I’ve known Mzee Washington with a turban for almost 15 years. He has been a family buddy. “Have you ever gone without it?” I questioned. “You’re too young for this, your other family members have seen me without it,” he said. I became inquisitive and wanted to discover what was concealed behind the turban, and your guess is as good as mine: it’s a bald head. So I begged again: “When are you going to be without it again, I need to see?”
“I have been without it in my younger days. I was curious just like you. When I decided to get married my wife introduced me to this denomination-Israel church of Africa (ICA), this turban is symbolic to the church. You see what love makes you do?” He poses the question.
He continues: “I have been a member, close to 15 years now. The difference between my religious journey and when I was a hippie is that I have had to incorporate a lot of other things in my routine – the church does not allow things I considered normal.”
Mzee Washington claims he would have followed in his father’s footsteps and, also married, a second or third wife, but their faith forbids it. He goes on to say that his newly-found faith has forced him to embrace additional practices, such as consuming boiled water because his denomination forbids drinking cold or tap water.
“I have done this for quite some time and I don’t see a problem with it. The problem with people now is that they don’t know what they want. In my days, morality was held in high regards. I see very many of you do things that did not get me anything and I pity, I’d wish to invite more of you to church and find your souls,” he adds.
I’ve come to the conclusion that this turban characterizes a man who believes in his faith, one who recognizes that without what he truly believes in, he is regarded less of a man. I’m still curious about what the turban conceals and conveys. I still wanted to know more… What the turban concealed was a guy who has always been apprehensive of the future; despite his religious beliefs, he was unable to foretell his destiny.
Mzee Washington has one son and lovely daughters. They began their lives at Nyakach Village in Kisumu County – Nyakach is home to beautiful ladies that you should visit. Since he fancied the city life while growing up, he always wanted to visit Nairobi City. One day, his prayers were answered and he landed in Kibera.
“It was not easy. You should know a few things about a fresh start in a grey environment. I had to do regular jobs with meagre earnings. At least I was able to cater for my family and see my children through school. Do you remember I used to work as a security personnel in your primary school?” He poses the question.
He continues: “I still work as one here in Shofco but I only do this and focus on my personal life and family. However, I don’t do very many night shifts. I am growing old and I might fall asleep when I’m supposed to be working.
Mzee Washington adds that life has not been easy for him, but he appreciates God that he (Mzee Washington) was able to take care of his family and see his children through education despite the ups and downs of life. He claims that his children are currently caring for him and that they are all married with children.
“My wife moved to the village; she says city life is too fast for her and she’d rather chase the livestock and wake up to cock craw’s in the mornings. It’s (home village) what she calls home. Here in Kibera, I stay with my grandchildren and regularly visit my children,” he adds.
He claims that watching his children grow up in Kibera has given him sleepless nights. He recalls the nights he couldn’t sleep because of fears and uncertainty. He claims that Kibera was not as tranquil back then as it is now, so he had to be on the alert and ensure that he nurtured them correctly.
He adds: “Although I don’t pick for them what they want, I have always insisted that they find the church. Regardless of the denomination they pick, there has to be a common denominator between my family and I. I am also happy that they inter-married with other tribes and they have spread across the nation, it’s good to learn a few different things in my old age.”
I have gotten to know that this turban speaks a language of hope, much needed within this community.
The writer (Jeremie Onyango) is a documentary photographer and storyteller from Kibera, Nairobi City. email@example.com