Yesterday, I sat with a group of friends at a pub.

It was one of those rare nights when everything is right. It had rained the whole afternoon, and the air was cool and moist. We were open to anything. We talked about things we usually keep to ourselves; things that we seemed able to shed like sweat.

We also talked politics: not with neck tendons stretched tight, not with anger and tribal sentiments dictating the course of the conversation as usual. Not even the other way: politics as a soap opera where nothing happens except meaningless cliffhangers and incestuous party hopping. Last night we talked politics like it mattered to us, pretending to be harsh and critical of NARC (the National Rainbow Coalition) and the Rainbow Alliance; but we all stood up to dance when the dj played their anthem ’Who Can Bwogo Meė. Later, some of my friends went home to sleep, but the rest of us stayed up, talking and dancing and not thinking how strange we would be to each other in the morning, with the sun directly above us, with our plumage unavoidable. And around us, the city: muddy, wet and full of shit, reminding us that everything is fraught with possible problems; that there are no quick solutions; that the best way to deal is to keep your hard skin on; that Moi has beaten us before, with the odds stacked against him like they are now. Despite all this, like most people in Nairobi, we walk around in daylight with some optimism.

It is autumn. Daniel arap Moi, Kenyaės president since 1978, is retiring in two months. His party is in shambles, and we are all enjoying his decline immensely. There hasnėt been a better time to be in Nairobi since independence, 39 years ago. A coalition of opposition parties has come together to challenge Uhuru Kenyatta, Moiės protg, and the son of the late President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

We Kenyans are not known for our boldness. We tend to bow our heads when being harassed. Moi managed to perfect what Kenyatta set out to do: Have a country that does everything he says, that says thank you for every abuse. This model Kenyan is vanishing rapidly. Now, on the streets, in clubs, bars, rallies, on the street at football matches in Nairobi, Kenyans have adopted an anthem. A song by Gidi Gidi Maji Maji that was banned by kbc, the National Broadcaster. The song: ’Who Can Bwogo Meė.

’Who Can Bwogo Meė means: Who can beat me, who can move me. The song is a call to arms, shouted more than sung. You puff your chest forward and point at it, challenging. Can you move me? I am unbwogable!

Poor Moi. Kenyans with puffed-up chests are not a tribe of people he has ever had to deal with. The Gidi Gidi song goes like this:

What the hell are you looking for,
Canėt a young Luo make money anymore?
Who are you?
What are you?
Who the hell do you think you are?
Get the hell out of my face, because

It is 11 in the morning. I have only one mission today, to go out to visit Joga, an artist I know. I need to set dates with him to do a photo shoot for this story, to talk to him about life in Nairobi.

I met Joga two years ago. I had just come back from South Africa, and spent a month in Nairobi getting to know my old friends again. I was bored. Everybody I knew was ten years older, and conversations revolved around diapers and the new Nokia phone. To most, my dreadlocks and lifestyle in Cape Town were decadent and wasteful. Already, tactful moves were being made to get me engaged to somebody, or at least in some kind of respectable relationship. Almost all my peers would probe and dig and insist that my life had no fulfillment, no spiritual promise without baby poo and diapers. I was bored. Bored with the endless political discussions, with going to the same old places, bored with the same 20 r&b songs the radio stations have been ramming down my ears.

I decided to move to a different part of the city for a while, mostly to be anonymous. So I moved to Eastleigh, a place middle-class Kenyans tend to avoid. I spent a lot of time walking around the area, mingling with people, drinking in pubs. I checked into a cheap hostel called the Beverly Hills Hostel. At the time, I had no idea that the entry point to Mathare Valley, Kenyaės second largest informal settlement, was directly behind the hostel. The entry point is called Mlango Kubwa, Big Door.

I was walking around with the local photographer, taking pictures of barbershop art, when we made our way behind the fort of buildings that marked the end of the city as I knew it. It was getting dark when we got there.

It was as if we were in a city of paraffin lamps. There were literally thousands of people milling about the narrow paths that zigzagged between shacks. In front of every shack, something was being sold. Meat was grilling, chapatis were doing triple somersaults off flat pans and mandazis, deep fried sweet-dough, breakdanced in hot oil. Everywhere, there were piles and piles of neatly arranged tomatoes, red onions, mangoes and kale. Red, yellow and green bananas hung from ceilings; roast maize stuck onto metre-long skewers was thrust in our faces. In the background, there was music blaring from bad speakers: reggae, rhumba. There were open-air church services,with mobile PA systems; preachers shouting at the top of their voices; there were corrugated iron butcher shops and cardboard bars and every sort of second-hand clothing imaginable for sale.

