“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.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” –Maya Angelou
For the sake of preserving the purity of the beautiful language of Kiswahili we will have the same story done in its original Kiswahili format. We do not wish to dilute or lose its flavor through translation. The plan is to infuse the story with an interplay of prose and poetry to produce a seamless work that portrays a strong Coastal identity.
If all goes as planned, our intention is to have the book published and launched in 2019 and have copies of the same in libraries and cultural centers along the Swahili Coast.
Interested writers can drop us a mail at email@example.com with a brief bio indicating their area of interest (poetry, shairi, fiction) and where applicable, a link to either their blogs, websites or platforms which have published their works.
Abdi, an only-child born of a Comorian mother and a father of mixed Somali-Bajuni descent is a resident of Kilwa. He is a poet and spoken word artist and since he finished high school he has been jobless and relies on sporadic gigs entertaining tourists along the beach.
He never met his father. He learnt through his mother that he left for Somali when he was still an infant. Rumor has it that he is a rich merchant in Hargeisa, living in gated opulence, a stark contrast to the deplorable condition Abdi and his mother live in. Yet, another rumor peddled by some Kilwa fishermen of Somali descent is that he is a deposed warlord who still lives well, and others say he died in a US-led air attack targeting militia in Mogadishu.
Ruweydah, Abdi’s mother Is unemployed as well, having previously worked as a house help in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for less than a year before she came back home strapped in bandages and a cast on her right hand- her employer had thrown her off from a first floor balcony after pouring hot water on her, claiming that she had slept with the husband.
On occasion when it’s off season and the flow of tourists is low, Abdi hangs out with his pals along the shores dreaming of carefree lives in the hands of older women in Europe. Most of his friends are beach boys eking a living off the pockets of the tourists- sex, selling artifacts, drugs, acrobatic performances, name it. He is however between worlds. He deems himself too noble to traffic drugs or sleep with elderly women for money, yet on the other hand he really wants to make it out of squalor.
As his pals narrate stories about some of their friends who had been whisked away by love and/or lust to Europe, Abdi seeks out fishermen who go as far up North as Kiunga to fish, and relishes the stories they bring along with them. He is especially impressed by Maha, an elderly man of the sea who is conversant with Mashairi from the larger Swahili coast. It is through Maha that Abdi learns different Swahili dialects.
To Abdi, art is a form of escape. Maha offers him a chance to travel on his fishing boat to Kiunga, stopping in various Swahili towns along the way. For Abdi, it’s a chance to not only learn more about the culture of the Swahili coast but a chance to perhaps visit Somalia in search of his father. His intention is to take and learn as much as possible about Swahili art forms so that even if he doesn’t succeed in tracing his father, he’d find solace in his passion for art.
The story follows Abdi in his quest and how the Swahili culture, language and religion alters his perception. He encounters love and the pain of not being in a position to fully be in love due to his state of temporary transition. Most importantly, he encounters radical teachings that significantly change his intention of travelling to Somalia.
Abdi kijana mtanashati mwenye asili ya Kikomoro, rangi yake ya maji ya kunde, ilipomulikwa na miale ya jua ilingara kama dhahabu za Firauni. Pua yake iliyonyooka kama upanga na kuketi kwenye uso wake mwembamba, uliofikichana vizuri na shingo yake. Tangia amalize shule ya upili hajawahi kupata amali maalumu, aliishia kutumbuiza watalii katika fukwe za kisiwa cha Kilwa. Ila ndoto zake hazikuishia kisiwani humo. Aliamini itatokea siku moja naye atatoka kisiwani na kuitembea pwani kutafuta maisha.
