Saturday, March 31, 2012

Global News | Aung San Suu Kyi arrives in constituency, determined to win seat

I hope that Aung San Syu Kyi wins this election in her constituency because she deserves it. I know that she is one person who has never asked what her country has done for her but has stuck with asking herself what she can do for her country just like her late father.

That she believes in democracy after so many years of suffering actually from a lack of it and therefore house arrest makes her my winner in so many ways. Aun San Syu Kyi always!

I am glad she has no fear. Aung Sang Syu Kyi will continue to inspire the world. She is incisive and deep. May Burma see her light. She will not lose her voice if the vote fails her but am waiting for the news without sleeping in a far away land. I shall celebrate her quietly always in my soul.

She wrote in her speech Freedom from Fear

"It is not power that corrupts but fear.. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. Most Burmese are familiar with the four a-gati, the four kind of corruption. Chanda-gati, corruption induced by desire, is deviation from the right path in pursuit of bribes or for the sake of those one loves. Dosa-gati is taking the worng path to spirte those against whom one bears ill will, and moha-gati is abberration due to ignorance. But perhaps the worst of the four is bhaya-gati, for not only does bhaya, fear, stifle and slowly destroy all sense of right and wrong, it so often lies at the root of the other three kinds of corruption.  I wish we were all so analytical in our languages regarding corruption. I hope the whole world learns about the four agati!

If her votes are corrupted, may those who do so hear her words above again and again in their mother tongue! May these words haunt them all!

Global News | Aung San Suu Kyi arrives in constituency, determined to win seat

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Philo Ikonya reads at Rådhuset to mark World Poetry Day and her work as a writer in Refuge in Oslo

Lioness at Samburu adopts an Oryx

World Poetry Day (UNESCO)  1st March 2012. I was invited to read poems at the City Hall in Oslo, Rådhuset. This is a great honor and the speeches about my work were unexpected and wonderful. The venue was Munchrommet. Edvard Munch is famous for great art and I had the honour to get so many photographs done in a great hall. See them in the link just below. My theme was motherlands and that included Kenya, Norway and the whole world. For everywhere someone calls home is a motherland.

Avslutning for fribyforfatter Philo Ikonya - Deichmanske bibliotek - Oslo kommune

Namunyak, wise lion......
Maybe you should claw us!
You are greater than
greedy presidents.
With the focus of a cat,
you feed and care for those,
outside your clan and plan,
tribe and specie and race,
the dearth of Somalia,
and the diamond sides of Congo, the world....

I read a poem about a lioness called Namunyak, the lucky one. She lives (d) in Samburu Park in Kenya. She adopted oryxes and gazelles (babies) six times and she fed them and protected them from being eaten by predators. Ordinarily these animals are eaten by lions. She inspired me with regard to tribalism and other forms of discrimination and non-acceptance of the other.

This poem and others can be found in This Bread of Peace, a Lapwing Publication, Belfast, by Philo Ikonya  2010. You can find it here as a google book.

I also read Loved from Out of Prison - Love Songs. This book is available as an e-book in English on Kindle and available here:

Avslutning for fribyforfatter Philo Ikonya - Deichmanske bibliotek - Oslo kommune


They called her Namunyak.
I would have called her Sankara,
Makeba, Wangarĩ or Ellena.
Me katilili or Nyanjirũ.
Who mothers Afrika?

In Namunyak is all these.
She is the mother lion,
hidden in Samburu Park,
in Kenya, under a bush
and sun bathing
her dusty golden coat.

They call her Namunyak, the lucky one.
She spreads peace to all, not greed.
Yes, Bahati, Bakhita, Mũnyaka.

Ma Lion what is your secret?
You feed and adopt six baby oryx,
six even times, quite odd.
You know the oryx are usually your food,
but you feed your victuals,
and not to make sumptious
a feast later.
You protect with all your strength.

