#RespectTheUrge

Greetings humans!

I know we need to have a conversation about the relationship  I have with this blog but that is another story for another day. (someone keep tabs on these things.)
How have you been doing the past few months? If you’re in Nairobi, you have survived a brutal couple of months of heavy cloud cover and barely any sunshine. I apologize on nature’s behalf (not really. lol) for your sufferation. I absolutely loved it. However, the sunshine is back and you can thrive in it. ūüôā

I’m constantly being made aware of my need to leave Nairobi. More often than not, at¬†switch up of every season; summer (Njaaanuary, HELLO!) to the long rains, paralyzing cold to sweltering heat. Or when it becomes my favorite part of the year, the mixture of it all’ sunshine all morning, raindrops in the afternoon and evening and cold all night from an inky black sky. As the winds began changing in Nairobi I escaped to the place that stole my heart last year. The land so rich in people, food, air, water, knowledge, spirituality, memories. The Republic of Uganda for the NyegeNyege Festival 2016.
Now, before I go on, I must tell you of this amazing festival that changed my life. It is a short story so we only have to travel back in time a few years.
In 2014, the agenda was to begin the process of getting introduced to festival life goodness through the Rift Valley Festival. Unfortunately that year, that ship sailed and left me at the shore with my white handkerchief. I wasn’t worried. “RVF is an annual festival. It’ll be back next year.” I told myself. It wasn’t. The last edition occurred that year and I missed it.
I sulked all year. Kicking crunchy leaves instead of crunching them (i know, i know.), trying to sell my organs to somehow end up with enough money to have my own RVF. No one wants my diaphragm, so that ended badly. It was until Daniel and Ore(eternally grateful btw!) told Lindsay and I about NyegeNyege Festival in October that I stopped trying to give away body parts, packed up and literally escaped to Jinja for the first edition of NyegeNyege International Music Festival. 
I was blown away.
The festival occurs at an abandoned hotel which is a huge maze like thing that gets you lost but not really. I mean it. The hotel is completely covered in plant life of all kinds that it possible for you to loose your sense of direction and finding it again, till it becomes home. Bonus, it’s located right at the source of the Nile! \0/ ¬†I was sold at this point already.dsc_9540 The stage set up, camp sites, food stands all seemingly had positions so perfect on location. It was amazing to just see. When the people began to flow in, NyegeNyege reached perfection in its vibration. People from ALL OVER AFRICA and the world arrived. Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Congo, South Africa, France, Britain, Canada. It was a global scenario.

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Lindsay and I at NyegeNyege 2015. (Photo courtesy of Awuor Onyango)

2016 was BIGGER.
The funniest thing is that the whole year, we (Lindsay and I) were waiting for the festival dates to be announced. There’d be times we would be kicking it together and then all of a sudden we enter a moment of just pure nostalgia and sit in it for an hour. we did this over and over again. Then¬†NyegeNyege sent ¬†word out for its people.¬†We entered some sort of a frenzy and began counting down the days to the return to the magic. I knew the twenty or so Kenyans who went last year, wherever they were with knowledge of the festival, were going through the exact same thing. The footage began to come out from last years festival. Pictures, promo videos and a WAKALIWOOD PRODUCTION¬†that the whole festival was a part of! It was slowly forming into a tangible reality. “This years festival is going to be so delicious!” I would constantly say. At this point I let myself dream of a rollex. It’s dangerous because once you do, every time you think of one its going to be all you want. All. You. Want.
Nairobi caught NyegeNyege fever immediately. Early bird tickets came out, party buses were organised and constantly being booked. Some of Nairobi’s amazing artists were performing; Tetu Shani, Labdi, EA Wave, Cosmic Homies, Yellow Light Machine, Prisca Ojwang’, Kaya Collective, DJ Lasta, Jinku, Nu Fvnk and of course, Mr Blinky Bill, who killed us u.pon the dance floor last year was returning to the stage. The energy was moving in everyone. Unfortunately, those who couldn’t go were already experiencing severe F.O.M.O (Fear Of Missing Out). Nairobi, was prepared for this festival.

 

Needless to say, it was worth it.¬†Took the trip to Jinja this year with the family, Yellow Light Machine.¬†The thing about travelling is that before you get to the destination, it bound to get ugly at some point. Never before have I gone on a completely perfect trip from the point of departure to return. This wasn’t any different.We were late to get to the bus, I traveled in shoes with laces, we got to Uganda at 5:00am and chilled, literally, for a hot minute. It was draining really. We got to see the sunrise though. The sky changed from its deep blueness and hundreds of stars to having shades of purple, pink, orange. Clouds that looked like the lightest stroke of a paint brush covered the sky occasionally disappearing. Cotton like clouds on the way formed in the distance and sat out together, barely moving. Every morning I saw the sky in Uganda, it looked exactly like this. A story.

