Ah, am sated. I’ve ticked the month of February off because it’s done. Finished. The Mugo celebration this weekend released dynamite it’s going to take a while to ‘recover.’ I’m not complaining. I’m commemorating.
I remember the first time I was in Mugo’s presence was in Harare, Zimbabwe, during the bookfair. Zimbabwe was a boiling literary pot at that time, not what it has come to be. Art was alive. The written word flew from the pages, and writers and readers from around Africa and the Diaspora were more like magicians spitting fire, blasting images that needed to be blasted. It was a good time for one aspiring to be a writer. If there’s one thing I embraced, ’twas to be young, beautiful and soulful. Everyone I met was. I remember sitting with Sindiwe Magona, trying to do an interview with her for the newspapers back home. I was carrying her book: Living, Loving and Lying Awake at Night to be autographed (Personally, it was a great time to live and love. My lying awake would come later). Sindiwe was shy – quite a surprise, and she tugged at my sleeve and said; stay with me. I did. I threw away the notebook and sat with her on a bench. I don’t know for how many hours. It was a divine moment. Here was an elder telling me she was shy. She was young, beautiful and soulful. Then of course there was Mugo rising to speak like glory. Young, beautiful and soulful. I looked at her, rapt. I understood the meaning of Rapture then. I too became young, beautiful and soulful.
The men also were inspiring, but the women were electrifying. Burning with emotional honesty and intellectual force. The poetry, the books, the dances, the food. The names of places evoked history lessons; The Monomotapa hotel where we were staying… All this has come back after 11 years. Mugo is the same. Young, beautiful and soulful. Tasneen Tewogbola got us in the groove with a love rendition. Arthur Flowers did his thing. We call it ‘his thing’ among my peers because we don’t want to give it a name. And because he’s the only one who does it the way he does it’s simply his thing. So there he was, griot and all, doing a praise song for Mugo. It wasn’t just a praise song. It was a life celebration, the struggle and all, the scholarship. The warmth, love and generosity that Mugo has shared and continues to give. The knowledge and guidance. Putting that and much more into song form and performance just killed us. There we were fumbling for tissue, our eyes wet, our hearts glad. Lifted.
Then came the hugs and more performances. Anita Simmons did her ‘To Be a Feminist Is’ and had us transported. David Mwambali decided to dream. There was a lot of movement in his dream, a lot of truth. And the girls, oh. Daughters of this woman, Mumbi Mugo and Njeri Mugo. They had me laughing and crying at the same time and then we were singing. The Pan African Community was there–Prof. Horace Campbell and group–and the Africa Initiative in all its presences. Thing is there’s a wave of energy that rocks and rolls when one is in such presences. Mobilized. You never can suspect who you’re to meet, where the conversation will go, but you’re solid sure that there’s a celebration, great food in the house, flavorful, nurturing, and the group will take you there. So I’ve met folks who have taken on my country as theirs because when they were there in the 60’s,70’s, 80’s and so on, something magical and life-changing happened. They mention Makerere, the great Makerere, and I know that Institution is now passive, if not dead, but who cares when we got these memories? They greet me in my language and I smile. I smile until my lips are fully stretched, until my ears start ringing with both pleasure and pain. I’m feeling warm, melting in fact, and still smiling. When I look around, folks are talking, eating, singing, getting rhythm, giving some love, looking young, beautiful and soulful.