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..