By midday on that day, the people of NyegeNyege had began to arrive in numbers. Food stands were going up, the stage was being set up, the camp site was filling, people were exploring and meeting each other again and for the first time. In no time the festival was in full swing. It then became a movement from one stage to the other then to get a rolex, possibly a beer as well, then back to a stage of your choice. Most live performances were set up during the day and so you could kick it in the sweltering sun or by the river and still get to jam featuring artists like Body of Brian, Winnie Lado (who I immediately fell in love with), Undercover Brothers, Young Cardamon and HAB, Tetu Shani, Cosmic Homies.dsc_9493dsc_9601dsc_9631 One of the best things about this festival is the amount of music you get to listen to, passively and actively. It’s from everywhere and it comes with the¬†wind. Within the maze of the abandoned hotel, you hear it. It calls you and you answer.

 

“You never leave the dance floor alone. That breaks its deep bass heart.”

Walking, running almost, towards the dance floor so you can dance and release. I remember the sun having just set and I had run to get mosquito repellent to save a bunch of us from vicious attack (because those little guys bite you and you’re itching for three days) and on my way back I heard the LIVE.ST lingala set happening at the Eternal Disco stage which was next to the river. I had to get everyone from the other stage to deliver justice to the music that was being played.There was also a percussion circle that kept popping up all over the hotel. anyone and everyone could drum or dance. Both if you bad ass like that. As the day turned into night the music got heavier and so did the vibe. Schlachthofbronx, Ibaaku, Tom Blip, Max Le Daron, Blinky Bill, Jinku, Nu Funk, Heartikal, Ea Wave, Ska Face threw it down!dsc_9325dsc_9304
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Akwaaba Sound System played from 3:00AM to around 5:00AM on Sunday morning. I have a special reserve of energy and deep love for this set because I will always be left weak. WEAK. The same set occurred in 2015¬†at the same time and I kid you not, there was a point at which my brain could no longer be awake but my body couldn’t stop moving. BBrave didn’t even go easy on us this year, serving us a back-to-back set with Max LeDaron they played even more fire music that sings to your soul, makes your feet move, burns inside you ¬†Except, this year, we were more prepared.

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Max LeDaron.

Then there was afternoons when the sun was really hot and it was time to lazy around by the tent with a cold drink and just talk about the most random things with the people around you and let the hours bleed into each other. Laugh for hours, take a nap in the hammock cause the tent will have you peeling of your skin (Yoh. At some point, it got really hot). Walk down to the lake and dip your feet in the water, or your whole body. Y’know, which ever you prefer. Let the water of the Nile wash you. If your not careful, so will the current. Maybe get on a boat if your not feeling like touching the water. It was in these times that the friendships I have got stronger. It’s amazing when your in another country with people you see often at home and a blessing to spend time with those you don’t see often at home. A collision of both is able to transform everyone involved. As an artist, this space to be with people was refreshing. You’re able to share the reason for you art, the force behind it, truth behind it and live it. In a society that has a bittersweet, love hate relationship with the arts the island of NyegeNyege is where we can go to energize, re-calibrate, redirect and return to the same society and CREATE.dsc_9616dsc_9557dsc_9250

Time ceased to be a factor to govern the weekend by. It had no meaning. Time stretched and snapped back together. Moments bled into each other, slumber was optional, music was continuous, food was sustenance, dancing was inevitable, humans were vibrating higher. Which is why it feels like the next NyegeNyege is light years away and the one that just passed is close enough to take two steps back into. Nyegestalgia. (lol)

My words, I hope, fill in the blank spaces that the pictures leave out. Hopeful that it makes the festival a reality, world, planet, on its own that once you enter, you can only leave if you promise to return. The best part about that is that you will be more than happy to return.

Till next time.
Love and blessings.

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People of Aethiopia. (I)

Hello! Hello!
Is any one out there?

I’m back to tell you more of this magical place that is just to our west. 14 hours drive, 10 at best. Really, its not too far and its not too different.
I met many people, and talked to many people and had many people talk to me and at me. INTERACTION! (inter.act) Woah.
Interaction is a constant aspect of life that happens. When you accidentally step on the back of that guy’s shoe in town, when you’re asked for your Nakumatt card when the person in front of you doesn’t have one and they are buying so much stuff. (\0/). Interaction is EVERYWHERE because it is an action shared between.