There was no blade of grass anywhere, no trees or bushes.

It was only once I adjusted to the frenzy around me that I noticed the art. Lush, clean and full of colour, it was like nothing around us. It occurred to me that nobody here would be interested in buying realism for their walls. Grit is free in Mathare Valley.

Most of the paintings seemed to have been done by the same person: Joga. We asked around about him, and somebody went off to fetch him. After 15 minutes a diminutive young man with uncomfortably naked eyes joined us. There didnėt seem to be a part of him that was not spattered with paint. Joga was 19 then with only a primary school education and had never been to an art gallery. When we talked over tea and a mandazi, it turned out that he had no idea what an art gallery was, that he hadnėt been taught to paint by anybody, that he couldnėt speak English and managed with only rudimentary Kiswahili. Mostly he spoke Kikuyu. He took us on a tour of his work.

When I was eight, we drove through Laikipia during a storm. My face was pressed to the window and a lazy, brandy warmth spread from the pit of my stomach. I had been through this dusty harsh plain many times, but the thunder and lightning had caught the area unawares, and in the panic of fauna and flora I saw a big picture. For the briefest moment I felt part of something that could not be broken into the sum of its parts. To this day, the smell of rain on dust brings back this feeling of completion.

This is what I felt that night, meeting somebody who is interested only in the practice of art; who displays his work exactly where it should be displayed.

At the time, Jogaės best work was drawing cartoon portraits of women. He managed to render, with precise humour, what they want to look like when they leave a salon, without restricting himself to the usual clichs this style of art falls into. He painted plump women, doe-eyed women, tough, strong-jawed women ā all pruned and primed, their hair done just the way that suited them best.

Expressions ranged from orgasmic joy to prim satisfaction. Mama Njeri, a hair-salon owner, told me that Jogaės signs brought in a clientele who previously went to the city to get their hair done.

Joga led us into a bar, one of those sad bars where older people who dream of nothing but going back to the countryside go to drink. There was a huge mural on the wall. Rural humour: cows with over-large udders, lush countrywomen. There was a scene where people are trying to get a cow into a matatu. They were all depicted with a sentimental ridicule, surrounded by scenes people must dream of here where there is no greenery: lush Kikuyu grass, trees, and Friesian cows. Escape here, says the commercial, sample a little bit of home. Wambua and I laughed at the drunks in the painting. Legless. Joga gave them legs that looked like cooked spaghetti.

Later, as we talked, Joga surprised me by saying that his works were like photos. There seemed to me to be far more than accurate representation going on. He refused to accept that there could possibly be an objective picture of somebody. Surely people are exactly how he chose to see them. So in his mind, there was no difference between his cartoon images, which distinctly reflected his perspective of the character of the people he was portraying, and photographs taken by an anonymous photographer who aims only to present with accuracy what pose the client presents.

On our way back to the hostel, I noticed something else about his work: how he seemed able to draw attention to what people see in other people, even laughing at the silliness of the stereotypes he was portraying. His clients never seemed to notice. There was one painting, on the wall of a telephone bureau: a frowning, self-important guy making a call. The guy was clearly telling somebody off ā a scene straight out of one of our national broadcastersė cheap dramas: the boss guy. Shallow, bossy, powerful, barking at minions. The sort of guy who is so self-involved he thinks this is an image of the successful Kenyan, the forward-looking Kenyan. The rest of the country laughs at such people.

I talked to the owner of the bureau about the painting. He loved it, said he expected ’high-classė clients to patronise his business. It could be that Jogaės sense of irony was my invention, that this ’Bossė character was his real idea of somebody important. But after a few minutes, walking past a pretentious-looking hair-salon called Jesseės Posse, I saw the same thing again: a woman with over-bright lipstick on a hard ambitious face, a greedy smile.

I asked Joga if he liked living and working in Mathare. He said he didnėt plan on leaving. I looked about and imagined him always there, never lacking a wall on which to hang his vision. I was envious.

I am on a bus headed for the city-centre, where I will catch a minibus taxi to Jogaės part of town. Just beyond Community, we drive past a tree, with a hand-painted notice nailed to it:

Mohammed Abdulrazzaq
Medicine Expert and herbalist
Patented African Medicines
I cure
aids/tuberculosis/heart problems/
love problems/curses/malaria and

I donėt know why I notice this sign today. I pass this route almost every day. I havenėt seen it before.

