Mahaga, the sheng word is almost always used by Nairobi youngsters to refer to women’s bottoms. The word is rarely used to refer to the male equivalent. I don’t know why this is so. Call it sexist, if you want. Or maybe it should be termed the ‘objectification of women.’
Everyone seems to be objectifying women these days. The makers of TV and print advertisements and outdoor billboards are the worst offenders. We are constantly bombarded by images of scantily clad women superimposed alongside a flashy car, a bar of soap, a packet of milk, a mobile phone handset, a pack of cigarettes, cans of beer, a tab of margarine, et cetera.
But the actresses and models that appear in these ads routinely sign legal contracts and are henceforth paid to appear in the ads. They are not forced to do it.
It is, therefore, safe to argue that these women (actresses and models) have allowed themselves to be treated like objects – and not as dignified human beings. Following this theory, then, we can say that men are free to label women whatever they want; even if that label is synonymous with an erogenous body part. An object must have a name. Right?
I see you nodding your head. We agree on this theory.
By the way, my name is Seth and I am an actor. At the Kenya National Theatre where I eke out a living as a performing artist, there’s a gorgeous actress named Beth. She’s in her twenties. Beth has an amazing, big, brown, bubbly bottom. And she has a penchant for wearing figure-hugging skirts and trousers that show off her prime asset.
Wherever she walks, droves of men, some in cars, others on bicycles, and yet others on motorbikes, stop to gawk at her wonderful ass, I mean, asset.
Beth has mastered the sensual art of dondosa. (Dondosa means swinging bottom.) Beth’s bottom swings and bobs poetically as she struts. It’s natural, her swing. She’s not conscious that it’s swinging and bobbing. It’s a marvel to watch Beth walk!
In my mind her name is Miss Mahaga. But in person I call her Beth. I’m usually respectful to most women. I would never call her that to her face.
Beth and I acted in a play last year. During the course of the rehearsals and the eventual staging, we became friends – platonic friends, I must add; for Beth is engaged to be married. I’ve never met her boyfriend. I’m not sure that he exists. Some young women, especially the hot ones, are known to lie about being engaged in the hope of warding off randy men.
The play we acted in was a set book affair; a dramatized adaptation of a novel that Kenyan high schools were studying at the time. For a period of three weeks, four times a week, two performances a day, we performed to a full house. Most, if not all, of the audience who came to watch the play were high school students clad in their clashing colourful uniforms. Most of the students were in their maiden visits to the capital city, Nairobi, and had dazed looks in their wide naïve eyes. “I’m finally in Nairobi! I’m finally in Nairobi!” they must’ve been telling themselves.
I was born and bred here. There’s nothing exciting about Nairobi.
It’s quiet now at Kenya National Theatre. The lucrative set book season is over. We’ll have to wait till next year to partake, I should say, participate in another set book play.
I cannot tell how long it’ll be till new acting jobs come along. We, the actors and actresses at KNT, can go for several weeks without work and pay. We customarily congregate in the morning outside the theatre and wait. Wait for work.
But I am an optimist. Things will get better; if not sooner, maybe later.
Corporations such as East Africa Breweries, or Coca Cola, or one of the mobile phone service companies will come looking for actors and actresses to take part in one of their extravagant outdoor ad shoots. Even unskilled actors get picked for these mass advertisement productions. On the filming location, a director of the ad might yell through a megaphone and say something as outrageous as, “All of you jump, look at the camera, and yell Orange!” We jump, look at the camera, and yell Orange. We get paid for that.
When I get paid, however little the amount is, I’ll be contended with it. Contentment. I’ll rush to pay my rent and utility bills and then I’ll be broke again. I hate being broke. But I am in this acting thingy for the love of the art; not for the dough. Certainly not for the money.
“Si you find another job,” I hear you suggest.
Well, I tried to; but no one wanted to hire a dreadlocked, bearded, eccentric, arty young man. No, I won’t shave my full beard. And I certainly will not shave my dreads. They’re an integral part of my personality. Personality. I would prefer to go hungry and sleep in the rain than shave my hair for a job placement.
“Kwani, why do you keep repeating words?” I hear you asking.
Well, it’s a habit of mine; to luxuriate on words; to allow my mind’s teeth to chew on a word; allow my mind’s tongue to savour the nuances of the word. I allow my mind’s mouth to gurgle on a word, and deicide whether to spit it out or swallow it. Words.
It’s cold and cloudy in Nairobi. Throughout the day it seems like it’s gong to rain. I hate this unpredictable post El-Nino weather. You cannot tell whether to wear wool or cotton; wear gumboots or moccasins; carry an umbrella or a swimming costume.
“But it’s all good,” as the Black Americans used to say in complacence. “Things will never change,” is what they wanted to say but couldn’t. But our Obama intervened. Obama. He taught them three little words.
“Yes we can!” the Blacks now chant. Afro-Americans can believe in change now. The son of a Kenyan rekindled their hope. We provided the Afro-Americans with ancestral roots; we provided them with a cultural foundation with which to build their derivative culture; heck, we even stepped in to provide Africa Bambatta to ignite the Hip-Hop behemoth. Hip-Hop.
Afro-Americans need us. We, authentic Africans, don’t need them. Without Africa, they’d be no African Americans. Right?
I see you nodding your head. We agree on this observation.
It soon starts to drizzle. For the umpteenth time that month, I misread the weather in the sunny bright morning and wore a short-sleeved cotton shirt, khaki trousers, and leather sandals.
