I am five foot eleven. That should make him like a tad past Goliath’s knee cap. When having a conversation with him I have to bend my neck backwards, just enough to give my chin a 90 degrees elevation.  Like most balding guys I know, this bloke shaves all the way to his scalp. Perhaps in an attempt to hide that forehead that he complains about. He wears glasses- which is certainly something that I did not expect from him. I honestly do not know why, but he never really hit me as a specs person. Never mentioned anywhere; but it’s too obvious a thing to keep secret.  He has an evident bump on his belly that raises its middle finger to the people who believe in that fallacy about art not paying. The first time we ever spoke in person, the first words that fell out of his mouth left me speechless. See he is Luo- the ones from loka (the other side of the lake). It is harder for his ilk to lose their native Luo accent than it is for guys from Siaya. Prof. Ayiecho Olweny (Of course Kajwang’ is an outlier in this analogy). This guy speaks with melody- a medley of both Luo and American twang’. Proof of his many travels across the globe.

His name is Jackson. Jackson Biko. However, he has made it clear on several occasions that if you call him Jackson, he will pull out your teeth one by one with a rusty pair of pliers, and then make you partake of spirit and salt. All the while feeding your teeth to the vultures. But if you are lucky, he will simply placate Kidero on you.

I have met this guy exactly thrice in my lifetime. The first time, I needed help on how to run this campus rag that I edited. Our conversation was on Facebook went something like:

G: Man, I need your help with something

Biko: Hello matey, if you are looking for German strippers, I am sorry. I quit that line of business kitambo for greener pastures.

Just then I knew that that was not one of those parody celeb accounts. We set up a meeting and I met him at his office the following week.

The next time I had invited him as a guest speaker in my campus. We have these sessions by Arts Club in which creative hold court and break bread and share works – poetry, spoken word (by the way what’s the difference, anyone?). Honestly, I had this innate fear clawing my conscience that he would pass me over. He didn’t. He only asked if alcohol would be served. See, I know he is a sucker for good whiskey or wine older than I, but this is campus. We make do with Blue Moon, 8pm and Black Stallion. And when the sun smiles at our direction, we stroll out of the nearest watering hole with our heads held high and our shoulders pushed back, proudly hugging a Viceroy or The Walking man. Nobody really cares about whether or not it is brandy or vodka or gin. Usually, that choice is not a luxury we have.

So alcohol was not served. Biko showed up early that day. He told us his story- with his eyes open though. A Maseno School old boy, who went to UG to study some science course and then ended up in a laboratory, taking stool samples from diarrhoea patients. When he got tired of looking into shit, he took off ashen his lab coat, hang it on a hook, picked up a pen and never stopped writing since.

Last time I saw the maestro, we were at an ideagasm at Storymoja.

Biko is a household name in the media industry. Well known people need no introductions. But his presence is most felt on his blog; Bikozulu. In this website, he hides under the mask of Steve Biko of old, and tells stories with his eyes closed. He calls this place High School. Before, he used to call the assembly to order every Monday morning. After the flag was raised, the national anthem sang and the loyalty pledge recited, he lost himself in a 2000 word address, which usually left his students either reeling from mirth, or reaching for a handkerchief or a shoulder.  Then one day he offered an unholy sacrifice to the  gods of creativity, and then came the drought. He couldn’t post regularly. He had to resort to guerilla tactics in which you can never know when he will post or what time. He became unpredictable.

One thing was certain though. Kenya’s morning literary star had risen. His words offer a full spectrum of emotions. They are written in 3D. He manipulates the insecurity of adjectives, the vanity of similes and the jealousy of metaphors to paint vivid imagery of the thoughts in his head. A painting so exquisite that sometimes God wishes He could borrow it to embellish a peacock’s tail. He is a maverick of the middle-class and silently of the gay community. He takes fun in taking swings at the gobbledygook of the people who struggle to fit into a lifestyle that are asymmetrical to the depth of their wallets. He has this character flaw that makes him cringe at Nairobi yuppies’ impolitic attempts at self-promotion. So he results to gunboat diplomacy. His words are his bullets, and his blog is his barrel.

Sometimes Biko becomes impetuous, and slightly lets us into parts of his life that, on just any day, would be presumed private;  His family, and what a family picture his paints of it.

There is this persona he refers to as ‘the missus’. That would be the wife. Never talks much about her- for personal reasons I guess. She is one of those details of his life that have been forever hidden discreetly in a fog. Tamms is the little bogeygirl (his word). He is fiercely overprotective over her. He hopes that he will do right by this little girl and that nothing ever hurts her. Not a broken arm or a bad dream or a broken heart. But wait till she clocks puberty. Simon is the architect if this pedigree. If there has ever been any vulnerability, it has been shown in his mother (RIP). Farouk is a jailbird who was wrongfully imprisoned for allegedly hijacking a truckload of wheelchairs. Finally, his granny, who calls him Abiki (Kanyadhiang’s street-name for ‘Biko’).

If Biko was to publish a collection of his stories, I reckon it would be a No.1 bestseller in East Africa. That’s just a thought. From where I stand, there are 4 of his stories that immediately come into mind. They are like 4 horsemen- most brilliantly written.

