly express my feelings, or express my meanings, or correct my feelings and meanings, dang! What I mean to say, is that, there is a small matter of weight that I din’t want to acknowledge yet it won’t go away. There, I said it.

So I have let myself go, go all the way, I am heavier than I have ever been. I honestly didn’t notice until it was pointed out several times. “Kata Kitambi, umenenepa, umenona, naona mambo yako yanaenda poa, kata uzito” and such other comments that have forced me to introspect, am I in denial or is it that I am just out of fkuks? Ok, so I need to be healthy? Yes, I know, but why would it concern you if and whether I am healthy or not? Didn’t I get the same flak when I lost 15 Kilos overnight? didn’t you try to feed me nyamachoma and lots of alcohol because it wasn’t too good to loose too much weight that quickly? so now what do you want? what would be the ideal weight for you? Huh?

Yes! I know all about lifestyle illnesses because I studied public health for 4 years, I even wrote a paper about sedentary lifestyles and how lifestyle diseases will overtake HIV and other acute conditions. And maybe i’ll hit the gym, diet, jog, take up yoga and even get my one pack back to at least two packs (got to be realistic, six pack siwesmek) and all will be good, i’ll be energized and i’ll walk with shoulders high, renewed confidence and self worth, everybody will love  me, i’ll have the perfect body, and then what? I’ll get hit by a bus. Those Githurai 45 buses, and my obituary wont acknowledge how hard I worked to have a perfect body in-order to get higher ratings and ‘likes’ what a nonsense, Life is short, i’ll live and leave it well.

The Elephant has spoken and it says, I am not about to leave the room so, “jipe shughuli” I mean, keep your self busy, give yourself some task, because I own this room and there are so many other life defying things that are of more concern to me at this point in my life, more than a little ‘mafuta’  well it’s a big issue (pun intended) because a humongous amount of people are spending a huge amount of Brobdingnagian time on it.

Lipoatrophy, Lipodystrophy, perhaps these would present a more valid concern, you know, when fat has its own mind, it tells itself to migrate from one area of the body (face, legs, bum) and concentrate  itself in the most embarrassing of places (read mid section) and then the physician goes “ ….. it is a primary idiopathic atrophy of adipose tissue, a very rare disorder with no known etiology” how about that? Boogle that, me thinks that’s an Elephant issue right there, an emerging taboo topic, who wants to have a conversation about fat relocation and positioning and fat that has its own mind and such stuff? Mmmh! any who, I digress.

Where was I? Yes! On my honor, I promise that, i’ll do my best, to live a healthier lifestyle, to shun red meat, to exercise daily, and to Instagram my achievements…..Who am I kidding? I ain’t got no time for that, ill just do a hash tag and all will be well so here we go #FatFattyRants!

The grammar mistakes are mine, so bite me! it will take some weight off 😉 elephant


Alvan Kinyua

This is the Kikuyu community brewing industry narrative – wisdom I got from Fr. Dr. Dominic Wamugunda wa Kimani when he used to teach me at UoN.

It goes down this way:

Mwai – One who skillfully and with utmost expertise hives the beehive from a tree log.

Mwaniki – One who sets the new beehive on a tree so that bees can come in.

Wanjuki – One who has power and skills to attract bees into the new hive.

Muthui – The honey harvester the honey.

Wanjohi – One who converts the honey into muratina (traditional beer).

Kinyua/Munyua/Mukundi (like me) – One who can consume the muratina but he does not get drunk. In another language, he drinks responsibly.

Muriu – One who drinks and gets himself too drunk and silly. He behaves like our modern day Central Kenya youths. (Note that this was a negative title unlike the…

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Whats in a name!

Muhaari~ Pronounced ‘MowHaaary’.

My name has multiple meanings depending on which part of Kikuyu land you come from, fact is, My name has no single meaning and it’s a very unique name, chance is, anyone named Muhaari is My immediate relative as I am only a second generation Muhaari. I hear from my elders that my grandfather was a very special person, a non conformer to the status quo, a free thinker and a trend setter with so many firsts. His given name was “Nyaga”- Ostrich/whiteness at the top of Mount Kenya, some people say it means snow, but the Kikuyu people had no concept of snow, but rather the whiteness atop Mount Kenya. Thats why God is referred to as “Mwene Nyaga” The owner of the whiteness, the ostrich was named “Nyaga” because of its white patch. Anyway, I digress.

