Freddie's Corner

Wanjohi, the street vendor of Nairobi

Corners and characters of the Kenyan metropolis

01-11-2022 by Freddie del Curatolo e Leni Frau

Wanjohi is not one of the many vendors on the sides of Nairobi's narrow streets.
Of those who daily breathe our comforts, risk our frustrations and try to win our attention.
Wanjohi is a specialized street peddler.

He sells only kitchen clothing: aprons, uniforms, dishcloths, potholders, mittens, even the chef's hat. He has good prices and the quality is not inferior to that of some Indo-Arabocino loan sharks.

There are restaurateurs from the neighborhoods-well who go looking for him and almost always find him at the mouth of one of the many city arteries that lead from traffic to chaos.

He, however, is impassive, as if the handkerchief of asphalt in which he jousts is the diamond-patterned floor of a braid. In the time of a stoplight he expertly unleashes his wares, rubbing his fingers over the material to demonstrate its quality as he overlays the different offerings.

From what I have read and seen, certain of our emigrants to North America were distinguished precisely by this: knowing how to differentiate themselves and how to sell, balancing like a tightrope walker on the axis of a large and exponentially growing metropolis, between mischief and legality, dexterity and subterfuge.
That must be why Wanjohi and those like him are sympathetic to me and why I see more desire for the future in them than in so many wimpy young Westerners.

Freddie del Curatolo and Leni Frau (writer and photographer, husband and wife) are the authors of the book "Nairobi" published by OGzero as part of the series "The Visible Cities." On sale in bookstores in Italy, in ebook, kindle or paperback on Amazon and major online sites and from December 9, 2022 also in Kenya. Information by writing to info@malindikenya.net

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