Kishawi: The rock of Mbololo


As per tradition, I am named after my father's mother, Kishawi. Growing up, I heard that Kishawi was the name given to a Taita dance from long ago, performed by women moving on hot charcoal. Later, I found out that Kishawi was a dance performed to draw evil from its hiding places and cast it out*. Both interpretations make me think of courage, resilience and audacity.

And that totally sums up my wawa, Kishawi, who passed away 4 months ago at over 90 years of age. Opinionated and incredibly witty until her final years, this was a woman whose land her husband's family moved in to. The homestead that I still visit today, now accommodating the houses of several uncles and cousins. In our village, Tausa, everyone greets each other as wamii (cousin) because if they were to sit down together and work it out, they would be some familial connection somehow.

Some people ask "what's in a name?" whereas others do not doubt the power of naming. I lean towards the latter. Us Kishawis, and because of tradition, we are quite a few, do seem to have some distinct traits in common. Namely, our feisty independence, sweet and harmless as we may otherwise appear. With such a strong role model in our grandmother and namesake, how could we be anything less?

Photos by Lulu Kitololo: the post office in Tausa; behind the Pentagon Country Club, the unmistakable rock of the Mbololo hills that, when seen from a distance, leads us right home to Tausa; the Total petrol station in Tausa; on the way to our homestead; on the left, Kishawi herself, RIP.

* I am yet to get to the bottom of the accurate meaning of the Kishawi dance. There is a bit of information here. If you have more, please let me know.