April 2018 - Magazine 6

Page 1




Issue 6 - April, 2018 Next Issue - May, 2018

2. History of Mombasa

6. Ocean Sole

14. Lamu Yoga Festival

19. Matokeo - Sardine Rush in Diani

22. Swahili on the go

23. Travel Tips 077 505 9069 | 0748 281 694

| RaďŹ que Keshavjee

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Coastal Footprints | 01


Roam the roads of Mombasa old town, stroll through the spice market and stop at the fish market, and one thing becomes clear. Mombasa has more curious characters than any other town.


fisherman, expertly de-scaling a snapper in the middle of Mombasa's frenetic fish market, said: Let

me tell you of a recipe I learned from my grandmother. Take garam masala, chilli, ginger and black pepper. Squeeze a lemon onto the powder and compress it into a paste. Then score the skin of the fish and press the spices into the fish. You can fry or grill the fish, or serve it with a coconut sauce, as you wish. The flavour will permeate the fish, however you cook it.

Mohammed, vendor of spices at Mombasa's fragrant spice market, placed nutmeg in my hand and said: We call this

Dip your thumb and finger into the mixture. Press them

kungu manga. It's Kenyan Viagra and we've used it for

together, then part them: strings of liquid sugar will form.

generations. Crush it into powder and slip it into your

If two strings form, it's thick enough for a certain kind of

husband's black coffee.

sweet. If three form, it's dense enough for another.

Hassanali, who studied archaeology at Glasgow University,

In all these characters, history is alive, just as it is in

specialising in Biblical excavations, returned to his home in

Mombasa. History lives not only in the fort that towers over

Mombasa and took over the tearoom that had been established

the seafront, but in every cobble of the roads, every

in 1868 by his grandfather. He held out gnarled hands that had

overhanging window, and every person who lives here.

held ancient pottery and spicy confectionery alike, gave me a Labanir, and said: The secret to crafting sweets is knowing

Stories of Mombasa weave history and myth, creating a

which kind of sugar to use, and judging the density of the brew.

fabric that's colourful and evocative – and has threads of

truth woven through it. Roman and Egyptian tales mention an island on the East Africa coast that might be Mombasa, from around 2,500 years ago; the island is mentioned in written documents from around 2,000 years ago.

Stories of iron mines, tiger hunts, crimson dogs and thieving monkeys are just a few of the tales from this time. Eccentric characters populate these stories. Mwana Mkisi, a pagan yet holy queen with links to central Africa, was the first of the line of the Tehnashara Taifa, or Twelve Nations, keepers of local Swahili traditions. Shehe Mvita, early believer in Islam,

In one of the most brutal episodes of the time, the Omanis laid

established the first permanent stone mosque. Later,

siege to the fort for over two years, until almost all the

Ibn Battuta, Marco Polo and Zhang He all visited Mombasa.

Portuguese inside had starved or died of plague. The island then ricocheted between the Omanis, Portuguese and British, many of whom intermarried with the locals. Already a fusion of African coastal peoples and all the countries of the trade routes, this potpourri of people became the Swahili, with their own language and culture, who produced the myriad of characters who inhabit Mombasa today.

The island was a port on the original trade routes, and dhows docked here from the early days. Arabian pottery, Gujarati sweets, Yemeni spices and Persian fabrics all left their mark and are an integral part of the life and culture here today. Gold, ivory, tortoise shell, rhino horn and huge numbers of slaves were sold from here to pay for these imported luxuries.

The riches of the region, however, attracted unwanted attention; the repercussions of this gave the island a new nickname: Island of War. In 1498, Vasco da Gama arrived, heralding a period of aggression and hostility. In 1505, Portuguese armed with firearms took on the locals who had only spears, arrows and stones; 1,513 Mombasa folk died and only five Portuguese. The victorious Portuguese not only looted the town, but burnt much of it down. Catastrophe followed catastrophe, and ambushes, battles and plunder became the norm. At the end of that century the Portuguese built Fort Jesus – now a museum – which still stands sentry over the town. The fort became the focus of all clashes, and changed hands nine times over the next 200 years.

