29-07-2019 by Freddie del Curatolo
Her name is Chiara Cammelli, she is 21 years old, she was born and raised in Florence and she recently graduated in Linguistic Mediation with a thesis with a very high quotient of "Mal d'Africa", which illustrates the relationship between English and Swahili in the new generations and the language that results.
The young woman herself tells malindikenya.net how it all began, and it is a small training novel that tells the story of a great passion and that has Malindi as its background.
"The first time I came to Kenya was in September 2011, I had not yet turned 14 - Chiara reveals - my father won a photo contest in 2003, the prize was a trip to Kenya that he made with my grandfather. I remember that he came back with a bag full of gifts from this Africa of which I knew nothing except that even in winter there was sunshine and it was hot. He was fascinated and we decided to go back together. A classic week of vacation in a resort in Jacaranda bay. That week everything seemed very special to me, far from my reality and yet so colorful and alive. Actually everything was very confusing the first time. I remember returning to Florence still excited and fascinated by everything I had done and seen, the safari, the excursions ... it was not my first time out of Italy, but there was something "more", even if I did not understand what.
So Chiara and her dad go back on holiday the following year too. Two years later, in 2013, they decided to move to Malindi, again during the father's only week of vacation.
"It was a shock - explains the recent graduate - I do not know if it was the age, the small experience of Kenya gained, but everything was amplified, I felt that I wanted to enter this world, make friends, learn Swahili.
So she went on until she was of age, while every year she put aside tips and "pocket money" from her grandparents and commanded holidays. Until, after graduating in 2016, Chiara left this time alone for Malindi and spent two months there.
"And in those two months I tried to really know Malindi - says the girl - For more than a month I spent every day in Muyeye at the home of the family of friends, which today is also a bit 'mine, I danced at weddings of strangers in the villages, consumed five pairs of slippers, learned to love the many contradictions of this corner of Kenya squashed between the green of the bush and the blue of the ocean that seems to have been sewn on me tailored. Maybe because I'm a bit like Malindi, chaotic and confusing, where there are no half-measures".
Chiara would have a thousand other experiences to tell us, including trips around Kenya, by train and matatu and much more. Every six months she came back and added emotions and knowledge. She learned respect for a people with different times and philosophies.
And now she speaks of it with surprising wisdom for a twenty-one year old.
"You have to accept that some of their habits, perhaps, we will never understand them, but not understanding does not mean not being able to know them. And if you know them you learn to accept them for what they are and to respect them. Without pretending neither to understand nor to be understood. Simply, every now and then I try to look at life as a "rythm" looks at it, otherwise I could not have friends and family in Malindi".
In all this, a family from Muyeye, one of the poorest districts of the city, played a very important role for Chiara.
"I saw Safari, the youngest, grow up. I was waiting for him in the apartment I rented when he left school, because he was close, and every time the answer to the question "unamala wari ama spaghetti?" ("Do you prefer polenta or spaghetti?") was always the same. Spaghetti with meat sauce. I bring in incredible and contrasting emotions, joy for a birth, great pains for a loss. With them and thanks to them I learned to live. Let's be clear, I've never felt like a Kenyan, it wasn't easy or even less immediate. Happy who in a week has already understood everything. I still haven't understood a bat. But to find out everything behind the gate of the resort where I was in 2011 was wonderful.
That's how the idea of the thesis was born, the result of the union of many passions: Kenya, travel, foreign languages and cultures, the musical sound of kiswahili and finally the "Bongo Flava", the music of the coast listened to by young people. The songs of local idols such as Kelechi, Otile Brown, Diamond and Mbosso are part of the soundtrack of Chiara's adolescence and her malindina daily life. A thesis that also becomes an official document to understand the evolution of young Kenyans, through their most widespread communication tool, the music to dance that is also a carrier of messages and that creates a new language that is a code and leads to aggregation and to overcome adversity and hardship together or simply bind emotions to melodies.
"As in the case of Usiondoke in Chikuzee - admits Dr. Chiara - who seems to be talking to me when I'm on the plane to go home to Italy and I understand that the house is the one I'm leaving".
Congratulations to Chiara, for her graduation but above all for her maturity. If Africa, if lived without prejudice, with a predisposition for mind and intelligence, and falling into its "pole pole pole" realities, can at the same time be a tool for growth and understanding, open the heart, broaden horizons, and make life better.
by Freddie del Curatolo
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