I and a horde of fellow actors and actresses are sitting, as we usually do, at the front steps of the theatre. Am sitting alone by the tall brick wall, pensively contemplating life, gazing at the teeming street beyond the hedges. Cars zoom about; pedestrians stride hurriedly, bicycles roll by, motorbikes rattle along the street. Contemplate.
I turn and see Beth chatting animatedly with her actress friends. She’s wearing tight white hipsters and a tight spaghetti top and high-heeled open-toe shoes. Though the clothes cover most of her body, they don’t hide her curves, her wonderful feminine curves.
I see that her hardened nipples are jutting out of the material of the tight top. Her mammaries are round and full. I want to suckle them; taste her milk. Nipples.
I stare at her bottom, intently gazing at her butt cheeks, searching for her ubiquitous panty lines. But I cannot seem to spot the panty lines cutting diagonally across the plump cheeks.
There’s only one explanation for this anomaly: Beth’s wearing a thong! A spindly triangular patch of fabric knitted to a length of elastic straps. I yearn to remove her thong; pour honey on her cheeks; lick it from her. Thong.
Beth suddenly turns and catches me gazing at her. I abruptly turn away and find something else to stare at, occupy my thoughts.
“Seth, wake up!” I tell myself.
With relief I realize that my throbbing erection has receded. Yes, Beth has that effect on men. We can’t help it. We are prisoners of her booty, I mean, beauty.
The number of hours that we’ve sat on these steps of the theatre, waiting, is innumerable. We routinely sit and while away the time chatting and gazing out to the bustling street; cars hooting, people yelling, sounds of a construction site reverberating from nearby. We wait. Wait for work.
The biting cold makes goose pimples appear on my forearms. I try to rub them away but more of them pop up all over my upper arms.
I raise my trouser leg and see that they’ve sprouted there too. I should have been intuitive; discerned the coming cold weather and carried my puff jacket. My black puff jacket keeps me warm. But I don’t have it now. I can dream about its comforting warmth; however that won’t keep me warm. Intuition.
I abruptly get up and walk through the front door of the theatre and saunter down the aisle between the self-folding seats. The vast stage at the front of the dark hall is brightly lit and there are djembe drums, kayambas, nyatiti stringed instruments, a horn, amongst a host of other traditional African musical instruments.
There’s a large painting of undulating green hills, an azure sky, and a lush maize plantation. The painting is hanging from the ceiling and it stretches from one end of the back of the stage to the other. The painting must’ve been used as a backdrop by the troop of actors who have just finished rehearsing for a play.
Some actors are frequently chosen for plays; but most of us are not that lucky. We don’t land regular roles. We wait. Wait for work.
The bright lights of the stage and the traditional African props setting draw me to the stage. I stand there, in the middle of the stage, letting my eyes adjust to the brightness.
I didn’t see Beth strutting down the dark aisle and onto the stage. She tiptoes from behind me and gently taps my right shoulder and then steps beside my left hand.
I turn to the right and cannot see anyone but the props on the stage. I then turn to the left. I see her; a mischievous gleam in her wide, playful eyes. She’s grinning broadly.
“Miss Mahaga,” I inadvertently say. I take her hands in mine. She gazes deeply into my eyes. I too gaze into hers. Adlib poetry starts to flow from my mouth.
“How poetical your bottom is when you walk;
its motions reminiscent of twin gazelles,
twin gazelles head-butting each other.
I cannot tell one from the other.
I bless your mother for bequeathing you with such ampleness.
Rounded like the hills of Ngong’;
as soft as oriental silk.
Some people say,
say that the African woman’s bottom grew so prominent
as an adaptation to the terrible thrust of the African man.
Whatever the reason,
I cherish your graceful bulk.
It’s a living work of art, your bottom.
It’s as if they were stitched on you;
the tight tops, hipsters, skirts, and jeans that you wear.
I envy your skirt for hugging you all day long;
I envy your top for embracing your breasts so tightly;
I envy your thong for being embedded between your lovely brown flesh.
how poetical your bottom is when you walk;
its motions reminiscent of twin crescent cranes;
twin crescent cranes in flight.
I cannot tell one from the other.
Your cheeks are symmetrical;
symmetrical like an open taarab poetry book;
their movement as harmonious as a duet.
It’s like music to my eyes when I see you walking;
walking in front of me.
How I yearn to peel off your clothes and underclothes;
lay you down, turn you over,
and pour honey, sweet golden honey,
on your cheeks.
How I yearn to run my tongue over your flesh;
lick all the honey from you.
Upon finishing reciting these emotive lines, Beth abruptly pulled her hands away from mine and swung her right hand and slapped me hard on the face.
I rubbed my pained cheek, gazing at her in shock.
She then turned and strode agitatedly off the stage and into the darkness of the aisle. I didn’t enjoy being deserted; but I definitely enjoyed watching her strut away. I saw her curved silhouette on the rectangle of light when she opened the door of the theatre and walked out. The door banged shut behind her. Curved silhouette.
Kenyan women just don’t appreciate poetry! They aggressively resist it.
“Why?” I ask. “Tell me why this is so!”
There was silence in the hall and someone switched off the stage lights. I stood there alone; in the darkness of the theatre hall; waiting, waiting for work.
Beth should not have slapped me. She should have listened to my poetry; luxuriated on it; acquiesced to my yearnings; given up her lovely body for my gratification. Right?
I see you nodding your head. We agree on this conclusion.
© Denis Kabi 2009 www.deniskabi.wordpress.com
If you would like this piece to be the Story of the Week, please vote below on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak, and 10 being excellent. The numbers will be tallied on Friday and the story with the highest figure shall be Crowned Story of the Week. Be sure to fill in your name and verifiable email. You can include your critique/comment after the vote.