Maybe you should claw us!
You are greater than
greedy presidents.
With the focus of a cat,
you feed and care for those,
outside your clan and plan,
tribe and specie,
the dearth of Somalia,
and the diamond sides of Congo.

In Kenya,
three presidencies you beat,
all of them fallen, on the sword
of tribal discrimination,
the rim of the nation weakening
till collapse.

You beat countries giving visas
with grudges, strings attached and
humiliation, I say often, of the poor people.

Would you redeem humanity?
One of their own,
is always, the rejected,
and offered gall
for wine.

With love you are so powerful,
your neighbours they kill human Albinos
to get rich of a sudden on death!
Would you cut our own chains?
The misery we tie around our necks?

You come home to find,
Mzee Lion has eaten your oryx.
For one, you mourn and fume,
for long. You get five more
to no harm.           

Have you seen how our fear has ‘children’ these days,
Fear with grandparents and roots?
Have you seen the fears of children today?
You sit there six times,
a puzzle, posing they think.

To your lesson,
We are here to give honour.
I dress you with a mane.
Incredible mother of beauty.
Karibu Mama.
Hakuna matata.

Come Japanese to see your Nisei,
San with Nikon,
snap, snap.

Another face of Africa.
Eyes open wide,
People of all races are back,
do they turn to make Africa?
Is pigmentation enough?
Come American Indians,
Come all to take an image of harmony home.
Come they with verses spoken long ago.
But you just sit there Namunyak,
And I award you for feeding your food,
sensing life in disaster.

To peace and freedom.
You challenge we give to suckle.
Na upendo wa amani,
Mkate huu wa amani na wa uhuru.
Feed, house,
Keep it,
Like in safe villages or,
in the jungle,
in your style.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Nest of Stones: Kenyan narratives in Verse


Wanjohi Wa Makokha

I have powerful contemporary writing in my hands. It’s close to me. It is enriching to read and reflect on Wanjohi Wa Makokha’s Nest of Stones: Kenyan narratives in verse published by Langaa Publishers, 2010.

Makokha went to Berlin to study for his doctoral thesis in Literature. Soon after he left, Kenya was burning in political strife born of the announcement that Kibaki had beaten Raila Odinga in the presidential tally of votes on December 30th 2007.   

Suddenly, even if the causes were not so sudden,  Makokha saw our motherland on fire, he saw people burning. He beat the winter’s cold and burned with his pen. Politics had driven a fatal machete between Kenyan and Kenyan with the excuse of ethnic differences. The subtext is tribe or ethnicity, the context is political manipulation of differences and injustice over years of  opportunities not always based on merit to people who bear certain names.

Many of us believed and knew that we were beyond that for years but that politics plays this card with efficiency. It was a nightmare. Makokha writes:

  “The sudden death of a mother is sad,
Sadder still is the death of a motherland.
There comes a time when a nation can be killed by its citizens’ ill emotions.”

Indeed, I have had an interesting journey Nest of Stones.  I remember alerting Wanjohi Wa Makokha that this book was out, apparently before he knew it, on a facebook chat.

Nest of Stones is Wanjohi Wa Makokha’s debut poetry volume. It is great reading. More of his work is soon rolling out of the press. In the meantime, he continues posting many poems on facebook, not unaware of the evils of piracy which are unrelenting far into Eastern African coasts but daring who will to take and eat. This Sunday morning (18. 03. 2012), a friend has just picked up these lines fresh from his Timeline on facebook and sent them to me for this article. Here are our Terms of Reference. Or ToR... in the theater perhaps also of the absurd.


(Pressure pressure pressure ni ni ni…
...Pleasure pleasure pleasure si si si…)


                       A palanquin above our days, these days
                     And poets compose comedies recited now

                 Deep into the night that we are becoming

                     Who will be the moon? Who will act lunatic?

                   And who will take my role as a crescent howl

                That rises from the divine coffin of A. Ginsberg?

                Hear this howl oracular like a song under duress

              A solomonic howl from America faraway to Africa!

