Thousands of our kinds were killed that time, but history won’t remember a single one. We arrived at Mutara wa Tsatsu in the forgotten years. We were invited by our dreams, smiling at our future, our young romping about like lion cubs. We came seeking peace but never saw the signs of nightmare to come. We rowed for many days upon foam crowned blue seas, defeating the veritable tempest of the seas.
“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” — Sue Monk Kidd, author
Hekaya Initiative is currently looking for fiction writers to participate in a traveling story that aims at connecting the larger Swahili Coast. Locations of interest include: Dar-e-Salaam, Bagamoyo, Kilwa, Swahili-speaking Northern part of Mozambique, Voi, Mombasa, Kilifi, Watamu, Malindi, Lamu, Kiunga, Bosaso, Zanzibar, Comoros, and Pemba.
The story will be passed on from one location to another until it traverses all these locations. Stories connect us, and we hope the traveling story will capture the cultural wealth and diversity of the Swahili Coast.
As the sun plunges into the westerly end of the ocean in slow motion, basketball-like, beyond the weather-beaten skyscrapers and slow-moving traffic, way beyond the docked masses of iron, further, further beyond the nondescript fusion of sea and sky, Mombasa undergoes a gradual metamorphosis as the world elsewhere closes its mouth for the night.
Lethargic day life paves way for an exuberant night life soon as the hint of the sun is swept off the sky. Shop corridors and pavements which were otherwise dull during the day light up, tables and chairs dragged from back rooms as workers in sagging tight jeans, plastic sandals, and earphones dangling from their ears clean away the day-time madness, pouring soapy water on the pavements which suck it in pretty fast having being dehydrated the entire day by Mombasa’s unforgiving heat.
A few months ago, we did a call out seeking short fiction submissions from Coastal writers and the feedback was amazing, considering that Hekaya is a relatively new name in the coastal writing scene. The main aim of setting up this platform is to amplify coastal voices by publishing prose, poetry and portraiture from the region which spans from Mogadishu all the way down to the Kiswahili-speaking part of Northern Mozambique, largely because the people from these region share a whole lot in common.
For instance, Kiswahili is a common language here. In matters, dressing, the Kikoi is a common attire, differing only in style such that it would be easy to tell a Somali kikoi from its Lamu counterpart. The Chakacha and Taarab music from Mombasa differs only in tone from the one in The Comoros.
Please download the anthology here
The region has also given birth to globally acclaimed scholars of language and literature like the late Professor Ali Mazrui, Professor Abdulatif Abdallah, Professor Alamin Mazrui, Professor Rayya Timamy, Professor Rocha Chimera, Professor Abdulrazak Gurnah from Zanzibar, Ngala Chome, Ali Attas, Alwi Shatry to name but a few.
Mrs. Mwanaidi Juma is seated in front of her rectangular makeshift hut. A few meters from her is a warm open hearth beside an old towering coconut tree. On her right there are three monster mango trees that allow the late afternoon sun rays to permeate and dance on her face.
Her new neighbor Mrs. Lulu Rashid has visited her for the first time. Standing on a snaking root of one of the mango trees, Lulu drinks tea from an old plastic cup as she listens keenly to her host.
“You see this tree,” Mwanaidi says, towards the gigantic coconut tree while shielding her eyes from the sunrays. “It was the first one we planted together in nineteen-eighty-two.”
Outside, the men are about to perform ablution required before acts of worship, washing their faces and limbs. I listen to them as they make the niyya-intention to do ablution and recite, ‘’Bismillāh i’r Rahmān i’r Rahīm. In the Name of Allâh, the Beneficent, the Merciful.’’
Syria is hot. I always thought Mombasa my hometown was hot but this heat beats the dense humidity of my coastal hometown in Kenya. The midday scorching sun makes the black hijab covering my head and face feel like a hot iron-box and I’m sweating profusely. Peeping from my veil, I catch a glimpse of the men doing ablution intent on purifying themselves, yet I know no matter how much they scrub, they can’t purify themselves of their filth.
Rose stared at the clock wishing it could move quickly so that she could live her life. The time had finally come to appear before the Church Council. She had been accused of many things and wrong doings. This was the time to set the record straight. The provost at the reception of the church office had served her with nice lemon tea and snacks and informed her that she would beckon her to go in at exactly four thirty. Rose loved tea, lemon tea and she wondered how the provost knew this.
It was a warm Saturday morning; an ideal time to divorce oneself from demanding tasks. James was listening to the subtle sounds of nature when a shadow obstructed the warm rays of sunshine on his face.
‘James,’ he heard his mother speak from above him.
‘Yes mum?’ he responded without as much as cracking an eye open.
‘We are heading for a meeting at the Kombo’s and then we will go and see a farm near them,’ she said.
‘Town or the farm?’ he asked lazily.
‘Out of town,’ she replied.
I met him at club Fly So Fly where I had ceased being a butterfly having suffered a broken neck after falling head first from a stripper pole, an incidence I had seen coming- I have terrible eye-hand coordination by the way- and just like that I fell from a remunerative stripper to a mere call girl.
He sat there, hunched over his drink, studying it like it held within its sparkle the solution to a profound mystery, twiddling the glass before taking a quick draw, withdrawing his lips slowly from the glass. Savoring his drink, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a phone, its brightness illuminating his face. He looked sad, aloof, like he had been forced to sit there by a power he couldn’t resist, unlike everyone else who seemed to have merged into the atmosphere of the club.