My troubles, as usual, started on a Sunday, last year. Our pastor threw me out of church.
He was performing miracle upon miracle: making the lame walk and the blind see and the church offertory was being filled by the proselytised and hypnotised...until I innocently asked him to perform a miracle for me.
“What will that be, my son?” asked this age-mate of a pastor.
“Can you fill up the offertory without the congregation giving you a coin?” I replied.
(I also asked about the possibility of paying taxes and rent without having to pay taxes and rent via his miracle works, of course). That’s when I was thrown out.
Then, on a Monday, I was ready to backslide. So I stepped out of my house, on my way to Njeru, Jinja, for Nyege Nyege-19.
However, as soon as I stepped out of the gate: two of the neighbour’s dogs came sprinting out of her gate. They were headed in my direction!
Instinctively, I climbed the nearest tree. I stayed there, even when they ran right past the tree. Apparently, they had seen their owner behind me and were just rushing to greet her.
After I came down from the tree, I got ready for the biggest music festival in Africa.
Nyege Nyege had 9,000-plus attendees from all over the world in an event that is like the Olympics for the performing arts. Over its entire four days, I enjoyed some bumper-adrenaline fun.
First of all, I love it when there are so many people in one place as you can pass wind freely in public and leave everyone looking like a suspect.
With multiple stages, food courts that found us guilty of gluttony and booze with no snooze, Nyege Nyege was a place of unrestrained joy.
The costumes lit up Njeru’s glorious sunshine with a riot of colour to fill the pot of gold at the end of every rainbow.
Music filled the air, festive beats by mainly underground DJs and artists lifted the spirits and made the people want to move, jump and sing.
It was a time to celebrate being alive, celebrate the wonders of sheer artistry and be one with humanity.
The herb, which has the smell of burning rope, could be smelt everywhere to the extent that, in the land of Nyege Nyege, the man with a single nostril was sobriety king.
The presiding high was a natural high, however. If the poet Emily Dickinson was at Nyege Nyege, she would’ve said: “Inebriate of Air — am I —A Debauchee of Dew —Reeling — thro endless summer days —From Inns of Molten Blue —’’
I managed to get an officials’ tag and wristband, so I had access to the back stage, free drinks and could look important with zero self-importance. People kept asking me for directions, yet I was lost myself.
The place was huge and labyrinthine in the ways and byways its paths twisted this way and that. I got lost so many times that I now think the Johnson Hartebeest is my spirit animal.
This African antelope suffers from short-term memory loss and so forgets where it has been every five minutes. This means it can be pursued by lions off some patch of land, as it races unmolested to safety. Five minutes later, the slate of its memory is wiped clean.
It thus returns to the same spot it almost got eaten at with the air of someone saying, “Wow, I’ve never been here before…let’s see what it’s about.” And, boom!
The lions strike again, this time the Hartebeest is lunch to lions which subsequently take naps while saying, “That Johnson Hartebeest sure is dumb and delicious.”
At the camping site, a sea of tents rippled in the silent breeze as hundreds of persons pitched camp in a melting pot of nationalities.
My immediate neighbours were German and they were unfortunately robbed while away from their tent. Their passports and other personal effects got attached to sticky fingers in the surrounding village.
Some village kid then showed up and told us that he knew where the thieves were and he could have them apprehended.
However, the catch was that he needed Shs20,000 to bring a witchdoctor who would come from 15 kilometres away and threaten to curse the village if the stolen items were not returned.
To me, this sounded perfectly reasonable since I know how perfectly unreasonable villagers are when confronted with a hex. Preferring “safe hex” to the asexual transmission of a curse, they would own up.
“This is not a Bible Story,” protested one of the disbelieving Germans, she thought this idea was ridiculous.
Nearby, I saw a lady with her back turned to me. From where I stood, she looked wonderful. So I decided to drop some pickup lines for her.
“If you were a breadwinner, I’d be sure to copy and pastry,” I told her.
When she turned around, I saw my neighbour. By her side, were her two dogs! This time, they were growling. I spent the rest of Nyege Nyege hiding up a tree.