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THAT ONE EAST AFRICAN GIRL by Triza Kuntai




Pretty face, Pretty eyes, Pretty necklace and how it lies

The pretty colours and how they sit right

A culture so bright there’s no worries in sight

The roots so deep, from my mothers fathers mothers whose fathers had to grow and

discover

A tribe only known from how high my brothers jump and how loud my sisters sing and move their waists

From red to yellow and every colour in the rainbow

To the headset and dresses there’s only one problem no one addresses,

In the world we live in now everything is about what my race is

From colonialism and not knowing where my place is to finally understanding how beautiful my culture is

With every bead collected and time invested these colours remind me where my place is

A black Maasai girl who yearns to get a deeper understanding of why we sing and jump and dance

When I was younger I would stare at my grandmother's ears and wonder why she mutilated them but now that I look at it,

A culture so influential people call it style now

From the tribal markings on her face to just face paint at the fair

As a 5 year old I was so clueless on what culture is and why we did what we did, why it was so important to everyone around me, constantly questioning everything but never really finding the right answer

From constantly correcting people who mispronounced my name and when they finally knew how to say it

They still made fun of it

A name so native yet so foreign

Why did my father pick it?

Why didn’t I have a normal name like Emily, Stephanie or even Melanie?

Say cheese … it’s picture day, we’re all lined up from a -z , our hair styles - cornrows, straight back

Uniform-clean and tidy, my mother made sure I was presentable

Pearly whites shining bright, I slept so peacefully that night knowing that my pictures would turn out so beautiful and my mama would be happy!

Next day I woke up earlier than usual excited to go to school, ready to see my picture. Then there it was … everyone beautiful with their smiles in uniforms, then came my name

Did I do something wrong? Why did it look so foreign to me? It’s my name right? Why is the spelling wrong?


It was different… I was different


And then came high school even then when i began trying to know about my culture

Why was I learning it from a textbook?!

A tribe only known for chasing lions and saying hakuna matata - no worries

But there were still so many worries…. Why did I feel clueless yet so well-informed?

I didn't feel like I actually belonged, I only knew what the books told me

For everyone else it was just another history and geography class but for me, it was a part of myself that I didn't know I had

I was still a black Maasai girl who yearns to get a deeper understanding of why we did what we did


Then came summer and I finally went to see my grandmother after years of not being able to visit her due to the distance and how busy everyone is

My grandmother told me stories of how the world we live in now is so different from back then, how wild animals would roam around them as kids and how it would be so normal to them and comparing it to now… where you have to pay to see animals in cages

We sat near the fire with her holding me tight and covering me with her shuka and everytime she moved I could hear her anklets jingle with every step a new sound even when she wasn't in the room I could still hear her anklets

On that summer I went away what something no one would ever think of,

I left with the peace of finally knowing my culture and what it involves

I left with the joy of finally knowing I am a black Maasai girl who got a deeper understanding of why we sing, dance, jump, and why we wear our colours so bright




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