Saturday, September 25, 2004

zawadi yangu

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i have promised myself that this year will be different.
i will celebrate the day of my birth, with quiet reflection
and a cute diamond ring, see above.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

My name story.

Often times, when I am naughty or causing my mother grief, she often remarks in Kikuyu, my mother tongue,whether I realize how much suffering I caused her with my birth. I was born premature, weighing a kilo and a half and in the brink of death. My mother realizing that perhaps death was a stone throw away and coupled with the fear of burying an un-named child, baptized me Mary.

My mother choose Mary because she felt that least ifI’d have to step into the pearl gates, Saint Peter with all his fortitude and good grace, would welcome me with open arms. After all, she reckoned, I was named after Our Lady.

Growing up at home, I’d be known by the middle name.The ‘home name’ as we called it. This is not theEnglish/Christian name that you were known by at school. This is not the name the teachers would use to beckon you while punishing you. This was not the name the other kids would call you while you played kati, blada, or jump rope in the school field.

The home name was special, unique and known by a select few. The home name was familiar: it tied one to the smells of home, the guava tree in the backyard that periodically would bring forth sweet, yellow guavas of delicious tastes. The home name is what your grandmother would call you as she beckoned you to seat by her and listen to the stories. It’s the name that tied you to your mother, her mother and her mother before her. See, the home name is you

However, it caused inconsolable pain if anyone in school knew your ‘home name’. It symbolized how ‘uncouth’, ‘country’, ‘backward’ one was. It wasn’t cool to be known by your home name, let alone be called by that in school.

And so, for many years, I lived a rather schizophrenic existence. On one level,I was known by my home name and among the kids in school, it was the English/Christian name or what I’d call the good name.

During my first year of college, I met someone who shared both my first and last names. It was strange to realize that two parents other than my parents had decided to name their daughter with the same names as my parents had. I was no longer that bean among a basket of corn. The pearl inside to cowrie shell. I had a duplicate who responded to my good name. It was devastating.

It was this time, after the onslaught of puberty and entering into adulthood, that I was swimming in the quagmire of confusion. Who was I? What was my name? Did I ever really know myself? These questions lay heavy on my mind and so, I decided, in order to differentiate who I was then and who I desired to become, I choose to use my home name.

Nowadays, I use my home name out of a sense of muted urgency and demand than I did not demand or insist on back home. I no longer live in the house with a guava tree outside. I do not visit my grandmother and seat in her smoking kitchen, fighting the smoke induced tears with my hands. I don’t hear the sounds of early day break outside my window, nor hear my mother call me from the next room.

When asked what my home name means, depending on who asks, I say it either means shy or in-laws. It means both these things and more.

My name ties me to my past.
To the women who have birthed me, to the lovers that whispered my name in the dark. My name remind me of the place I call home. The history that is tied to the land, the blood that was shed, the trees that cast a shadow and offer rest to weary feet.

Nowadays, when I hear someone call my name: my home name, my real name, I smile. I am at rest. My home name is now home.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

'Art for Breakfast'

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My work is figurative, I express simple lifestyle activities prevalent even in most basic social settings. l also try to capture colours, shapely poses or silhouettes women strike whether busy or idling. I depict these in relation to how each aspect mirrors the inherent beauty and positive side of life. {'Art for Breakfast' }

Foreign truckers released in Iraq

Foreign truckers released in Iraq

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The freed men appear to be in good healthMilitants in Iraq have freed seven foreign lorry drivers held hostage for more than a month in return for a ransom of $500,000 paid by their firm.

The men went to Kuwait, from where they were due to fly out of the region. The Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Company said it had paid out the sum to the militants, whom it described as "purely extortionists". The seven - three Indians, three Kenyans and an Egyptian - were abducted in July near the Iraqi city of Falluja.

Welcoming the release, India's top negotiator said his team had not "sacrificed any principles", but KGL said it had had no choice but to pay the ransom money.
The release of the men comes a day after another militant group in Iraq killed 12 Nepalese hostages. Intensive diplomatic efforts are also continuing to free two French journalists being held in Iraq, with Pope John Paul II appealing for their release on Wednesday.