A month or so ago, I had a conversation with an old friend about the way different people view themselves in this city. There are Kenyans who know Nairobi through street names, others who know it by landmarks, buildings that are well known, cafes, bars. But many more Kenyans know this city through an entirely informal series of symbols. They will direct you to places using only mud paths; they will tell you to turn left when you see Abdulrazzaqės sign on a tree.

Tearoom isnėt a restaurant or a building. It may have been, many years ago, an actual tearoom. Now it is simply a tiny bit of road that is crammed with matatu vehicles that go to and come from Nyeri district. There is no sign saying ’Tearoomė; it isnėt on any map, on any city ordinance. But for many people Tearoom is a landmark, as well known as Kenyatta Conference Centre or the Parliament Buildings. Tearoom was, in fact, a feature in one of Kenyaės most popular books: My Life in Crime by John Kiriamiti. The book talked a lot about life in the underbelly of Nairobi.

So directions from somebody who knows the city in this manner may go like this: ’Ahh. You are looking for ndumas (arrowroots)? Go to Tearoom. Just there, there are women who sell them. Ask anybody there for Mama Nduma ā everybody knows her. She is usually near the tomatoes, you know where they sell tomatoes? You donėt know where Tearoom is? Just ask anybody.ė

You may go to Tearoom and find hundreds of people just standing around, seeming to do nothing. Ask the first about Mama Nduma, who may be brought to you. The arrowroots may be kept hot under a pile of cardboard that sits unobtrusively on the pavement. This city is full of things like that. People who are landmarks, things to find that are in no Yellow Pages, places that have no listed address. You could come from the other side of the country with only a simple instruction, ’Come to Tearoom and ask for me near the callbox.ė

The bus drops me off next to the Stanley Hotel. I cross to Tom Mboya Street to pick up a Number 6 minibus to Eastleigh. It is lunchtime. Inside Globe Cinema, a lunchtime church service is taking place. Escape. This is where Kenyans escaped to when the economy collapsed from under us. Many left the old churches ā Anglican, Catholic, pcea ā and joined charismatic churches that donėt bother to deal with reality; churches that sell life as a preparation for the afterlife, and offer ecstasy in place of lunch.

This worked brilliantly for the government. The moral middle-class did not take to the streets; they prayed for the devil to leave Kenya. Many even supported Moi, saying he was ’god-fearingė. There were bigger problems for them: ’Trust Condomė advertisements, demonic films from America, witchcraft. Their preachers screeched, with translators screeching in three different languages. Like machetes: slashing away any remaining elements of pre-Christian culture; slashing away at doubt; chopping down courage; decapitating initiative.

Things are a bit different now. Usually people gather around street preachers with mobile pa systems on Tom Mboya Street. Today more people have gathered around newspapers. Hope has landed on Earth for a while. The street is full of matatus, Nairobiės public transport mini-buses. They are privately owned, and are the brashest, boldest and baddest vehicles in the country. The one I board is orange: graffiti of anger and cool cuts across the paintwork, interrupted by airbrushed Nike logos, Fubu advertisements, a portrait of Oprah Winfrey. The car thumps every few seconds. Bass speakers. Reggae.

We leave the city centre, and drive into Ngara. Little India. The main Ngara road is lined with shops selling fabrics, incense, spices and all sorts of foods. The pavements are crammed with informal traders. Years ago, it used to be mainly Indian vegetables sold here, now it is second-hand clothes. We call them mitumba. This part of town is where the best-selected clothes come. People set up boutiques that specialise in only one item. One may deal in fleece jackets, another in Nikes. Fubu is big, and Tommy Hilfiger. There are boutiques that deal in bandannas, rags, hiking boots, bras, panties, petticoats, socks, underwear, and jeans. There are boutiques that specialise in extra large sizes, extra small sizes, in ties with matching shirts, in shirts with matching ties. Every few metres there is a tailor, a shoemaker, a shoe-shiner ā all ready to fix whatever you bought.

There is more of the city on the streets than there has ever been. It used to be that second hand clothes were something reserved for the poor, but these days mitumba have no class anymore. The wholesalers spend months in Europe and America, knocking from door to door to collect clothes no longer in use and export them to Kenya.