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life-size sculpture of a lion – made entirely of recycled plastic – went on show on the 15th of March at the Kenya Wildlife Service Headquarters in Nairobi. The striking green

They started small. Some rubbish collectors in Kiwayu and a few artisans in a workshop in Nairobi made up the team. Together, they raised awareness of ocean plastic pollution and started their first line in fun and functional items.

lion is to draw attention to the dramatic decrease in lion

Colourful animal sculptures, doorstops, boxes and

populations while also highlighting the problem of plastic in

jewellery were amongst their first products. Believing in

our oceans. Its display signifies the start of the 12-month

trade not aid, they encouraged locals to organise beach

Greening Simba Campaign, a collaboration between Kenya

cleanups for cash and artists to create their own designs. In

Commercial Bank, the Irish Embassy, the Kenya Wildlife

2000 they received their first commercial order of 15,000

Service and Ocean Sole. Such stunning pieces of lion wall

turtles from the World Wildlife Fund in Switzerland; by

art will for the next year be available for 500USD, of

2013 their products were selling in London, Paris, Rome,

which 25% goes to lion conservation programmes in Kenya.

Amsterdam, New York, Singapore and Sydney. This was the year they rebranded as Ocean Sole and launched the social

Ocean Sole, the movers and shakers of the scheme, have


been working towards just such a scheme for over a decade. It all started when Julie Church picked up a discarded flip-

'People often ask if we will run out of our flip-flop material',

flop on Kiwayu Island, north of Lamu. Strolling along the

says Erin Smith, Chief Sole Mate. “But the problem is that

beach, Julie watched the local children creating toys from

over three billion people in some of the most under-served

these colourful pieces of plastic,

communities in the world

and realised that not only were

wear flip-flops, and those

these shoes an environmental

flip-flops end up in urban

disaster, but that something

dumps and then in our

could be done about it. When

oceans. We're on a mission to

Julie encouraged the kids'

let the world know about this

mothers to collect, wash and

looming environmental

carve the flip-flops, she took the

problem and are scaling our

first step along the path to the

business to employ more

social enterprise that has

people and sell more

become Ocean Sole.

products so

people can demonstrate their commitment to saving our oceans.” Under new management, Ocean Sole has seen tremendous growth in the last two years, both in the products and in the enterprise. They now have 90 Sole Mate Partners who they work with in their conservation, recycling and entrepreneurship projects, including names as big as BNP Bank, UNEP, UNESCO, UNDP and UNIC.

simply collecting flip-flops from the beaches isn't enough: all the waste on our land and in our waterways will end up in the sea, so they encourage their suppliers to collect flipflops and other plastic debris from everywhere, trying to stem the problem before the plastic reaches the ocean.

And they're not stopping here. In 2018, they'll open an artisan centre in Kilifi with multiple artists collaborating on more innovative designs and artwork. The new line, shortly to be launched, comprises functional products: a table, chair, This is an organisation that believes in putting its money where its mouth is. In addition to paying all employees a decent wage, the enterprise gives its staff a hot lunch daily and offers them a welfare programme they can pay into to put their children through school and university – in which Ocean Sole matches their contribution 100%. They also pay for all the collected plastic brought to their doors whether it's a wheelbarrow containing 5kg or a truck with 100kg, and

lamp, bed and sun lounger. They're also moving into ecofriendly affordable housing. Working with a team in the industrial area of Nairobi, they're compressing flip-flops and other waste into 4ft x 8ft boards that could become a replacement for medium-density fibreboard and chipboard. Fireproof, sturdy and affordable, this new building material just might give wood a run for its money and give our beleaguered forests time to regenerate.

have established a payment plan for suppliers so they receive a steady income.