'No choice'
KGL's chief executive officer, Said Dashti, said the men were freed after a team of company employees drove under armed guard to an unspecified location in Iraq where the drivers were being held and paid out the money. The kidnappers - a previously unknown group calling itself the Black Banners brigade - had threatened to kill the men if the Kuwaiti firm did not pull out of Iraq and if Kenya failed to remove all its civilian contractors who are working there.

But Mr Dashti told the Associated Press news agency that they had dropped their political demands and agreed to $500,000 after initially demanding $6-7m. Asked if he did not think that paying a ransom would encourage other kidnappers, he added: "Yes, but I had no other choice, the drivers are human beings and were trying to save their lives."

However, Indian Deputy Foreign Minister E Ahamed, who spearheaded the negotiations with the abductors, said the "collective efforts" of the negotiators had been "answered without sacrificing any principles". One of the seven, Egyptian Mohammed Ali Sanad, told al-Arabiya television they had been told about their release two days ago.

The kidnappers had threatened to kill the hostages one by one"We felt very happy and we did not sleep out of our joy," he said. The relatives of the Indian hostages began celebrating after news of their release was flashed on Indian television. "We thank the captors for sparing our boys," said Harvinder Singh, elder brother of Sukhdev Singh.

In Kenya, government spokesman Alfred Mutua said the country was "ecstatic" at news of the release. The men were seized when their convoy of seven transport lorries entered a "prohibited zone" in Falluja and was stopped by the kidnappers. Relatives of the captives had issued numerous appeals for their release, as had the Indian government.

Delhi also banned Indian citizens from going to Iraq.
None of the three countries has troops in Iraq, but nationals from each have taken jobs for private companies. KGL said on Wednesday it intended to honour its contracts in Iraq and continue its work there.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

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The Africana QA: Jill Scott
After waiting two years to create a follow-up to here phenomenal debut album, Jill Scott returns to retake her rightful position at the top of the neo-soul mountain today with Beautifully Human, Words and Sounds Vol. 2.

By Isoul H. Harris

Jill Scott is an oxymoron. She's a low-maintenance diva with a breathtaking smile that commands the stage more than any pyrotechnics or scantily-clad dancers ever could. Scott's allure lies in her distinct ability to convey life's common experiences and simple pleasures. Her platinum debut, 2000's Who is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1 introduced a woman unafraid of life. With a unique brand of hip hop/neo-soul, Jilly from Philly flirted with infatuation, confronted a scheming chickenhead, declared love for her then-boyfriend, now husband, and even questioned the government's possible voyeur-like activities. Whew.

Now, Scott returns with Beautifully Human, Words and Sounds Vol. 2, which is sonically more refined, but still rooted in what has become essential Jill: love and happiness millennium style. Invoking Minnie Riperton and Phyllis Hyman, among others, Scott avoids the typical sequel. Beautiful is more reinvention than rehash. She is figuratively basking in the afterglow of true love and, more importantly, in the ultimate acceptance of herself. Beautiful is a testament to the weight and necessity of love.

Jill talked with Africana recently about escaping fame, finding spirituality (at 12 years-old!) and what true freedom is.

Everyone has been waiting with bated breath for a new Jill Scott album.
That's definitely good to hear!

What have you been doing?
I have been living my life. I painted my house. I bought a cat. I directed a video for Jeff Bradshaw. I started a foundation called Blues Babes. We keep community centers open and help kids go to college. It's going very well.

You sent out a mass e-mail to your fans saying that you had to take some time away to just be your mother's daughter. What brought this on?

I had a show and I was truly exhausted afterwards. Normally, I am just tired. I could not find the energy. I realized that at that point, when the positive well is empty, you begin to pull from the negative well. Everybody has a yin and a yang. I started to pull from the negative and I knew it was time to go home to replenish.

Despite your celebrity, you seem abnormally grounded. I liken you to Sade. She releases her talent to the world and then retreats back to her life.