            A howl heraldic…interpreting our age, yes who? One

        That’ll like our civic anthem turn into a palanquin of riddles

        Writ with graffiti of Moloch, a canopy above our new act!

       Behold our theater of civility acted under duress! For via it

    We find it our national hobby howling national dreams at night!

   Scientists predict prosperity will emerge like energy in this way

  Just like meaning hatching out of this poem read under pressure…

If we all re-read these lines upside down, from right to left, politically.

In Nest of Stones, Makokha is forceful and provocative.  True that his choice of a word here and there would have thrown one precious and late Mzee Maruge of Kenya who who was learning to read and write in his late 80s so that he could read the Bible and claim justice regarding Mau Mau.

As our own strange ways would have it, this man who flew to the statue of liberty in the USA courtesy of promoters of free primary education, ended up being one of those names that the poet cannot pronounce and died in his 90s homeless and disoriented because of the violence that occured in Kenya in 2007/2008.  He was an Internally Displaced Kenyan Person. And he was lucky to be. Many did not survive this period.

But Makokha has with other writers active in during period recorded our despondency and strength in verse. In Germany, as Kenya was getting destroyed, he was running around dishevelled pain for motherland dress in robes of words howls for his country. Now he says to the people:

“These things within, fellow citizen!
That stir hot life, fellow citizen!
And like  a ripe ulcer, fellow citizen!
Chews awning holes, fellow citizen!

Can we remain complacent? Are we all, including writers to be caught in the “theatre of civility” ?  Can we pretend that we have a constitution and onot live according to the act?

Are we swallowed by unseen mouths? Here we are in classrooms or blogs or fb away from the madding dust of the maddened and bleeding crowds raising our voices. For we know that ultimately voice is voice and it can fly over the alps, oceans and deserts for like a boomerang it always returns.

A nation that will kill its own people has rejects those seen as foreigners before. We fail to see humanity in one, we fail to see it in all. We rejected the Nubi who were stateless in our land for years and a few of us rich ones sit on the poor. We watched Idi Amin throw out Asians but many of the people in the land too could not stay or live. Our children will find it hard to see it. We must wake up now! We have one word between us. Life.

In Nest of Stones Makokha says he is a bard. I will call him a poet and singer of verses from Afrika. Malenga wa Panda Damu, the man in whom blood rises ( whose blood is at crossroads) has traversed barriers of locality and language. Blood is blood and always found in the same blood groups across races. Malenga wa Panda Damu is saying important things. His pen name is Wanjohi Wa Makokha. This book leaves all of us convinced that Joseph Siboe Makokha ~his real name~ is gone with the poetry but not with the wind.

You will hear the sound of stones he casts burning with fire going past your ears, to the desert sands and flying..and see them being hurled at us to wake up. Wanjohi Wa Makokha will be standing there sturdy and firmly yelling again. Come listen to him. Come read him. He is carrying universes that tidy us up. Come read how he acknowledges his roots in all Kenya. See how he sets one big table for writers and teachers in which I want to put Kisa Ameteshe at the head.  

Words must from shore to shore fly. Our books* are borne by winds and the voices of our ancestors.  They are midwifed in cyberspace bearing Cameroonian wings of words that once upon a time Camara Laye served us like rice as we first read The African Child and sat down In the Radiance of the King!

A word like a curtain may hide a world only from those of who dictionaries. But Makokha’s energy tears through the walls. He is swimming in knowledge others may not have. It is up to his pen to decide how the economy of words and communication functions in different contexts. His poetic licence and power is not in question. He chooses, palanquin, Soubriquet and a bard. 

No soft nest, Wanjohi Wa Makokha makes, no soft nest. And why should he when he  wrote his lines at the peak of events that drove many clinically insane. He and us were lucky to survive it. Insanity at the time made more sense.