Abdi ni barobaro aliyelelewa na mzazi wa kike pekee, waling’ang’ana na mamaye kutengeneza maisha. Babake mzazi ni wa asili ya Kisomali na mchanganyiko wa Kibajuni. Kulingana na mamake, alitoka jioni moja kuenda kuvua na ndio ikawa mara ya mwisho kumuona. Ila habari zilizotemebea kisiwani ni kuwa babake Abdi alishawahi kuonekana Berbera, mji mmoja katika pwani ya bahari hindi. Wengine walisema anaongoza kundi la maharamia wanaoteka nyara meli kubwa kubwa zinazotekea ghuba ya Aden. Wavuvi walioenda kuvua na pepo za kaskazi, kipindi kimoja walirudi na habari kuwa kauwawa Ras Kamboni kwa bomu la angani lililorushwa na wamarekani. Abdi alihangaika mara nyingi kuzithibitisha habari hizo, ila kulikuja zengine zaidi kila wakati na kinzani na za awali, ikawa ni ngonjera za kawaida kwake, ila tamaa za kumuona babake mzazi hazikumuisha.
Mamake mzazi kaponea kifo miezi si mingi, alikuwa kijakazi katika milki ya Saudi. Akimfanyia kazi bedui mmoja , yaliyompata si madogo. Mwajiri wake usiku mmoja alimtomasa na kumpapasa makalioni, katika hali ya kumenyana naye kwenye roshani, alisukumwa kutoka ghorofa ya tatu hadi chini. Kweli, tumuache Mungu aitwe Mungu tu! Ruweida zake zilikuwa hazijafika, alikaa hospitalini katika chumba cha hatari kwa majuma mawili, alipopata afueni tu katiwa ndegeni na kurudishwa kwao Kilwa bila hata senti tano.
Abdi na wendani wake wangezuzura fukwe za bahari hindi kama mbwa koko zilizomaliza nguvu zao kulinda mabwenyenye na kuwatelekeza punde tu meno yalipoanza kuanguka. Walisaka mishangingi ya kizungu iliyokuja kuchoma chango na mabarobaro wa Kibantu. Bora mkono ufikwe kinywani! Abdi alielewa hali yake na hakuona aibu kupamabana nayo. “Ubeach boy nao kazi, kuuza sura sio mchezo “ ndizo semi walizotumia kupambana kejeli za watu walioibeza kazi yao ya ‘kuuza sura’ fukweni. Ila Abdi hakuvutiwa sana na kazi hiyo, mda mwengine angejikuta na nyavu kavamia bahari kuvua, mara kidogo angejiunga na wanamaiyoga kupinda viungo na kuwafurahisha watalii mahotelini. Riziki ilikuja kwa njia tofauti kila siku na Abdi alifahamu hivyo vizuri sana.
Maha mzee wa umri wa makamo, aliyeowana na bahari na bahari ikamuowa. Hajawahi kuoa maishani mwake, mwanachama kamili wa timu ya ukapera. Alikuwa mtu wa ajaabu sana, na habari zishatembea sana kuwa kaowa jini, kipindi kimoja alipotea baharini kwa mda wa wiki nzima, kapatikana Msumbiji katika visiwa vya Ilha Rongui, sehemu pia inayosemekana alifunga harusi na banati wa kijini aliyemuokoa baharini. Binti Ruvuma alimuokoa baharini kwa sharti moja tu! Wafunge ndoa na asithubutu kujamiana na mwanamke mwengine yeyote yule. Maha kashakataa posa za binti wengi wa Kilwa Kisiwani hadi masokoni, kaitwa majina mengi, kadhaniwa kuwa msenge na wengi, ila hayo yote hayakumshtua. Abdi angepoteza mda mwingi na Maha fukweni, akiskiza mashairi na hadithi zake, haswa zile za ujanani. Maha alipenda kujinaki, ashagombana na wavuvi wenzake sana kwa kujiita yeye hodari kuliko wote. Naye alikuwa hodari kweli, wanawake walijaa fukweni wakijua Maha anatia nanga, si visulivisuli, si jodari, si tafi au samaki yeyote yule ila walimpata kutoka kwa Maha na kupeleka masokoni.
Maha siku moja akaamua kumpa fursa Abdi kwenda kuvua naye kwa mda wa miezi kadhaa, baada ya Abdi kumng’ang’ania kwa siku nyingi tu! Kwa upande wake Abdi alikuwa amechoshwa na maisha ya pale Kisiwani na alitaka kufungua mbawa zake na kuitembea pwani nzima. Alitaka kujua kilichoficha bahari na zaidi sana, alitaka kumtafuta babake mzazi.
Image credit: Google Images