Knickers- Dude turned women’s underwear into a 2000 word sensation. I wager his supplier of weed brought him a new strand.

Bed No. 5 Biko, we have a saying in my campus; ‘pombe si supu’. Enough said.

Confessions This was a break up letter. Very excruciating. He bled through his fingertips when he wrote it. But what broke me was the last part when he said ‘It’s not you, gang. It’s me.’ And then he was gone. No more regular Monday posts. Artista was losing his touch, and this was the letter that he used to say goodbye. Ati he had to go rediscover himself. The saddest part was the uncertainty. We didn’t know when to expect him back. Maybe when lambs become lions.

Letter To Kenyans Abroad this was an infernal contrivance that he unleashed weeks ago upon the diaspora. Fetched over 650 fugging comments and several replies. He had the wrath of the diaspora coming though. I mean, what did you expect, Biko?

According to him, his personal favourite is Simon. He says he wrote this from his marrow. That was a post about his father. Dad was a teacher of English. The apple fell right at the foot of its tree.

For those of us who hang on to his every word, we follow him on Twitter. We religiously wait for Saturday Nation’ Man Talk column with patient persistence. We read True Love for its Last Word. We look out for Kenya Yetu’s newer editions, just so that we can start reading it from page 20. We flip through Business Daily for interviews with the tycoons who spin the cogs of our economy. We are not groupies though- no, we do not throw knickers on his stage. It is just that the higher quest for literary satisfaction has never been so lustful. His satire is refreshing. And the way he uses simple humour to behest attention to the most mundane of issues add a new wrinkle to the fact that he is unparalleled.

Of course the above paragraph would qualify for a major butt groping, but then that would mean that I overstate the man’s worth. I don’t. Ever superlative he inspires is completely justified.

This coming weekend, Nairobi will be a carnivore of events. Oktoberfest has been scheduled for this weekend. Same to Safaricom 7s and Storymoja Hay Festival. Choosing between alcohol and books is an easy choice for men. For girls it’s even an easier choice when confronted by the dilemma of having to settle for either literature or steroid-ballooned men in shorts.

Lakini come on. On Sunday you are bound to be free. The dutiful sons of the faith may attend the early mass and show up at 11am at Ford Hall, Nairobi National Museum. The aces of the blogging community in Kenya will be engaged in a discourse about their passions online and off. Biko will be there. If that’s too early, then raise your head into the Storymoja Amphitheatre at 3pm Sunday. Biko, Mike Osando and Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg will grace a session about the overt media misogyny. Some claim that the media today is chauvinistic, and portrays womenfolk as agents of the kitchen and bedroom only. Personally, I thinks that’s a lot of baloney, but it will interesting to hear what Biko has to say.

I am thirsty, Biko. Please, give me something to drink from the springs of ingenuity.

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  1. Goon's Groupie on

    You write just like the same person you are writing about. Is he your mentor?

    Best line: He manipulates the insecurity of adjectives, the vanity of similes and the jealousy of metaphors to paint vivid imagery of the thoughts in his head. A painting so exquisite that sometimes God wishes He could borrow it to embellish a peacock’s tail.

    Hay Fest here we come

  2. Only you, Magunga, could put my feelings into words like this. Of course I wouldn’t some of those hard words but still. I also miss Biko. I will be at the the festival and I am not looking forward to meeting him because in his words, “Thing with meeting your favorite writers is that they will always disappoint you”
    But Magunga you are almost right up there with him, I can always count on you. Please don’t leave like he did?

  3. You really do admire Biko.. wish someday I could inspire the same following 🙂

    Anyway, the media is misogynistic, from the adverts that portray women in the kitchen, washing clothes etc.. the perfect domestic, submissive woman..

  4. Spot on G. The guy is an inspiration to many, including yours truly. It will be pretentious of me not to acknowledge your literally prowess. Kudos!

  5. Marvelous. I think you need to inbox me five books or magazines you've been reading. What a glowing tribute to Biko! There's an indescribable brilliance that oozes off Biko's writing you want to print those articles and archive them. In the 'Adam' magazine, he did an interview of Cajetan Boy that was like reading those superb Esquire or Vanity Fair feature writers. I wholly agree "…literary satisfaction has never been so lustful."

  6. Magunga you forgot to mention the short stint Biko had with Adam Magazine – that was 2009 to somewhere in 2010. And the legendary Oyunga Pala was the editor and later handed batton to Fred Omondi. His stories rocked and the way that magazine was presented. When Adam finally closed shop I felt a gaping hole in my brain. You know when you have conditioned your head to a certain stimulus the BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! the notice comes the sensation wont be there anymore. That is how I felt when I read the last Adam magazine. Some of us crazy funs even suggested that they increase its price but wapi. It fizzled out like moisture in a hot sunny day. If you pay me a visit in my shags – Bondo I can lend them to you for free on one condition only that you return them. Ha haaaaa!

  7. This is exactly what Biko would write of himself, if he were not too modest….but I digress. Great writ Magunga. Any more info on the two events?

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