The village stared back at us silently. I was in the driver's seat and at some point, the car almost veered off the road as I my gaze lingered at the palm-tree-branch roofed houses that we were driving by at that moment.
I have always been a big fan of makuti, as the palm tree branches are known in Kiswahili. Several years ago, when I wanted to construct my house in our village, I seriously toyed with the idea of roofing it with makuti but mama's glare made it clear that iron sheets were the only roofing option on the table.
As I drove into Kiongwe village, many thoughts ran through my mind. I had heard of this village for several months now and had been eager to visit it. Many of my Swahili friends in Lamu traced their ancestry to this village and I had been wondering how it would be like. The whole idea of ancestry and roots intrigues me a lot. I remember asking my papa repeatedly where we came from.
'What do you mean?' he would ask in his lush tenor voice.
'Where did your grandfather's grandfather come from?'
'From this village.'
Papa would surrender and concede that his knowledge of his ancestry ended with his great grandfather.'
At school, we were taught that Bantus like me originally came from either Congo or Cameroon. I liked that. I liked the whole notion of having come from Central Africa and spread out to Eastern Africa. It meant that pan-Africanism wasn’t just a philosophy but was actually a genes issue.
'But before they were in Congo and Cameroon,' I once asked my irritated history teacher, 'where did the Bantus come from?'
The most satisfying answer I have ever received to this question surprisingly came to me from a small voice deep within me.
'We came from God.'
I thought about this answer as I parked The Growler (my car's nickname) right next to a cluster of smiling houses and smiling children.
Immediately the car came to a stand still, a smiling kid walked up to my window and greeted me warmly. He had dark complexion like mine and wavy hair unlike mine. His right hand was clasping tafi (rabbit fish), a coastal fish that I simply adore. I particularly love the way Mulhat marinates and deep-fries it. The girl should be awarded a PHD in fish cuisine!
We were in Kiongwe on a fishing mission. Not fishing for information but for actual fish. Mulhat and I had recently started a sea food company and were putting together a team of fishermen who would work with us. To access the beach where the fishermen were, we could either walk for one hour or take a motor bike ride for twenty minutes. I was teased to take the walk so that my stomach 'muscles' could be trimmed but we opted for the ride.
Have you ever stumbled on a group of fishermen sitting in a semi-circle on a white beach feasting on fresh fish and ugali? This is what happened to us after a bumpy motorbike ride. We joined the semi-circle and invited ourselves to the fresh meal. Mulhat took a small bite of the boiled tangu fish and smiled. This is the stamp of approval that I needed since she is not a pretender and if she doesn't like something, she will grimace, not smile. I took a big bite of the fish and proceeded to take a dozen more big bites. DELICIOUS.
As we ate, we talked business. By the time the meal was over, we had sealed a deal and entered into a partnership with the fishermen. Right there on that lovely beach, as the ocean breeze massaged us, we had birthed yet another partnership with fishermen that would supply us with fresh sea food to sell to the world.