Read time: 3 mins

Imbambazi & Homing birds

by Alice Wangui
11 July 2022


Stashed in our wet residual memory,

Mother walks with fast legs,

Like mother hen on sighting an eagle up in the air


For everyone who laughed and called her cripple

……………………to see with their vacant or missing eyes


I am strapped to the small of her back,

Seesawing on her constantly missing limbs


We sort black-eyed peas, dreams, water and life

……………………………… white donor unisex frocks,

Inside UN-sponsored refugee tents


Finally, Mother trades her missing limbs for searing tears

………………………………………… the Gacaca peace tribunal

When they ask her what happened to her children,

Her dam breaks and floods every civil unrest


She tells the Gacaca: if she sits and listens keenly,

She can feel her legs, running from her compound to the jungle,

And no man from her tribe or the others can catch or cut her


She now swings on stilts and uses her stumps to scare the lucky children

Who made it to the camp and made a song about

Her, the talking torso


We scram when daylight hits the camp,

Hidden among machetes, Russian guns, US army boots,

Jungle, broken liquor bottles and Mother’s torn torso


We pray that tonight Mother will be clever

As she sifts beans, dysentery, limbs and bullets, or her life

She will choose us back to life

Just for a moment off the bloody wet jungle floor,

Swarming with blue sapphire, coltan and gold dust French army boots—



Homing birds

Hoyoo madam has perfected storms in hot metal tea cups

With the just right cardamom and ginger sugar

Tea crests threaten to scald us all in the avalanche

She sieves and keeps it all in flasks

Golden fires licking brown injeraas with a crusty side

Will be just right with halwa and nyirnyiri for the seating


Her fingers are orange from dyeing grey chins

High on prayers and one rape up for auction

Sandwiched Between Stafrullah and Assalam Aleykum


Going once; to forever hold your peace like it never happened

Because boys will be boys

Going twice; for a life terminated in nuptials

Because our bull strayed and we are here to mend the fence

Going thrice; for thirty thousand Kenya shillings

Enough to swipe the act but not enough for a camel intended for bride price

Since good girls walk in pairs and fetch water before dark for their fathers’ ablution depends on it



Hoyoos mind is trekking to Baragoi for acacia roots

Because a child begotten in violence, is violence

She will kindle lightning to keep her hands from straying

And her mind from firing in men-business

While the owners of wombs

Stir platitudes in endless cups of tea and nyirnyiri,

She seals my lips with milk cream, waxen fingers that smell of camel milk and spices

She wraps my gultinah tighter lest they trip

The men splayed in kanzus and macaawis

Dividing and licking Halwa they did not weigh or watch set from their fingers

Hoyoos crow feet migrate overnight to the meeting of my eyes and cheekbones

I am a woman now, when I squint I see beyond the Chalbi mirage and into the future


I am dyeing an old beard orange on a Friday in time for Dhuhr prayers

A raped daughter sandwiched between Stafrullah and Asalam Aleykum

Thirty thousand is still a bargain between orange beards without wombs

I know how it feels to be charged in a currency not my own


*Imbambazi in Kinyarwanda means a place where you will receive all the love and care a mother would give

About the Author

Alice Wangui

Alice Wangui is an award-winning Kenyan filmmaker and writer. Her works are centred on social issues pervading Africa. She currently lives in Singapore with her family.