“Most of the poems in this collection emerge out of the howls of th souls that were burning and bleeding to death in Kenya during the world infamous Post-Election Violence (PEV) of early 2008 and late 2007”

Blood and life issues. What do they mean to us? Will all those Kenyans who have known that tribe is not a wall against justice, love and peace stand up with the poet? How we tackle this today may mean progress or lack of it for the next one hundred years for millions of people. It is no levity. We shall be all gone. We shall leave a legacy of shame. Come on, let’s take what it is good in this thing and hurl the rest into the gullies and caves of our land. We know we can declare our guilt and turn things around in word and deed.

Biological make up has ceased to be the only identity that makes a group of people align to a political party, country or even village in developed nations. It took them time. In many parts of the world, the language one speaks determines whom they know and support. Injustice uses every crevice if we are not awake. When see it we must say it because it has no shame.

This is a serious challenge in a country that would have democracy. Wanjohi  Wa Makokha is eager to point out in a country where ethnic origin has meant many things including death when disagreement  on the number of votes X politician gets in comparison with ‘Y’.

‘eX’ ‘whY’ Chromosomes in politics

The ‘chromosomes’ and genetic disorders of politics often mean bloodshed. Malenga wa Damu Panda is a Kenyan not only beyond confinement by narrow domestic walls but able to see that genetic formation should not spill over into judgement .  Before his next volume,  we must press this first one into our nation and conscience firmly and forever.

We have known liberators. We have tasted freedom. We have gained independence but must be vigilant to keep ourselves beyond being enslaved by the greed for power which comes first for politicians, making life meaningless.

Makokha’s word believes in the freedom we struggle to achieve. Our foreparents have done their best, it is our turn to take what we wish to and to define our freedom. We are not yet free. This is a matter of life and death.  

Makokha fasted when Kenya was burning. He could not live in a world where all was normal as our motherland burnt. He found Schiller’s old house and found solace in writing his soul out in there. He changed physically.

“ I lost weight. I became dishevelled. I wore my hair and beard to lengths unknown before to me and my colleagues.”  

Now we cannot forget this in 2012 when Kenya  has another election.  Not now when the search for justice for the dead and the displaced is on. The facts and realities must remain.

That in the fourth decade of our freedom we in Kenya had
1, 333 persons die because of a competition of votes. That we in Kenya had half a million people displaced, homeless, when we know that we are the shelter of Somalis, Sudanese and Congolese people who are always seeking a home in Africa from us as their lands suffer. And many others.

We cannot forget

Indeed as Micere Githae Mugo writes in a foreword to Wanjohi’s work of poetry and quoting her friend our sister Ama Ata Aidoo of Ghana, we do not want to ever suffer from what Aidoo calls “Self-willed amnesia.”

Those writers who captured the bloody deaths and wounds of the violence that shook Kenya after the General Election of 2007 in all ways: camera, social media, books and articles have
accomplished something great. This is a situation we should never forget.

But many on facebook see tribalism to task although maybe it is not possible to something meaningful on those pages. I rush back to Makokha. I was thinking of Kenyans who like Makokha can do what so many get stuck in negative politics.

There is a huge constituency of mixed us. No ethnic group is on its own anywhere in the world. Makokha takes a hundred per cent from each of his parent’s tradition and claimes both. This should scare those who alway think that blood and genes must confine our dynamism as an individuals. Confound them as Makokha has done.

In these days of multimedia, allow me to quote a chat. Yes, an fb chat. I like expression at its most spontaneous level.  I asked Kyalo if i could share this. He wrote to me in a chat on fb as we discussed Kenya: “I am young person but i really don’t know when we start looking at our elves as Kikuyus, Kambas coz in school we are one” I responded it is when the question of power over others comes in that we start to see tribe. I need to dig deep for a Kenyan identity to come up untainted by genes and blood. We all need to. There are many ways of doing it. Makokha writes.

 “ We shouldn’t continue in silence to brood these unnamed emtotions deep within us. That afflict the land we call mother.”

2017, Kenya post- election deadlock is old; who did not see it coming did not want to, and the child is dead

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