Going round this country has been enlightening. Several life lessons have been bagged along the way. I begin writing this in my house in Langata. It feels so good to say that. My house. It is not much, but in the grey darkness of my favorite couch, I am at peace.
We are in Nairobi because we have several shoots lined up for Tuesday and Wednesday. I have no clue how it will work out. If at all it does. Today however, I was taken back to class about the fundamentals of female seduction. My teacher for the day, an ostrich.
Ostriches are generally very ugly creatures. They have huge sharp talons that only God can love. Even though they are birds, they are too heavy to fly. Also, they have very few feathers covering their flesh. The feathers are like the short skirts of girls in Westlands past 10pm on a busy Friday night. They end just as the thigh begins to curve. The only thing left to make this comparison complete are black heels with red soles. That they have a brain the size of a pea makes their plight even more unfortunate.
We are at The Maasai Ostrich Farm in Kitengela. Before we take our shots, the manager thinks it a good idea to be taken round the farm. Sightseeing. A few lessons about ostriches; the black ones are male, while the grey ones are female. However you cannot know the true gender of an ostrich until after three months. So basically, they take 3 moons to decide whether they want to grow a mhoigos or not.
There are certain mythologies that we need to undo. Like that phrase ‘as proud as an ostrich’. Ostriches are not proud. They are shy. Extremely. One would not even pose for a shot until the lights are off. I wonder what kind of a woman it would make. I wonder if that is why they like burying their heads in the sand.
But ostriches are not only ugly. They are ugly and also have zero game. Ati for them to seduce a female ostrich, they dance. It is a jig that involves it swelling up, going down and then beating its side with its head. It is almost like ndombolo, only that this thing about beating your head comes as an interesting twist.
Look, dancing is romantic only if you do it right. Women generally like men who can dance. I have been on several dance floors and one thing is common. Whether you are in the overcrowded Club RnB, or in the extremely lofty Brew Bistros/Explorers, one thing is constant. The guy who can dance as well as Kajwang’ can sing, is usually the one watching other people’s beer, or other women’s handbags.
So I get the dance. Good move, ostriches. But this ostrich we met, this one couldn’t dance for its life. This I know because the rule of this game dictate that only upon a good performance would you be able to get some. If the socialite ostrich thinks your moves are dope, then you need to get yourself a packet of condoms. Your night would be long and noisy, depending on the male ostriches virility, and the female ostrich’s ability to keep her feelings to herself.
We stood and stared at this ostrich get down to the soundless fields of Kitengela. No female approached. It stood up and went in front of some diva ostriches and then began to dance again. The ladies simply dispersed. I pitied him, not because he cannot dance, but because he could not seem to understand that no means no.
This got me thinking. What if this was the same scenario for humans? If dancing was the standard, how many by a show of honest hands, would get laid? James Mbugua tafadhali, you just put your hand down.
On the other hand though, if all we had to do was dance, then imagine all the possibilities. How easy it would be to get a lady. Forget valiance and the chivalry in old American movies. TCM is a lie. The entire concept of opening doors, standing up when a girl joins the table, blowing a hole through your shallow wallet, and taking her to Kaldis (only to be told later at night that the time of the month forbids anything) would all be thrown out of the window. All you would have to do is dance. Like that mtembezi Blue Label ad where the chap buys a boat with a dance. Just imagine. What do you think the feminists say now? That all he dances is Whine and Kotch?
Osborne walked ahead.
The primary reason we are here is to shoot some chaps we were told about; that they race using ostriches. They are called the Masai Ostrich racers, or something like that. Unfortunately, the racing ostriches are not available today, but we are in luck because one rider is around. We are introduced.
When he shakes my hand to say hello, I ask him, “Bwana ija kanye?”
“I am from Gem”
“To nichako nade riembo winyo gi?”
“I was working for the water people. They laid me off without notice, and that is when this odiero called me to come work here.”
At first he insists on speaking English, completely destroying my attempt at creating a rapport. But he soon warms up to the idea that I am from the same side of the lake. I explain to him that Osborne wants to make him famous, that he will be on bill boards and newspapers and calendars.
At the mention of ‘famous’, he scurries off and comes back wearing ostrich leather jacket and a feather on his head. He has to dress up for Osborne’s camera.
His name is Michael Otieno.
Right now, I am seated upstairs at Java House. The one opposite Kaldis, overlooking Kimathi Street. Even though I dislike the way Nation Media Group chaps have turned it into a meeting joint, I am still a huge fan of Kaldis. So sitting on this balcony just opposite it makes me feel terrible, like I am cheating on my girlfriend right in her face.
Osborne has been shooting at the top of Lonhro House; clicking at one Robert Macharia, a stunt guy walking around with his kuku. Wafula of course would be offended, because on the other side of the rift valley, as a rule of thumb, people do not play with food.
The length Osborne goes for the money shot is akin to flirting with death itself. He is uncomfortable in his own skin, he pushes himself, his fears, his ambitions to the brink of precipice…just to get a shot of the kuku guy and his chicken. He lies on the edge of the Lonhro House roof top, his head hanging out into nothingness. Nothing can stop this maestro. Not even Fortune’s mentions of Jesus and Mahoya. That is why yesterday as we left Kajiado, he received an email asking him to go to the UK Photography Now expo.
He needs a monkey suit, and a visa.
(Photo: Robert Macharia Going Kuku)