Behind the scenes

A freedom fighter, an avocado car and other stories

The avocado car had found its natural environment

I contacted David G the first morning I arrived in Nairobi, hoping he could assist in my latest quest.  Knowing he was of the Kikuyu tribe and of an age where he would be well connected with the local inhabitants, I was sure he would be able to lead me towards one of the last remaining freedom fighters in the country.

I wasn’t disappointed.  After spending a night as his guest in Huruthura opposite the Kenyan airforce base – sleeping under a particularly holey mosquito net – we travelled up to Lari district where he has aspirations for Political office. This lead to a certain amount of flesh pressing as I shadowed his movements.

We met up with Joseph, a family man who runs a gas station, and who very generously agreed to take us to Kahuho, where we had an appointment with a certain Sergeant Major.  The mists had cleared by the time we arrived at the edge of the escarpment at 8,000 feet, ready for our descent into the midday heat of the Rift Valley.

The roads started to worsten as we weaved downhill – at one point crossing the Kenya to Uganda railway.  After more hand shaking and guttural conversations in native Kikuyu between David and his potential constituents, we continued down a tree-lined track and past a sign which read, ‘Freedom Fighter in 1952, Sergeant Major Wamweya Kinyanjui.’

Sporting a baseball cap emblazoned with the words ‘Silver Slipper’, our host was already in position – sitting under Jacaranda trees on a grassy patch surrounded by out buildings.  With formal introductions over, we got down to some hard listening as the Major gurgled Kikuyu through sizeable gaps in his tusk like teeth.  I managed to remember the iphone, to record these rumblings (although seismic equipment might have been better) and strategically placed it on my knee, then Joseph’s, while I tried to compose pictures.

The old man quickly had his guests in the palms of his bucket like hands, which he flailed around to colour his story.  So engrossed were the den of men, that time didn’t allow for many pictures when the Major finally dried up.  By the end I felt like I’d achieved a couple of good portraits, but there were too many distractions, and I ended the day – surrounded by 30 Kikuyu men, in a bar, eating freshly slaughtered goats intestines – feeling as if it was a job half done.

Nothing for it but to go back…

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