Well, I grew up as a Jehovah's Witness. I was never baptized, but one of the truest things that I remember is being humble. I know that every breath is a blessing and every wiggle of the toe is a miracle. I know that I am gifted, but I also know that it's not me. Let's say that there are four steps to get to the stage. By the third, someone else takes over. I never remember the shows and have to ask, 'How was it?'

So, this is your alter ego?
Yes. I am very much a homebody. "Jill Scott" is a lot more powerful than I am. But, I like her a lot!

Are you still a practicing Jehovah's Witness?
When I was 12, I decided that I wanted to see what else was out there. I believe that all of the religions have merit and that it's man that messes it up. I am more spiritual than religious. Sometimes I feel like a Buddhist and I need to chant; sometimes a Baptist and I need to holler and shout and sometimes I need to be a Catholic and need to purge my sins and confess. It just depends on where I am. But, I know I need to get there.

Your mother gave you freedom at 12-years old to explore your spirituality?
Not necessarily. I took it on my own. It was my grandmother who wanted me to remain a Witness.

What do you think of religion?
I remember one preacher who was wearing this beautiful silk suit who left the church in a driven car. There was a family and the children were begging for some hot dogs because they were hungry. I think preachers should make sure that everyone is on the same playing field.

Your new album, Beautifully Human, is gorgeous. What took you so long?
I held out until I couldn't stand it anymore. The songs started waking me up and came to me during dinner or while I was in the tub or on walks. They weren't just one lyric here and there. They were complete songs. My hope was to make an album that was equally as good, but in a different way.

What inspires you to write?
It's a process. I don't listen to anything. Then I will listen to one piece of music and this time it was Minnie Riperton's Anthology, and then it was Frankie Beverly and Maze. Then I waited for the spirit to move, and then its life experiences. This is why I have to take time, in order to see life.

Your album is romance-heavy. I assume this is personally inspired?
Yes! I know genuine love when I see it because I have it. I don't feel alone in love, there is a whole congregation of people out there who feel it, want it, have it and are honored by having it in their lives.

How long have you been with your husband, Lyzel?
We started dating when I was 23 and I am 32 now. We got married when I was 29. We separated for a little bit to make sure that we were making the right decision. I dated other people and found out that they weren't funny, not as smart is he is. He is my match.

When a female celebrity marries a non-famous male, it seems to add certain pressures to the relationship. Have you experienced this?
The only time we feel any pressure is when we are out. We choose very well where we go together so we can just be. Sometimes the responses do bother him, especially if they are inappropriate. For instance, being in the doctor's office and the nurse telling everyone in the building that I am there. It only bothers him when he feels like it infringes on my private self. Other than that, he gets it.

Well, society prescribes that the man should be the head of the household, especially when it comes to finances. Is this ever a problem?
I don't think that making more money [dictates who leads]. However, I am a firm believer that the man is the head of the household and it works for us. He is very manly and I love and respect that. He knows that I am the queen up in here. And in the back of my mind, I know that he is the king.

Your current single, "Golden," speaks on taking control of your freedom and living life. What is true freedom to you?
When you are not held down by anything. Freedom is being able to leave a situation that doesn't help you at any given time, because you are free. My mother was a dental technician for about five years, and she just decided to quit. I was scared because I was in high school, I had my prom and my class ring to get. I was like, "We already broke. Are you we about to be broke, broke?" She refurbished antiques. Then she decided [to cater], and when she was tired of that, she decided to redecorate the basement and make an affordable childcare center in our home. She has always lived her life the way that she chooses. Freedom is scary and it's worth it.

When you debuted, you did not bow down to industry expectations. What advice would you give new artists about being themselves?
We can all see the effects of being false. We see our president. When somebody is just living for money, it becomes a detriment and that they may not be honoring the artist for fear. Fear stops your growth. You have to do this out of love, not out of fear of being broke. If that means paying to get into a venue so that you can perform, or performing for free. Do it because it's in you, not just because it looks good on you.

I had a conversation with Maya Angelou a few years ago, and I asked her what was her motivation to live the nine lives she's had so far, and she told me that she realized that she is going to die one day. What is your motivation?
I really like to smile. I want to do things in my life that make my pores smile, and my nose and teeth smile. And when I feel that glow, I feel so much closer to God.