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location: cafe javas. 

There are some pretty cool people in Kampala who I was able to inter.act with. Alvin the Body Builder who indeed IS a professional body builder (he’s pretty good at it.) Jabu who immediately began throwing small Luganda phrases at me. I’m pretty good at it now from all that fumbling around that i did (i liee. . .) There was the boda guy who took us about 3 km in the wrong direction as we were trying to catch the remnants of the sunset. That failed. He then took us another possibly 2 km in the other wrong direction. When he took us back to where he got us, he was smiling really hard. (toast)

Its a cocktail, salad of personalities. When I set out to talk to these people, i wanted to find out about what they thought about Uganda as well as Kenya.

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Nuwa Wamala Nnyani.

I met Nuwa Wamala Nnyani who is a Visual Arts Practitioner/ Consultant when Lindsay and I were at the market next to the National Theater on the first and last day. The first time I met him, we had just arrived in UG and taken a boda to where we had thought the bus was going to drop us. It instead took us all the way to Old Kampala, across town. He was our reference for bark cloth. When I was ordering bark cloth, I didn’t know why I wanted it. I just really wanted it! The reason showed itself to me immediately after when Lindo and I went to the Museum and saw this FRESH PIECE OF CLOTHING!

 

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Bark cloth was used widely in the Buganda Kingdom, one of the strongest kingdom in Aethiopia. Richard Raid studied 19th Century Buganda in its economic and material context. He documents a Buganda dominated dynamic regional economy and argues that the kingdom grounded its regional commercial influence in a diversified productive base that the state enhanced via military might. Kabaka Junju took control over a place called Buddu for it BARK CLOTH production because there was large regional demand. Bark cloth was a big deal.

On the last day when I met Nuwa again when I went back to pick the bark cloth he had ordered for me, we got to talking a little. Since I am a little bit crazy about the UG accent I could immediately pick it but he spoke with the Kenyan accent (Kenyans say that we are an accentless nation bu we are able to identify the accentlessness when others talk but were completely unable to replicate it. WHAT IS THIS ACCENT THEY SPEAK OF?)
Nuwa began his journey as an artist in Uganda but developed and grew his art in Nairobi where he lived for 12 years. The Nairobi artist scene was his teacher. He had basically settled in Kenya with is wife and children. During the Moi regime, he left. He wanted his children to have some years of growth where he is from. Also, something about foreigners being chased from Kenya. Nuwa insists that Kenya isn’t very different from Uganda if you break it down to the people. A Ugandan can seamlessly transition to being a Kenyan in simply a matter of months and vice versa. After many years of living in both countries, he says that we look at each other in the same way. Ugandans believe that Kenyans are more than proud to be from Kenya while Kenyans feel the same about Uganda. What we believe about the other nation, we are.Tribalism, he added, is different but present across the countries. The tiring statement of “It is our time to eat” is thrown around in both countries just in different phrasing. Bottom line is that it is present. However, there is hope, with a small awakening of people realizing its ultimate pointlessness.

I met 20 year old Derrick Muwanga at Cafe Javas .

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Derrick Muwanga.

We had stopped at a Bata in the CBD to get a pair of ngoma’s (no trip is complete without a trusty pair of ngomas!) and decided to have breakfast. Derrick is really polite. absolutely charismatic and patient… really patient. (It took us a quite some time before we ordered anything.)

 

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He’s a part time waiter and a student of Information Technology at Makerere University. In the next 8 years he wants to open his own studio/gallery for photography. Working and studying in hard. “Finding that balance is the hardest part, really. I work in order to pay for my tuition fees and that keeps on increasing. Therefore, in order for me to keep paying my school fees, I have to keep working. In order for me to keep working, I have to miss some classes. The same classes I am working hard to attend.” He says. Some people are led to believe that Derrick is Kenyan. He learnt a lot from Kenyans. “Because of the metropolis that is Nairobi, Kenyans, even those not living in Nairobi, are very fast people. Efficient in their work and quick on their feet. I like to work like that and I deliberately learnt that from the Kenyans that I have spent time with.”
In the next 8 years in Uganda however, he wants to see a country that is achieving and producing transformative ideas and leaders. After so many years, there has barely been any change in Uganda. The economy isn’t on the rise but the inflation is. There now need to be effective and ample communication between their government and them. Uganda’s economy is based heavily on its agriculture. However, the farmers happen to be the least listened to people in this country. The place the economic voice is coming from is the wrong one. We need to fix it.
Derrick left immediately after that. I had forgotten that he was at work.