Ocean Sole now focuses more on creating huge masterpieces. These designer sculptures can now be seen in corporate lobbies, hotels, museums, aquariums and airports around the world. Their smaller pieces, once the mainstay of the organisation, are more often sold in bulk to companies who support their ethos and give them out as gifts and promotions. And while their philosophy remains the cleaning of our oceans before they become toxic to both humans and marine life, they have come to realise that

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The Lamu Yoga Festival has just completed its fifth edition. We spoke to Monika Fauth, the festival's founder, about the festival and how it's developed over its first five years. How did the fifth Lamu Yoga Festival go? Everything went beautifully. I'm really happy. And I'm really really tired. We had 26 teachers from around the world, who led 150 yoga classes, meditations and workshops, as well as lots of special events, all over Lamu Island. I wanted everything to look perfect. It's all about the details. From the moment people arrive in Lamu they need to feel they're taken care of. We put a lot into the festival – it's not only about yoga. It's the tents, the festival booklet, the programme, and all the activities. People came from everywhere – from America, Australia, Europe and South America – and I feel that we reached our full potential with this festival. We don't plan to expand any further, but in the future we will work to enhance what we have. This isn't a normal festival, based in one place. It's in multiple places, on an island with no cars and a beautiful unspoilt beach. You can't find this anywhere else in the world, and that's what makes the Lamu Yoga Festival unique.

How did it compare to previous Lamu Yoga Festivals? It was much broader in scope. Yoga isn't only about asanas – the physical practice. It's deeper than that. So we invited teachers who offered classes in lots of different styles of yoga. This year, for the first time, we had a swami from India, who practises the Art of Living. He brought more knowledge. People are interested in the history of yoga, and the Patanjali Yoga Sutras – or explanations. Yoga is a science. Some people think it's a religion, but it's a science of humans – how the mind works and how the body works. It's more than 10,000 years old. We also had Yoga Nidra, Yin Yoga, meditation and chanting, and all these were really popular. For the first time, we had Vedic chanting – that was new and beautiful – and we had restorative yoga. These sessions were full. I believe people are searching for something; they want to know more. Even our teachers evolve. I spoke to Salim, who teaches strong physical classes in Vinyasa Flow and Capoeira, and he loved the Yin Yoga he attended. We're all aware that we want to slow down. Life is too fast. We need to take more time over it, and yoga gives us that opportunity. The dune walk, too, was new. We walked over the sand dunes to parts of the island tourists don't usually visit, looked over the bay at the fire of the sunset, and we did a meditation. Most yoga festivals take place in an enclosed space, so being able to do that was very special. That's the beauty of Lamu. Even if you don't do yoga, you can walk barefoot on the beach and you feel connected. We also had plenty of physical sessions: Vinyasa Flow, Core Yoga, Ashtanga and Acro-yoga. SUP yoga – out on a paddleboard on the sea – was offered for the third year and was fully booked.

And we had aerial yoga for the first time. It's new, it's fun – and you can get deeper into postures you might not otherwise manage while supported by the hammock.

How did the festival start? When I arrived in Lamu in 1997, I felt that the island would be an ideal place for yoga. My background is in fashion and trends, and I knew wellness and wellbeing would be the next trend in the 21st century. People are looking for how to be able to relax, to get more energy to face the challenges of life. I worked with the local community in a number of projects with the Art of Living, including Stand Up Take Action, Mission Green Earth and Hands up for Kids in Lamu. The Art of Living and its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar have for a long time been my inspiration, and in 2009 I became an Art of Living teacher. I organised yoga classes and international retreats at Banana House, my resort in Shela, but it wasn't until 2012 that I decided the time was right, and Kenya was ready for a yoga festival. With like-minded people, we established the Lamu Yoga Festival in 2014.

The soloist must have been about four years old, but he was the star of the show. On another night, local women of Shela village cooked a Swahili dinner for the yogis; we all sat on the floor and ate delicious food in the traditional way. Local drummers played and danced, creating a vibe that was truly African; the way Africans dance – it's so in the moment, so filled with joy and happiness. The sunset dhow cruise meditation, popular the first year, has remained an idyllic event at every festival since. And on the final evening, before the beach party, Samanta from Mumbai led us in the Five Rhythm Dance; she taught dances for the five elements – earth, water, air, space and fire – and everyone danced in their own rhythm, blindfolded, in the circle. Skyward Express, first time sponsors of the event, were so impressed they said the event promotes not just Lamu, but the whole of Kenya. The Lamu Yoga Festival puts Kenya on the international map.

