Courteous of Standard Digital by Alakie Mboya-Owuor
Fifty tear drops
Fifty Years…seems like yesterday
The Island was awash with tears, overflowing with mourners as a great son, a national hero had passed on. My dad!
It was a peculiar sendoff in many ways at least from my then young girls’ point of view. My late father, a firm believer in culture and tradition, had always made sure that we visited our Island home that we knew and interacted with our grandparents and our close and not so close relatives.
However, nothing had prepared me for the traditions of a burial and as I took a walk around my grandfather’s vast homestead, I could not but help notice some of the mourners’ antics which left me speechless! There was this very tall middle aged man, who seemed like a giant.He was colorfully adorned from head to his Akala sandles.
The man’s voice was hoarse from too much wailing. He held a very long spear in his right hand and an equally decorated huge shield. As he run helter skelter from the main gate, he would throw up the spear and gain more speed to catch it! It was amazing and I wondered at such a dangerous antic, what if the spear struck someone, or even himself.
Years later, I was told that people like that man were expert spear throwers and even at night, he kept on repeating this daring feat. As I said, the man was hoarse with grief, however as I listened to his chant, I realise that he was not chanting about my father yet to be buried, but about a friend of his who had died several years before! I could not help but smile on the side.
The women were just as resourceful, a sprint from the gate and as she ran, the plastic plate, cup and spoon around her waist made their own music. Needless to say that their sprint always ended near the outdoor kitchen, yes hunger pangs was an order of the day, part of the mourning fete. I remember a day, it was around ten o’clock in the morning, when a group of mourners, mainly male, decked out in branches, twigs and the face paints of which I had now become accustomed.
Before them, they drove a heard of finest bulls, that had garlands around their horns, they looked rancorous. They were being herded towards our house.
The family had just finished a late morning tea and we quickly moved to the bedroom. A door separating us from the sitting room. I was dumb folded when I saw a black bull enter the sitting room, followed by another and they bellowed and swung their horns, a few men behind them, urging them on. I was just thankful that the room was bare save for a sofa set and coffee table. I was told that this was among the many traditions of honoring a fallen hero.
In as much as my dad embraced his cultural heritage, he was also a staunch Catholic. In his younger days he and my uncle Peter Nyakiamo were headed for the priesthood, however fate had other plans for the two of them! Dad ensured that we had a Christian upbringing. Often he would drive us to church every Sunday whenever he was not abroad on government duties.
My father was a keen photographer and took several family photos especially during the weekends when he loved to invite friends and relatives to our home. I did not know the brilliant man, the politician and Pan Africanist who shared the stage with great world leaders and was acclaimed nationally and internationally. I know the man who was my friend, my mentor, the caring dad who took it upon himself to drive his children to their friend’s parties and later pick them up.
The dad who visited me at my boarding school and took me and my friends for picnics. Daddy wrote me several letters full of warmth, love and advice. It would be impossible to put to pen all the wonderful things daddy did for us. Tom Mboya loved his children and family unconditionally. That is the man I celebrate today as I have done all these year!
– Mboya-Owuor, Tom Mboya’s daughter, is an artist and author.