The name is also used to refer to a gatherer/searcher/hustler/one who searches/scavenger (Kuhaaara) used in a sentence as “tathii uhaare gathaara na hau Ngurumo” (Can you go scavenge/search/look for some Napier grass….) there are different enunciations and pronunciations again depending on which part of Kikuyu land you come from. But in communication, when someone tells you “Thiie ukahaare” go scavenge or search for, or try to get or hustle for, they are cognizant of the fact that whatever they are asking you to find may be virtually non existent and will require some effort to find. Like in the example I used above of Napier grass, they are asking you to just go get some Napier grass, they don’t know how you will do it, but they have faith in your ability to make it happen.

The name is also used to refer to a quarrelsome person like in “wee wii muhaari muno” like someone quarrelsome or who likes to provoke others, it could also be used to mean someone who is quite argumentative, or critical, or a sceptic. “Kuhaarana” would be used to refer to some kind of antagonism, not violent but rather not seeing eye to eye.

Interesting, the name is also used to refer  to “muharii” one who prepares/ scratches a roasted goats head for preparation of soup (Kuharaa). Now if you have had a bowl of Kikuyu goat soup, you will know/or not, that the process of preparation is a ritual and very few can make a good bowl of Kikuyu broth. It’s a long process that takes hours. The goat head, which is the main ingredient is first roasted, then scratched (Ok I don’t have an English word for how this is done so ill use scratch, bite me!) Anyway,  it is then washed nicely, then (this is where it gets dramatic) crashed by hitting the skull once with an axe or a machete, then boiled for hours. Fact is, the one who prepares it isn’t all that important, not respected or revered, but they make a damn nice bowl of soup. In future perhaps, ill have the courage to write about the lie going around that the Kikuyu nation doesn’t have any culinary skills, yes! we boil everything but there are different types of boiling……(Wink!) so STFU! we are boiling experts.

Name also means a straight line (muhariii) or just a line, or a Que. Or a row as in “muhari wa mbembe” Corn row. I am also told that it could mean someone perennially broke or someone with diarrhea. I am more biased about the different meanings, there are many more meanings but this are the ones I choose to see, I am not a Kikuyu expert, but the search for the meaning(s) for my name is spiritual and I am certain that I will get more meanings as we go along and as I search more.

I realize that its quite a big name, a challenge to carry, I aspire to be like the great Muhaari, my grandfather, He lived an exciting out of the box life, left a legacy, and every time one of the Muhaari’s does something great, lives an exciting life, tests the limits of conformity, they are each in their own way trying to live up and express the nature of a great person. The first of his name.

We are restless, We don’t conform, We are skeptics, We are free thinkers, We will engage in long ritualistic processes that have neither meaning nor dignity so that the rest can enjoy a good bowl of soup, we don’t/no we won’t/can’t fit in your typical box, We belong to God, and like an Ostrich, a “Nyaga” we will fiercely protect what is ours even if it means our death, We don’t strive to please, rather fulfill a purpose because we are MUHAARI! #NowYouKnow!


My Six pieces of art——

So My first piece is an Eagle, or is it a Falcon? Don’t ask me, I am also not sure. But the back story is that, at its lowest moment, it soars high into the isolation of its nest secluded high in the mountains and plucks out all its feathers one by one. Almost to the point of starvation, it grows new feathers and starts again. That is resilience.

My second piece of art is a Peacock, Mmmhh! Some say it represents vanity and pride. But I see a gracefully beautiful, content, complete and self aware creature, oblivious of external noise or un-informed judgements, seems like its raising a middle finger at all of us and saying “I am here to stay, fierce and phenomenal, deal with it”

Then I have a traditional eight stringed African musical instrument. Made from natural materials, the base is a calabash with a wooden frame, wooden pegs to tighten the strings. I don’t know how to play it, but I am certain that it is capable of making the most beautiful music and I am content at the thought of blissful, soulful music. The irony is that this item has no compelling history, it was not handed down to me by a loving grandfather, No! I bought it impulsively, from a hawker, while sitting in the annoying Nairobi traffic. But that doesn’t make it less valuable.

Then I have a beautifully patterned hand woven basket or tray (depends on your frame of reference) I bought it in Rwanda in one of my visits, because it is meticulously woven, one strand at a time from one unimportant random sisal string into a beautiful basket/tray thing.