A lot of the people who attended that first festival were from Nairobi – it wasn't as international as it is now. But the number of attendees was 108, a significant number according to yogic beliefs, and we felt supported by the universe. Three years later DoubleTree by Hilton voted us the Number One Yoga Festival in the World worth travelling for.

That's quite an accolade! What makes this yoga festival so special? It's because of the quality of the yoga, the calibre of the teachers, and the beauty of Lamu Island. It's also because there are so many events that could only happen here. The children of Anidan, the local children's home, played drums at the opening ceremony – and they were excellent.




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14 | 2018





31 -2018 2



Coastal Coastal Footprints Footprints | 13 17

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How a sardine rush in Diani lead to a strange story From the beach, Shabir hears a stir he's never heard before. Many men, shouting and barking. In a frenzy. What's going on? So early in the day? Shabir goes to the edge of the veranda of his Diani Beach cottage, and peers at the beach. A fight? No, too many voices. There are about thirty men. And they're loud. Gang warfare? There's no rage, and Diani has no history of gang violence. So what's the commotion? And so close to the white sandy beach? Shabir is wary, but his curiosity drives him onto the beach. There are dozens of men, about 30 meters away, up to their chests in the turquoise shallows. In the shouting, there is purpose. And through the chaos, a rhythm. All the men shouting are holding up nets. There are four nets all facing each other, forming a rough and moving square. The nets are closing in on each other, driving the square smaller and smaller. What's in the middle? Shabir can't see. The beach itself is quiet, just bystanders muttering. Shabir walks on the white, powdery sand to the edge of the warm water, and joins the mutterers to find out. He nods at Mwadzikobe, Tortoise, who explains what's happening. "Sometimes a lot of small fish come from the reef and get near the beach. Everyone has to work quickly to catch them, because they move in a group, and can suddenly escape.” “Why all the excitement?""A lot of fish, small fish. Fish for everyone. Anyone can join, but they must work together, and fast. So that every one gets something." Shabir looks at the huddle on the beach, and spots the middle-men who regularly come to his place to sell the daily catch. They get their cut from the fishermen, and any fishermen who sells directly is cut out. Why are these middlemen just standing by? Then Shabir sees the reason for the urgency. Silvery, slippery sardines in a huge school. Caught in the shallows. The fish are brisk and coordinated, and sense the trap. In a moment, they could turn en masse back toward the ocean. They must be surrounded, and quickly. The men, all young, are holding up the four nets closing in. Four groups, full of excitement, matching the frothing in the centre. Each group frantically clutches their nets, everyone shouting instructions. Soon, each net jerkily converges into a small square about 5 meters on each side. And the sardines know the trap is closing. Their shiny bodies froth the surface. They struggle up because zipping out is not an option. Buckets appear as the frothing reaches a pitch. As men grab the buckets, the shouting stops. They start to scoop the writhing silver. Shabir counts the buckets. Dozens. He wants to buy. In the water, Shabir spots Matokeo, and orders two kilos. Within the hour, Shabir is back in his beach cottage, writing. He sees Matokeo walking up the path toward the veranda with his bucket, eager to turn fish into cash.

"How did you share the fish?" "We younger men told the older ones not to get involved. We said there would be fewer fights if we shared things our way. They let us, and nobody fought,” he said with a quick smile. "How much do I pay you for this?" asked Shabir. "You tell me," he said, looking down. Pliant cunning, hoping for an absurdly high bid. Shabir is sharp and decisive. They quickly agree on a price. “My housekeeper is on leave. How do I clean these sardines?" Shabir says. "Just cut the head with a knife and pull out the insides," Matoeko says. Shabir flinches. He's an engineer. He can work tools, but this is messy. The image of eviscerating scores of large sardines, some still moving, turns his stomach. Matokeo sees him flinch, and softens. "Bring me a small sharp knife," says Matokeo. Soon, Matokeo is squatting beside the bucket, cleaning each sardine. Each move both decapitates and eviscerates the fish. Heads with gooey trails fly into a separate bowl. Shabir sits by, and finally gets his chance. For a question he was waiting to ask ever since he first met Matokeo. “Matokeo. How did you get this name? It means consequence, right?” “I was given this name by my uncles, because I was the consequence of something.” “Of what?” “I don't know who my father was,” Matokeo says quite blandly. “Are you interested to find out,” asks Shabir, expecting the spillage of wounded words. “I did as a child I did, but not now,” says Matokeo, with ease. “How old was your mother when you were born?” “About twenty years old.” Shabir stares at Matokeo, full of questions. Matokeo is illegitimate. Why did this twenty-year old girl allow her transgression get embedded in her sons name? This name was a very public and permanent punishment for her, but wasn't it also for the child? Does Matokeo feel the consequence of his mother's mistake every time he hears his name? “How did this happen,” Matokeo? asks Shabir. “She owned her own business, and could afford to live alone. Then she got pregnant. She had to sell the business and stay with relatives. Before me, she was a successful businesswoman. After I was born she became a poor farmer, until today.” says Matokeo. “I'm so sorry, Matokeo. How did this happen? Please tell me the whole story.” says Shabir To be continued. by: Rafique H. Keshavjee

