a grammar of Nairobi – by Redscar McOdindo K’Oyuga

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all cities yield their grammar,
even Nairobi, sixteen years on.
i have learnt the concrete nouns
of places, the conjunctions of fly-overs,
along Thika Road, Jogoo, Uhuru Highway, scattered.
i know the chaos of pronouns
inflecting themselves at bus stops.
i have heard the roaring verbs
conjugating on the suburbs, fluent
in the gin-soaked slang of eastlando,
the vanilla pidgin of ghetto.

i know that life in Nairobi
is lived adverbially,
busily, showily, hopefully. with #hashtags and throwbacks,
double-taps. Nairobi, babel of adjectives,
amorphous, arcane, mercantile, plain,
from terrestrial Korogocho to city’s aquatic illusions.

street by street i have walked its prepositions,
from Koinange across the Muindi Mbingu to Tom Mboya.
i have grown accustomed to the dialect
of houses, the shorthand of scenery.
i have seen the aura of Upper Hill edited
by the sibilant ocean of zeal
and the incessant seduction of posterity

yet the city is a theatre of interjections of histories
shackles, sentences, protest, patronage, conviviality, chasm.
dancing sarakasi bodies are broken passages telling its stories best
winding, rhymes, phrases, steps
balances at conjunctions and intersections like between
the pavement and the parliament, like between the street
and the stage. the alleys of this city are paved by idioms that are legacies
from the depth of Africa, the islands and plateaus from several nations

across the oceans. by this i mean replete is this city
with clauses and metaphors that are genealogies
waiting for bodies to tell their stories.
i come as a chronicler
of its carnivals. i arrive as a performer
of its pulse, of its syntax and tapestry.

Cover Image: Good Night Nairobi Part 1 by Mwarv Photography


About Author

A lover of art, charity and science. Treats, writes and reads. He writes for Jalada Africa and his blog Let's Tell Tales (http://redscarwrites.wordpress.com)


  1. ”… life in Nairobi
    is lived adverbially,
    busily, showily, hopefully. with #hashtags and throwbacks,
    double-taps…” Nairobi, my city my town. good piece.

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