Something that came up with every one that I spoke to, is that they would never leave Uganda.

“If you go anywhere, even paradise, you will miss your home.”
– Malala Yousafzai

 

1. Slave To My Mentality.

I’m a slave to my mentality.
It’s true and it has been true. I have been a slave to my own mentality. You see, somehow you seem to have made me absolutely different from everyone else. I’m not too sure when differences in people became a problem. Considering how much we have developed as a sect of nature, you would think that differences would have been something that we could have learnt to live with a long time ago. Yeah . . i thought so too, but I guess not.
With this difference around, its made it quite difficult for me to simply exist on earth without attacks from different sides of the society that I live in. From my neighbors, from my family, from myself. Some days are easier than others and others are just flat out painful to get through.
Oh. Who am I?

I AM AN AFRICAN.

That’s right. African.
It IS indeed hard for me to exist daily. Its so hard that I now believe that my difference is a bad thing. I no longer believe in me as a human being. In fact, I see myself as the ‘scum’ of society, at the bottom of the ‘food chain’.
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I know, I know. ITS CRAZY!! Can you blame me? Left right and center is something in society being glorified that usually has nothing to do with me. The limelight isn’t something I tend to see unless its the exposing of the problems that have been affiliated with me; war, dysfunctional governments, debt, hunger, the usual. (That’s all a story for the near future, I promise.)

“Emancipate yourself. . . “
You tore me down from the outside and worked your way in. At the depths of my heart, you settled and I was unable to see, think, FEEL, LIVE, clearly.

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That’s different now. Something has been bubbling on the inside and there’s change. I think its safe to say that once change is seen on the outside, the inside has undergone absolute transformation. You see, i’m no longer bound to what you have put up around me. Let me now tell you who i am, breaking down the superficial and slowly making my way to show you what is within. Then you might probably see that I am not just an African.
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“Emancipate yourself . . . “
I now walk around with the mentality that I am royalty. Why? That is what I know me to be in the very fiber of my being, from my soft, vibrant afro to kinky dreadlocks that hang down to my knees to the baldness on my crown that sits so perfectly. Sometimes I wrap it all up in beautifully colored fabric just to compliment my dark skin. I chose to see my hair as a crown adorning my simplistic beauty. It is no longer about how straight my hair can be or how much it can be blown by the wind. I now accept that my hair has its own identity. Don’t you dare strip that from me.
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“Emancipate yourself . . .”
You attack me because of the color of my skin, and its fine. Think of it as you please. Your thoughts will no longer affect me because my dark skin is something else entirely. I could be like cocoa butter: light, soft and cream or like dark chocolate; rich and deep in flavor just like the earth below me. I now cover this skin with brightly colored beads and materials of different heaviness that lightly dance on my me as the motherland’s wind moves with me.

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Yes, my skin is black like oil but don’t you see it leaves a mark on everything I touch. From the palms of my hands, to the soles of my feet, I now see this melanin as a natural robe covering me.

“Emancipate yourself . . .”
My hips, thighs, lips, wide nose, strong arms and eyes are all thick. I mean, what other body would possibly be able to hold this big personality. I come in all shapes and sizes, widths and depths. I’m no longer shrinking myself to hide the structure of my body. Sure, my outward look may be a little bit intimidating but how else will you know that you are walking in the midst of power, right next to unshakable authority? There is no longer a reason for me to be shy about it.
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“Emancipate yourself . . .”
You broke me down and told me that I was not beautiful. The color of my skin, density of my hair, shape of my nose was all different and therefore you called me ugly. That could have been a while ago but it stuck with me. Even worse, my children  seemed to have believed that they would never be seen as a symbol of beauty.  . . .
False.

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I now approach myself with a different set of eyes. Its all about how I perceive myself, you see. The mentality that I continue to change which will finally embody the real me. And when i say me, i mean WE! I believe me is in the rest of my brothers and sisters of equally dark skin.
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POWER.
I am no longer a slave to my mentality that tore me down more than it could ever have uplifted me. I believed that the creator made me lesser than I was destined to be when there is so much more for me that you told me.
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“Emancipate yourself. . .”
It is a sense of pride that I move with. It is an identification of SELF that now cannot be taken from me. I now realize that I have a place and role in society. Call me whatever you may but I am now aware of exactly who I am. I accept your label as black because out of the deepest darkness rises, like the sun, the most beautiful phoenix.