Those who donėt wear mitumba clothes are Dubais: people who buy deliberately garish clothes from Dubai Import Boutiques, simply to show that they do not wear mitumba, that they are better because they donėt wear second-hand. The moral middle-class. They attend church at the Maximum Miracle Centre on Tom Mboya Street; their children walk with them from church, faces shining from too much vaseline. All the boys wear the same outfit, which will be a shiny facsimile of a suit. The daughter wears a white chiffon dress with petals and flounces and puffed-up sleeves and ribbons and shiny pearl-coloured plastic buttons and two-toned patent-leather imitation shoes. Mummy has a weave on her head, a weave made out of some material that looks more like nylon than nylon would prefer. It is a lifeless brown colour, with straight hair. She wears a pleated skirt, and a thick formless button-down pullover. She carries a handbag large enough to store anti-personnel mines. All her children go to boarding schools outside the city ā Academies, they call them. Cheap private cram schools, where creativity is a sin, and everybody gets straight as. The Academy is probably called ’Excellence Academyė.

We have arrived.

Eastleigh is one of Nairobiės oldest residential estates, set up by the colonial government as a housing area for the Kenyan-Asian and Somali communities. There isnėt much trace of the community here anymore. The only visible legacy is a style of architecture: blue and pink coloured houses, with cemented yards, back and front. No trace of grass anywhere. The walls are thick and studded with broken glass. Most of these old buildings have been overwhelmed by new construction; lately, mostly Somali money. It is estimated that over 50,000 Somali refugees live in Eastleigh. Bazaars thrust out to the edge of the road, filled to bursting with goods smuggled from the Middle East via Somalia. We drive past Garissa Lodge, Eastleighės Mall. There is a beauty parlour whose sign has a painting of Mickey Mouse having his hands hennaed.

Joga has changed. The awkward 19 year-old I met two years ago is gone. He is no longer wearing paint-splattered jeans; he has a trendy fleece jacket on, baggy pants and Nikes. He has acquired that loose walking way about himself that is referred to as cool. He will stop and lean against a wall, slouching slightly; he will not stare like he used to, nor will he look at anybody with eyes that declare his shyness; he will let his glance sit lightly on whoever addresses him. The glance will acknowledge their contribution, and the shutters will close. It took me a while to find him, and there is no time to see his work. I promise to come and visit on Sunday, with friends and with a photographer.

We arrive on Sunday afternoon. Twelve of us. Eastleigh is cold and wet. There is mud everywhere. We meet Joga at Beverly Hills Hostel and we follow him. Most of his new work is in Eastleigh now. He is a celebrity now, not because I wrote about him, but because his work is better appreciated in this part of town. He is not painting Kenyans anymore ā he does Americans: Fubu-clad people with jewelery, and mouths poised to open saying, ’Yo, homeboy!ė

America it is, but not middle America. It is angry America: Tupac and the wwf. In one series of murals, Osama Bin Laden is painted near the wrestler called The Rock. As our middle-class eyes swing to this picture in some shock, one guy with green-stained teeth from chewing khat raises his fist and says, ’Osama!ė

I am somewhat disappointed with Jogaės new style. He is clearly more confident about his technique and his ability to render his clientės wishes more accurately. It seems that these wishes are no longer vague explanations that leave him space to insert his own vision. Instructions seem to come from images lifted from American hip-hop magazines. Look like America. Angry America.

Juja Road, the main road to this part of town from the city centre, closed for repairs. Vehicles are digging up what used to be a murrum road.

Joga takes us to barbershop after barbershop, salon after salon. He doesnėt say much. We wade through this porridge of mud, try to tunnel our concentration inward. There is so much noise!

It is getting late, and the rain is pouring again. We head back to Beverly Hills Hostel. On our way there, we walk past a Mungiki rally. We are all stunned to silence. What is disturbing about this rally is that the Mungiki members are clearly pushing Uhuru Kenyatta as their candidate. They have Uhuru t-shirts on; there are Uhuru campaign posters up everywhere.

Mungiki is a movement that is slowly taking over most of Nairobiės poorer suburbs. They advocate a return to Gikuyu traditional values, and often establish themselves by promoting vigilante justice. Many adherents wear dreadlocks and use snuff tobacco. It is said that women who belong to the sect are supposed to undergo female genital mutilation, an operation that is no longer practiced by the Gikuyu. The origins of the sect are hazy. Some reports claim that it was started in the mid-1980s, around the time the crusade for multipartyism and better governance was gathering momentum.

In Nairobi, Mungiki provides security in return for money from businesses. They have taken over many matatu-routes, demanding money in exchange for keeping the peace. They are ruthless with those who threaten them. A few months ago, members of the Mungiki sect attacked bars belonging to ethnic Luos with machetes, sticks and clubs in Kariobangi. At least 20 people were killed. Nobody really knows their leadersė motives. Their National Coordinator, Ndula Waruinge, who we see regularly on television, is thought to be merely a spokesperson for a leadership that is kept secret.