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Swahili on the go! Here are a few basic greetings and phrases you can use to interact with the coastal Swahili people. Kenyan people appreciate it when you try to speak Swahili so please do not be shy, try out some Swahili and have some fun!

Basic greetings… • Hello - Jambo • How are you? - Habari Yako? • I am fine - Niko salama • My name is… - Jina langu ni… • What is your name? - Jina lako nani? • Pleased to meet you - Vyema kukutana • Do you speak English? - Unazungumza Kingereza? • Goodbye - Kwaheri • See you later - Tuonane Baadaye • Have a good journey - Safari njema!

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Useful words and phrases… • Excuse me - Samahani (to get attention or say something) • Please – Tafadhali • No – Hapana Cat - Paka • Yes - Ndio • No thanks - Hapana asante Dog - Mbwa • Thank you! - Asante! Goat - Mbuzi • Where? – Wapi? Elephant - Ndovu • Here - Hapa Giraffe - Twiga • When? – Lini? • Now - Sasa Lion - Simba • I don’t understand – Sielewi Cow - Ng’ombe • Speak slowly – Ongea pole pole Buffalo - Nyati • Friend - Rafiki Zebra - Punda Milia • My friend – Rafiki yangu • I’m hungry – Nahisi njaa Hippo - Kiboko • I’m thirsty – Nahisi Kiu Rhino - Kifaru • Where are you going? – Unaenda wapi? Wildebeast - Nyumbu • I am going to the hotel - Naenda hotelini • How do you say in Swahili – Unasemaje kwa Kiswahili • Cheers! (While sharing a drink) - Maisha marefu (Meaning long life) • I love you! - Nakupenda! • Help! - Msaada!


tips Kenya is generally a safe and friendly country, but as with any destination, you need to be aware of your surroundings and cautious not to find yourself in an unpleasant or potentially vulnerable situation.

Here are a few basic tips to consider during your stay! Safety & Security: Be vigilant when in public places and even more so when venturing out at night. In case of robbery, report the incident at the nearest police station. Kenya has a Tourist Safety and Communication Center that is always on call. They offer a 24hr tourist helpline +254 (0)20-600 4767 where you can seek assistance if needed

Water: Avoid drinking tap water. It is safer to drink mineral or bottled water

Exchanging money: Make sure that you exchange currency with a reputable hotel, bank, or foreign exchange bureau

Valuables: Be mindful of your valuables, try not to show high-value items in public or busy areas. Do not leave these items unattended in public places such as bars and restaurants

Driving: Always carry your original driving license and either your original passport or a certified copy of your passport

Photographs: It is natural when on holiday to take as many pictures as possible, but before you begin to take pictures of people, ask for their permission. In some cases, you may be required to offer a tip for those pictures

Transport services: When using a Tuk-Tuk, Boda-boda or Taxi ask for the price before embarking on the trip so as to avoid any surprises when you reach your destination

Animals: Never approach a wild animal, even if they appear harmless

Drugs: Be wary of people trying to sell you drugs. Although the coast of Kenya is very relaxed, drugs are illegal in Kenya, and any purchase, use, or possession of drugs could land you in prison






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