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In Hot Pursuit of Happiness

Wangu Wa Makeri

Anthere in a Cheche/Tagelmoust.

Some of you may know that Kenya will soon face its general elections (due this year, but may take place next year… you know, African time and manigences etc.) Anyway, there will be a single viable and worthy female candidate standing for the presidency –Ms Martha Karua, a lawyer and occasionally official political figure nicknamed ‘Kenya’s Iron Lady’ for her zero-tolerance stances, and ‘the Bulldog’ for her tenacity.

Unfortunately for Martha, the fact that her many righteous battles fought, Jeanne d’Arc-like, against, as well as in the midst of a world of men have embittered her, and it shows all over face. Frequently, when she speaks, her lip actually curls with disgust, her eyes, once most attractively wide and soft, now seem twice as widened by outrage –and they flash, when she is making a particularly important point. Like an Avenging Angel, she scares the men she has worked with and whose actions she has spoken against, who have not once, but severally clubbed together to plot and act against her, for sheer survival. By extension, she also scares most of the male populace, who are generally up to no good, and when asked whether they would vote for her, they laugh ‘no’, secure in the safety of at least their vote, from Martha. When asked why, they become sullen, because they are aware that they are now living in a world where it is dangerous to be overtly chauvinistic. So, instead, they mumble “Wangu”, smile diffidently, and take off.

“Wangu” is Wangu Wa Makeri, the protagonist of a Kenyan myth of… well, mythical proportions. All women love it (at least, the beginning) and all men love to quote it (at least, the end.)  It goes something like this:

In the days of yore, when women ruled the world, [stop laughing] Peace and Prosperity reigned along with them, and Life was good. Wangu Wa Makeri , whose name was revered all over the land, ruled her particular village with a gloved, but Iron hand, keeping the men in line beautifully. As everywhere else, men were good for four things: Fetching, Carrying, Building and Baby-Making, and from early in the morning to late at night, this is all they did. With no responsibilities, their one-track mind, and only orders to follow, they performed all of these duties extremely well. Meanwhile, with their superior capabilities, the women excelled at fulfilling their basic responsibilities of child-rearing, housekeeping and cooking, while simultaneously handling their appointed duties in running village matters, organising visits from foreign female dignitaries, brokering multilaterally beneficial trade agreements, dispensing justice wisely,  healing, counselling, and educating, etc.

Men who distinguished themselves in their duties were appointed ‘Top Baby-Makers’ and allowed to serve in Wangu’s court, where their duties were less tasking, and they were treated with respect and some favour. Their progeny were a credit to Wangu’s village, being smarter and better-looking than others in the land, and Wangu’s reputation widened and increased every year.

It is a truth universally acknowledged now (though not at the time) that, besides being irredeemably self, irreparably foolish, and more stubborn than any mule in existence, men are also fatally egotistic. While they agreed that life was good, that they lacked for nothing, and that social services worked pretty stunningly, a group of what we now call alpha-males, could not help but develop a kernel of resentment against the opposite sex, fostered by an inexplicable feeling that, somehow, things could be even better if men were in charge. Men should be in charge. They were physically stronger, after all, and almost twice as big. How could it be, they wondered, that bigger bodies shouldn’t equal better stuff? We will forgive them because the presses weren’t running, in those days, and had not relayed the story of David and Goliath, nor the fact that bigger brains, and not bodies, make for “better stuff”. Still, their resentment brewed and brewed until, at last, it was determined, in one of their many secret meetings, that there would be a revolution.

Gathered in a circle under a large baobab at the edge of village, this having been decided, the men, patted each other on the back and broke open calabashes of stolen beer, toasting each other, their victory, and a future of submissive women.

“…and we’ll make them carry wood to the fire, before they cook for us!” thundered one of the leaders.

Yeah! And we’ll make them come to bed whenever we like, instead of being summoned every few weeks!” cried another.

“And we’ll do nothing except drink beer and do what we WANT to do!” cried a third.

“Amen, brother! CHEERS!!!” cried a fourth. All calabashes were raised together.

“CHEERS!!!” They all cried, then drank deeply, until one of the younger beta-males shyly spoke up.

“But how will we do it?” He piped. All eyes turned to him.

“Whaddaya mean?” roared the Head Alfa, his eyes beginning to flash with temper. “Are you trying to say we coudn’t take them?”

The young buck began to panic as every man’s eye turned threatening, and they began murmuring ominously.

“No, no, not at ALL, Chief. All I meant is that… they are so many! We would have to have a plan of some sort to deal with the ones, without the others knowing. We would have to… I don’t know –have a strategy! You know, to be completely successful! If a group of them get together, including Wangu, they might be able to hatch some cunning plan against us. Poison us for treason, even!”

“He’s right,” one of the leaders voiced, after a short silence. “When women are roused, there’s no telling what they might do.”

“Still, we have an advantage in that, they take forever to make a decision –I was serving at court the other day, and that woman must have changed into 30 different kangas before coming down to dinner. There wasn’t even a visitor expected!” said another.

“It’s an advantage,” agreed the Head, “but it doesn’t solve our problem. They are not going to sit idly by while we tie them up. Women are even more dangerous when they’re cornered. They’re emotional, unpredictable, cunning witches, and there’s no telling what any of them might do in the moment.”