I saw him a few days ago at a trendy yuppies pub in the city centre called Hooters. He was wearing a red cap with a tweed jacket. He has a smooth baby-face with a warm smile, like nothing about him lies below the surface. The waiters all seemed to know him. He sat with two people: one man who was wearing a cheap beige suit with grey shoes; and a nervous-looking woman in a business-suit. After talking to them for a while, he stood up and joined another table for a meeting. The couple was talking between themselves. I stretched by head back to listen to them talk; they were speaking in Kalenjin, the presidentės language, and a language favoured by his aides and members of Special Branch Police. There are those who say that the government supports them, that this is Moiės way of retaining a grassroots organisation now that the grassroots have rejected him.

One woman who works for an ngo that monitors human rights issues in Nairobi told me that Munkiki is far more widespread than we know; that they operate in sealed cells and that most of what they do is not in the publicės eye. Their leaders claim publicly that they have four million members. Not many believe this.

Here in Mlango Kubwa people believe that Mungiki is simply a grassroots movement that is filling up the vacuum of government, providing security for people who are tired of chaos. They are certainly popular here. Joga tells me there is no crime in this area these days. People feel safe, and Mungiki members have a reputation for being disciplined and humble. What makes them dangerous, or attractive, depending on where you stand, is their belief. The foot soldiers believe in what they are doing. They are very well-organised and disciplined and they see the organisation as their religion as well as a sort of surrogate government.

The rain starts to pour again, and a few rush to the safety of the bar. The rest of us press on. I am eager to see Jogaės older works in Mlango Kubwa.

We find the small muddy path to Mlango and join the train of people heading there. A lot of Jogaės older works have now faded; the new look dominates. Here, the contrast between sleek Americanised faces and mud-and-plastic-bag shacks is starker. It is easier to understand why business owners want him to paint this. Here you sell dreams: Cut your hair like this, look like you donėt belong to this place.

We have been adopted by a young lady. Fatima canėt be older than 12; she has a delicate Somali face already shaped into a womanhood. She is our guide, skipping through the mud and revealing information about where we are. She has an astonishing charisma, and we all troop dutifully behind her.

’Donėt turn there, there are prostitutes there. Hey! Mungiki killed people here, with pangas.ė

She imitates Somali refugees chatting on cell phones and keeps us in stitches. Her take on Mungiki is different from what we have heard here. She sees them as a gang, a Gikuyu gang who are in a turf war with Kamjesh, a Luo gang, who kill for turf, who want to re-introduce female genital mutilation to women. She is terrified of them.

Mlango Kubwa is very different from two years ago. Mungiki has torn down many shacks, and built roads where there used to be only tiny weaving paths. For security they say. This way thieves have nowhere to hide and cars can come into Mathare.

The sun sets quickly, and we head out, back to our Matatu, back to the other side of town where signs are designed by computers, where art is in high-ceilinged minimalist spaces, where a vigilante group is not a good thing.

A few days later, I am at Ted Josiahės studio. Ted is a music producer. He produces Gidi Gidi Maji Maji. I am here to interview Kalamashaka and Ma-Shifta, two hip-hop groups who have a reputation for hard-hitting lyrics with heavy social messages.

Upper middle-class Kenyans live mostly west of the city-centre. The poorer classes live East of the city centre. In recent years, this class difference has blurred. We are all so much poorer, all cynical about the countryės future, all tired of hanging onto that shallow and meaningless tribe we belong to called ’Western Valuesė.

In 1990, when I left Kenya (with some relief) for South Africa, the gods of popular culture were of the chewing gum variety: Michael Jackson, Kenny g, Keith Sweat, Eddie Murphy and so on. Bob Marley only made it into list because he had world-wide acceptability.

My generation at the time believed, with a fervour that I now find bewildering, in all of it: in Treetops and the Queen, in Karen Blixen, in Princess Diana, in Coke that came in cans, in Time Magazine, cnn, in Nikes, r & b, hip-hop, in America, in the Oscars and the Grammies.

