Monday, 23 January 2012

About language

I read an article on Chimurenga Chronicle about "Somali invasion of Nairobi" written by a Kenyan writer called Parselelo Kantai, and I was struck by the wonderful way that he describes the "Nairobi English" of a woman:
"For a people for whom ‘negative ethnicity’, the newspaper euphemism for the prevailing ethnic rancour that had shredded the nation into a farcical edifice of a thousand cuts, ‘othering’ the Somalis restored a sense of collective indignation. Hate and rancour were the only things holding us together…
I was surprised at her vehemence. She had always talked in a language that irritated me – the exultant language of the reaspora bubble in leafy-suburb Nairobi. It was a velvety, arriviste Nairobi English, full of possibilities and faux tourist innocence. It was an insider language that walked on water, saw no evil, advertised its privilege with cocktail kisses, intimate nods, bursts of happy laughter. It was used to suggest non-contamination, that one’s head was above the loud sucking sounds of this place, the descent into naked Nairobi calculations, pettiness, desperation. It was not the other thing: that guarded edge in your voice that revealed a loss of independence and optimism, that now your diaspora dollars were running dangerously low and you had recently turned a page in your contact book, and made the call to a powerful uncle for a job, a contract, a deal.
But Kileleshwa, an old mzungu suburb whose civil servant houses were being transformed into apartments for the yuppy beneficiaries of the Kibaki-era economic boom and the returning Western diaspora, exiled for two decades by Moi repression, was now under siege. There was no velvet to couch this new fear..."
Isn't it beautiful?

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