“In other words… We need a plan?” the third leader mused.

“We need a plan.” The Head confirmed. For a long moment, there was only the noise of silent beer-swigging, and the whirring of thousands of tiny brain screws.

“Well…” piped the young beta male once more. All eyes refocused on him. “We could… you know… We could get them pregnant.”

The Head stared at him.

“All of them?”

“Y-y-yes,” the young man stammered. “Or at least a considerable number of them. They’re all very fertile, as you know, because they eat well and exercise, and enjoy good health. If they were most of them pregnant, then waited until they three or four months along, we wouldn’t even have to lift a finger to control them. They’d do everything we ordered them to do, because they wouldn’t want to hurt their baby.”

“It’s GENIUS!” cried one of the leaders, clapping him so hard on the back that he went flying into somebody’s beer. The somebody good-naturedly picked him up and hugged him until he choked, then set him down directly before the Head, who was beaming. He was just raising his hand to dislocate the young man’s shoulder with a warm pat, when it stopped mid-air.

“But…” He voiced, puzzled, “how do we get them all in bed at once? As you know, each of them only summons our services every few weeks…”

Once again, all eyes were on the beta male.

“Well, Smarty-loincloth?” Prodded one of the company impatiently, “how do we do it?”

The young man thought quickly.

“Well, 1) they love Distinguished Males such as yourself, Chief, who serve in court, because you serve Wangu, and bedding a male who’s bedded Wangu is a status symbol.”

“True,” the Head agreed.

“So we’ll just have to be perfect, over the next few weeks. Then a lot of us will get Distinguished, and our popularity will rise.”

“Uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it. “ The Head declared. “What else?”

“Well,” volunteered another leader, “have you noticed how nice they become when you pay attention to them? I got a couple of extra piles of firewood for one of the healers the other day; she summoned me that night and thanked me four times.” He grinned. “Best night of my life. In fact, when I particularly like the look of one of them, I do something stupid like that. It always works.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed that too,” another member agreed. Another agreed with him, then others again, and the tactic was adopted.

“OK,” thundered the Head, pointing a decisive finger. “From tomorrow, I want you guys to give only the very best of service to the women. Go the extra mile, beyond the call, and exceed expectations in every way possible. Additionally, you will do all this with a charming smile, and bed as many women as possible, preferably more than once, to make sure. Got it?”

There was a communal grunt that sounded more like a war-cry.

“All the males that are currently, or who will soon be distinguished, are to work on Wangu especially. I want that bitch incapacitated as soon as possible. She wields too much power, and her subjects love her too much.”

“YESSIR!” screamed the men.

“And we meet back here every week, on the night of the village meeting, to check how the plan is going, and eventually decide on the day we strike.”

“YESSIR!” cried the hoarse men.

“Now let’s drink some BEER!!!”

“CHEERS!!!” The men were hysterical.

And thus began the men’s revolution.

Charmed by the men’s newly polished behaviour and hard work, and flattered by carefully dispensed ‘individual’ attention, the women began summoning one or the other to bed almost every other day. Won over by their seemingly newly acquired bedroom skills and vigour, the women further began lying in more often in the morning, and had even been heard occasionally taking the day off. Within six months, every woman in the village had been charmed into pregnancy, including Wangu herself, whereupon things quickly fell apart. Raging hormones caused more cat fights than had ever been witnessed in the village’s history, while simultaneous cravings had them all fighting over food supplies in the market place. State decisions were suddenly being irrationally made, as trade discussions became tearful affairs punctuated by vicious tantrums, Wangu’s being the worst, earning her resentment from other villages. Huge women soon lay in their huts intermittently, for most of the day, screaming for their children and others to “Shut the F* Up!” as they tried to squeeze a nap before making dinner, or yet another lumbering journey to the potty. More and more, they began to rely on men to take over their duties, and at that stage, the revolution was complete.

Upon declaring victory, the Head shared out the woman of the village between his troop of men, keeping Wangu and selected beauties of her government for himself. Between them, all the women belonging to a man were to apply themselves to his every need, from the mopping of his brow, when it was too hot, to the nightly bathing of his feet. They were to attend to all household chores, serve him food and beer, or sit about him in silence, when not employed, dressed in various adornments, so that they should please his eye whenever it fell upon them. Any sign of resistance from the women was met with a sharp slap across the face, and a day without food. Wangu soon began to look like a punchbag.

Men being men, however, this bliss could not last for long. With the women busy fawning over lazy men, no one was taking care of the running of the village. With no one in the fields, local food soon ran out, and with no trading going on, there was none coming in. When it stopped, all of the women were given a sound beating. Since they could not trust them, however, a group of men were sent to buy some in another village. With these men gone, their women were temporarily assigned to the other men, who were soon happily Taking Advantage. This provoked a huge uproar when their owners returned. Since none of the men were willing to have their egos dampened, the uproar soon turned into a physical fight, which, with other men taking sides, became a full scale civil war, following which the two injured sides separated, taking their women, and whatever supplies were left. And the world was never the same again.

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About Ciggie Cramond

Ciggie Cramond is an author, writer, editor and translator currently living in Nairobi, where she is actively writing her next book, supporting Arsenal, and looking for The One... Online, naturally!

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