Recently, I found out, from someone I barely know, that I am fake.
I study law in Nairobi and as part of the Legal curriculum, it is required that at the end of the second year of law school, we work in various courts in the country to acquire some practical experience. However, we could choose which to go to.
So, recently, I travelled for my attachment at one of the courts in my country at the Coastal Region. It was a good opportunity to get away from home for a while and who doesn’t want to turn an exercise like this into a vacation? Not me!
During my time there, I got to meet all kinds of people, of course, with different opinions on everything, even me. One particular Wednesday was a sunny day amidst the rainy days; beautiful and I could not have been happier. I had finished assignments given by the magistrate assigned to me. I felt like I didn’t have a care in the world, like a load had been lifted, like a mind at peace, like the feeling you get when exams are over, like… you get my point. Anyway, I went to work in a tuktuk, which was one of my favourite means of transport. Court started at 9:00 a.m and went on an on till noon. After that I went to the court registries. I like to think of a court room as a theatre and the registries as back stage, you know, where all the court files are kept and a chill spot for the clerks.
As I was there, going about my merry business, one of the people working there subtly asked me which tribe I belonged to. It was not that straight forward. He asked from where my father hailed. Every time this question is directed my way, I become hesitant. Don’t get me wrong, it does not mean I’m not proud of my ethnicity at all; I just want to avoid any kind of prejudice. My efforts to try to avoid the question were futile so I gave in to his persistence and answered the question, fully aware of the discussion that would ensue. I answered. I told him that my father is from the Lake Region, a Luo. He went on to ask where my mother came from. “From the Coastal Region,” I said, “from Taveta County.”
At this point he got silent. I had already switched to battle mode, ready for the this-tribe-is-better-than-that-one and which-tribe-has-the-better-men arguments. I was busy arranging arguments in my head so that they are coherent and weighty so that they will put him in his place and let him know never to ask these questions again. However, this conversation took a strange turn.
After the long silence, he told me, with a deep low tone and genuine concern in his face, “You are fake.” I was taken aback! What?! I needed to know what he meant so I asked. He answered with a series of questions. “How can you be an original person if your parents are of different tribes; how does that work? Which languages will you learn? Which names will your children have, in fact who will name your children? Whose culture do you follow and which traditions do you abide by? Which tribe do you identify yourself with?” To drive the nail in, he finished with, “And you being female, WHEN your husband leaves you, where will you be accepted?” He said ‘when’!!
After digesting what he said, I asked my series of questions. “Who said I cannot learn both languages? Which law stipulates the maximum number of names my child can have? Why can’t I observe both cultures? Why can’t I identify with both?” what he said thereafter was not much. He basically repeated what he asked, but with different words.
The other people witness to this conversation were either enjoying it or concurring or both.
One of the things I am most passionate about is culture, irrespective of origin. The point of this is that humans are the most diverse creatures with a wide array f culture and tradition. This diversity is what we should learn to embrace and appreciate. Imagine if we were all the same race, tribe, and religion or maybe there were none at all. Life would not be as beautiful. I love to meet other people from different backgrounds, ethnicities and countries and learn from them. There is a lot to learn from the 2 tribes I identify with; good and bad. However, that shall be a post for another day as it is a whole new story.
I tend to think we are all tribal in our own little way. What brings about the difference is the degree. We are all (most) proud of our roots and hold our identity, culture and traditions higher than others, but with a sense of pride (which I think is a good thing) not conceited superiority. We are all citizens of our country and the world and we should love each other and all that stuff… so let’s just keep calm and love each other.
If you have gotten this far, you might as well share this post :). Comment your experiences and tell me what you think of this one. See you on the next one!