17-08-2020 by Freddie del Curatolo
The caravan that has decided to clear the ancestral beliefs about the "madmen" in the culture of the Kenyan coast to meet modern medicine, rests on the descending side of Malindi-Mombasa which, by dint of being resurfaced, has created a difference in height that makes it resemble certain American highways on the edge of the Arkansas desert.
I've never been to Arkansas but who knows why I always thought it was better to live around Kilifi.
Here we are in the iron village, at least that's what its name says: Chumani, between Gede and Kilifi.
The Kenya Research Medical institute sets up the gazebo for the public, with the chairs at a social distance and all in the shade because today the sun rocks.
The natural stage is placed in the depression of the ground from which you can see matatu and tir as if on a viaduct.
To dominate everything and everyone, looking at us from above and equipped with a very thin stick shaken like a whip, there is Chumani's madman.
He dresses and undresses two t-shirts one on top of the other, changing their position, alternately using one of them to wipe the sweat off his face. He walks forward and backward along the curve that the road draws and where a dirt road widening has been created that acts as a stop on demand.
"He's harmless, take pictures of him - the boda boda taxis lined up in the shade of the ever-present big baobab tell me - it's a dog that barks and doesn't bite".
In fact he casts several curses on me, in languages unknown even to himself, but as soon as he can he returns to his official occupation, which is to get the travelers on and off the matatu.
Imaginary controller, he dispenses advice to everyone and more or less meekly invites them to take their place on the direct to Mombasa or on the "Raha" to Mariakani.
That's what we explain to the people who are now huddled under the baobab, which becomes a side stand added to watch the show: the matatu controller is accepted, known and basically well liked by everyone. Because he first does not show to suffer from his diversity, he is in his world and who knows, maybe something tells him that he has become a character.
But what about all the others, who are perhaps a step ahead of him, because they suffer more and perhaps have moments of lucidity in which they understand their diversity and how much for the others it is synonymous with negative influences? Nobody does anything for them except something bad.
Katoi Wa Tabaka, with the complicity of the Afro Simba Band guitarist attacks a real blues that tells more or less this. "Vilalu si utsai", crazy people are not demons.
"Take him to the hospital, they'll tell you how to behave, he's not mad, he's just sick, you don't need chains, there are medicines" he sings then on a catchy reggae base Angey Fresh, getting his dose of applause and smiles. Let's hope the message got here too.
The show around are the faces of the inhabitants of Chumani.
Glances, movements and complicity that speak for themselves, that tell the serene acceptance of those who have escaped diversity and think that maybe it's already enough not to have been born crippled, dumb or epileptic. Because poverty can be shared. For diversity, instead, there is nothing to do, man has not yet learned.
by Freddie del Curatolo
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