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”
-Marcus Garvey.

I AM AFRICAN.
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Sunrise, Moonrise.

Greeting earth dwellers,

Every morning, the spectacle of the rising sun is with us. We get to watch the colors in the sky morph into different shades and tones, no matter how cloudy it may be, that beautifully tells the world good morning and visibly gives life to everything its rays touch. The sun is the earth’s fire, strong and very penetrative, sometimes even deathly. However, no matter what, the sun awakes in the calmest and purest form and starts a cycle of focus and diligent work from farmer to lawyer, teacher to soldier.

The moon rises in the evening with splendor and grace. Starting in its graying beauty, the moon rises above the sky lines and concrete jungles all over the world. The moon is a symbol of peace and danger, of purity and so much sensuality. As she rises, she brings in a new era every single day. For some, hope others renewal, others peace.

No matter where you are, the sun and the moon always release energies that are absolutely beautiful.

“But the Sun and the Moon
They share more than we know
For over the years both have
Withstood many similar a blow

And still they love one another
unbiased and unjudged
Knowing both their faces
Are tainted and smudged”

-Unknown.

Bazuli Bemhlaba.

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Beneath the leaves.

Greetings Earth dwellers,

Today we delve into our mind and pick at the memories and go back to where this all began: the Kinale forest. Beneath the leaves that delicately filtered the sunlight, the idea of Bazuli Bemhlaba was born.

The forest is located just past Kijabe on the way the way to Naivasha. On this particular day, we purposed to be at the forest by sunrise. The sunrise caught us halfway through the journey. . . :(. HOWEVER! The light that the morning sun provided was too nyummy for us to ignore (and we had woken up too early, and left home early to go back! Mission must be completed!)

It was cold,  really cold. The fog settled right above the round like a protective blanket with thin air just above it. The forest had quite the mysterious feel, almost enchanting.

When the sun finally came out from beyond the heavy morning clouds, it was like glorious birth. Everything had life. Everything opened up. Including us. The heavy jackets came off and we came out of our cocoons and enjoyed nature and the life and beauty it holds. Keep planting trees to have forests that are beauties such as this!

Here is to Kinale Forest; you are quite the spectacle!

‚ÄúWe walked into the arms of the forest…‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Ishmael Beah

Bazuli Bemhlaba.

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Surrender to the light

Greetings earth dwellers,

It’s that time of the week again! ūüôā Today we give you a glimpse of our trip to Hell’s Gate and Lake Elementaita this past weekend. A day spent with fellow photographers chasing light…and surrendering to it.

“Light makes photography. Embrace it. Admire it. Love it. But above, all know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”

-George Eastman

Bazuli Bemhlaba

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A piece.

Greeting earth dwellers, This week we present to you, the city of Nairobi. Just a piece of it. Sometimes this piece is the peace in the midst of the hustle and bustle. Sometimes, its the individuality of the citizens trying to be seen, or heard. Other times, it is the innocent voice of a child learning and experiencing a day in the life of the belly of the capital. Either way, Nairobi is a hub of energy that, at no point, can be shut down. The vibrancy makes it absolutely unique. It makes Nairobi beautiful. It makes Nairobi home. “Wengine wasema, eti twende ng’ambo. Tunawacheka, twajua ukweli. Uingereza, hata Ufaransa, bado watarudi Nairobi nymbani.” – Carol Atemi. Bazuli Bemhlaba. ‚̧ 11004429_860608043997207_1996739766_n 11007421_860608187330526_123853759_n 11009017_860608203997191_1120316321_n 11020934_860608197330525_1147092457_n DSC_4673 DSC_4721 ¬†DSC_4666DSC_4632 DSC_4735

Nature Trail.

Greetings earth dwellers. Last week, we decided to take a walk through a nature trail in Karen; Ol Olua Nature Trail accompanied by Mbogua Mbugua. The Nairobi sun in the cloudless sky scorched the top of our heads. We weren’t really prepared for this walk seeing as we only had one bottle of water among the three of us. Buses and matatu’s passed us enough times. I am so sure of this because one of the kange’s, as he passed us in the javv hurriedly, shouted “Mmetembea sana mtamaliza viatu!” Clearly that homie had made enough trips. The journey was long or we must have taken a terribly long time on that road. Regardless, the shoot was nothing short of a new experience. Even in the hub of the suburban Nairobi,there is a place where solitude can easily become addictive. The essence of calm that nature can give was absolutely therapeutic.

“Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself.” –¬†Annie Leibovitz

Bazuli Bemhlaba.

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