And then the Lion….. It’s actually a badge of shame, how so? you ask. Well, it represents male privilege, King of the Jungle? I don’t think so, all the lion does is piss on trees to mark its territory, occasionally lets out a roar to assert its authority, chase away competition and then goes back to nap in the shade awaiting the prized choice cut from the Lionesses that hunt for food and take care of the cubs and stuff…….

And the most controversial piece of them all, straight lines, crooked lines, unaligned circles and illegible, confused disorganized patterns. In all this confusion is my most valued piece of art…. I get questioned a lot about it “What is it? What does it represent? What does it say? What’s it’s hidden meaning? Were you drunk when you got it? Are you illuminati? Can I touch it?” and in my most patient, sweet and calm voice I always answer “It’s one big mess, its my mess, I love it and hate it with equal measure because it represents the mess that is my life”

This pieces are not very expensive, but they are extremely valuable, because they tell a complete imperfect story……..a narrative that is mine, and that can only be told by me!

Toupee or no Toupee?

Was thinking of getting a toupee to cover the ‘shame’ that is the fast receding hairline…. then I remembered…. heck! The ideal body image doesn’t exist other than in the media, it’s not how I am seen by others, but how I see myself…. internal locus of evaluation I remembered… and right now! I am so comfortable in my skin, and in love with myself, receding hairlines and all… so for now! No toupee to please others! Body shaming doesn’t work with me! #SelfEsteemIssues!

Just don’t do it

language: a feminist guide

This week everyone’s been talking about an article in the Economist explaining how men’s use of language undermines their authority. According to the author, a senior manager at Microsoft, men have a bad habit of punctuating everything they say with sentence adverbs like ‘actually’, ‘obviously’, ‘seriously’ and ‘frankly’. This verbal tic makes them sound like pompous bullshitters, so that people switch off and stop listening to what they’re saying. If they want to be successful, this is something men need to address.

OK, people haven’t been talking about that article—mainly because I made it up. No one writes articles telling men how they’re damaging their career prospects by using the wrong words. With women, on the other hand, it’s a regular occurrence. This post was inspired by a case in point: a piece published last month in Business Insider, in which a former Google executive named Ellen Petry Leanse…

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My Avocado!

My avocado!

My avocado is real,

My avocado is a metaphor.

My avocado defies all odds,

Grows in a glass of plain tap water,

No soil,

No fertilizer,

Not in a ‘proper’ orchard.

Yet it grows,

My avocado reaches towards the light,

As if it’s devoid of care,

As if the light will liberate it from the constrains of the teeny tiny glass of water on a windowsill.

Oblivious of how other well tended, privileged avocados fair,

It doesn’t compare,

Nor despair,

Because in this conditions now and here,

It knows its destination,

To reach for the light,

Whether one day it becomes a tree is neither here nor there,

If it dies a sapling,

It did leave a legacy,

Of reaching for the light,

Despite constraining unfavorable unbecoming conditions.


My imperfect Tattoo!

So I went and got myself a huge visually unappealing tattoo! It’s meaning?

Well, the continuity of life.

It’s a constant reminder to myself that I am unaccountable to anyone other than myself.

And that the choices I make are mine to live with.

Others ask me, was there no other way that you could make your life statement discreetly?

And I retort, does it bother you? What I do with my body?

Well, it shouldn’t!

This is my life! My body! My mistakes! My choices!

So next time you see my ridiculous, complex, huge, visible tattoo, just know that I done it for Me! to remind Me! about the ‘Continuity of life’ but if it unsettles your moral compass, so does my life, because it is ridiculously huge and complex and unappealing to some, but I find deep and sound meaning in it, and most important, it continues! #TheContinuityOfLife!

As I Peel this Onion!

As I peel this onion, I realize the deeper I get, the more the tears flow freely.

The onion looked so innocent at the grocers shelve, with flaky fake dry covering…. I didn’t dream that the red innocent onion would make my tears flow this freely…red_onions

And so does peeling the layers of neurosis in my life do….. Make my tears flow freely…… After peeling away the false flaky dry facade, that was innocently deceptive, the more I peel, the more the tears flow..

I fear what ill find at the cores of these two onions…… After gallons of tears flow freely…. #Its just an onion..