We thought Cry Freedom was a great movie. We even thought that it was right that Donald Woods, a white South African, deserved a testament to his liberalism, rather than Steve Biko, who surely stands next to Nelson Mandela in every contribution he made to the struggle. We saw no irony in the fact that, yet again, it was the white hero the movie was about. Saw no irony that to become a hero, this white guy did nothing except brave the government by supporting Biko, something ordinary black South Africans did without claiming heroism. None of us were angered that the very existence of the film was demeaning to the ideas that Biko represented.

What changed it? Mainly money. Until 1990 we believed that if you put your head down, associated with the right people, worked hard, got the right degree from the right foreign university, your future was made. Those who didnėt make it were flawed. The idea of a global village seemed to be ours ā now we could be what we wanted, anywhere we chose to be it.

Starting in 1990, when multiparty politics began in Kenya in earnest, Moi and his cronies ceased all pretence of governing and started to loot without fear. The economy crashed. It has been gliding on faith ever since.

At the same time, the first generation of 8-4-4 students got into university. These students had been made to study Swahili as a compulsory subject right up to the end of high school. In the old A-level system, you could abandon Swahili after primary school if you chose. English was king, and any young yuppie-in-training dumped the local language as soon as possible.

The first few generations of 8-4-4 students changed Kenyaės urban culture beyond recognition. Musicians who appealed to young Kenyans before this lot were trendy types with geometric hair-cuts, who sang things (in American accents) with lots of ’Yo yo yoė and ’everybady say heeeey!ė

Then Kalamashaka and Ma-Shifta exploded on the scene. Singing rap in Swahili, poetry really. Not your television Swahili, full of ancient wise-sayings we didnėt care about. This was Sheng grown-up ā Swahili that borrowed from English, from all our mother tongues, Swahili that re-invented itself every few months. The shift was not just a linguistic one; the rhythms of their music were far removed from the American-style rap. In a sense, they were the first totally Kenyan musicians, singing in a language with national appeal, creating a sound that appealed to a generation of people who were born after Independence. Kalamashaka changed the music scene in Kenya completely. They were the first to localise urban popular culture.

He share a cigarette at the car-park, and introduce ourselves. There are three members of Kalamashaka: Peter, tall and solemn, a university graduate; Joni who smiles a lot, but shies away from questions and photographs, and Kama who never stops talking.

We move to Tedės studio, and meet up with two other musicians, Wyre and Dyge.

Kalamashaka play me their latest song, which is in Sheng. It is titled ’Motoė, Fire. This is a translated extract:

Weėre talking about the fire that burns inside the heart of every ghetto youth . . . I call all of them Kalamashaka, blessed only with talent and the fire that burns everything . . . Let me pass so I can represent the truth and start up a revolution and put everybody inside the Trojan horse, break through statehouse and parliament doors crossing African borders with no passports . . . The fire will help us to get out of mental slavery . . . You canėt have omelettes without breaking some eggs . . . Rough-looking people will not harm you; itės the police you should be watching . . . You are still out to get me, then come and get me. Iėll give you whatever you want from me and itės nothing else other than the fire burning inside of me . . . Listen to my voice from Kileleshwa to Mathare as I ignite your heads with a fire that does not burn out . . . am sick and tired of rapping about poverty. If this rap game des not pay off, be sure Iėll be knocking on your door for whatės yours.
Let the fire burn, let the fire get them, the fire that burns inside our hearts surprise them. Fire fire let it announce a revolution . . . .

The hair on the back of my head is standing.

I ask them, ’Are you guys advocating revolution?ė

The answers that come firing back are all over the map.

Peter says it ’is talking about a revolution. Did it begin? People were told about a time when the young will lead. Look, thatės what happening now, you see? The youth have now started taking over, now it has started, you see?ė

’This revolution is not about violence; it is about being conscious of who you are,ė says Joni.

Roba shifts gears, ’we can all be survivors. It makes you wonder whether you should be proud to be a Kenyan, or not proud ā maybe even ashamed. The way we persevere, but we will love our country even if it does not love us.ė

Their words are meaningful, but when the talking is through, maybe because of words put to music, Iėm left with ’Motoė running through my head.

The fire will help us to get out of mental slavery
Let the fire burn, let the fire get them,
The fire that burns inside our hearts surprise them.

A look around tells me it is still daylight in Kenya. Today, tonight, tomorrow, we can walk with optimism.

Photographs by Binyavanga Wainaina.

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Born in Kenya, Binyavanga Wainaina lived and worked for ten years in South Africa, and has been writing from Kenya for the past two years. He has been published by various literary journals around the world. He writes regularly for The Sunday Times (South Africa) and The East African (Kenya). In July 2002 he won the Caine Prize for African Writing.

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