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Glossary of Kenyan Terms and Topics

bob -- shillings, money

githeri -- a staple food made from maize and beans

jiko -- a brazier used for cooking or heating and fuelled with charcoal, firewood or kerosene

lesso -- same as kanga
-- a rectangular cotton cloth with colourful prints and Swahili proverbs, worn as a skirt, as a turban,

Kayole -- an Eastern suburb of Nairobi

kiondo -- a sisal basket woven by women -- plural : vyondo

mabati -- corrugated iron sheets for building houses or roofing them

mandazi, mandazis -- a kind of doughnut

matatu -- a public transport minibus

mkokoteni, a hand cart pl. mikokoteni

muthokoi -- the delicious Kamba staple food

mzungu -- a white person

Nairobi -- the capital of Kenya

ndizi -- banana

ndubia -- tea with milk but no sugar

posho mill, poshomill -- for wheat and maize

shamba -- vegetable garden

Soweto -- a slum area within Kayole

Sufuria -- cooking pot or sauce

sukuma wiki, sukumawiki -- "stretching out the week"
leafy cabbage-like vegetable

tilapia -- a fish from lake Victoria
turungi -- "tru tea" : tea with neither milk nor sugar

ugali -- a staple food, solid porridge made from maize flour

uji -- a liquid porridge made from maize or millet flour


***** KIGO : Season Words of Kenya





Kukai May 2013


Kukai May 2013

14th Kukai of Kenya Saijiki -- Kenya National Archives on 18 May 2013

Kenya National Archives and Documentation Services (KNADS)
is situated at the edge of the central business district in downtown Nairobi along Moi Avenue next to Ambassadeur Hotel.
The archives look out on the landmark Hilton Hotel, while on the rear side is Tom Mboya street. It was established in 1965. It holds 40,000 volumes. It was established by an Act of the Parliament of Kenya in 1965 and was placed under the office of the Vice President and the Minister of Home Affairs. It is currently under the office of the Vice-President and Ministry of State for National Heritage and Culture.
The Kenya National Archives building also houses the Murumbi Gallery which contains African artifacts that were collected in the 19th century.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


a student
touches the mask again --
National Archives

~ Susan Wanjiku (Bamboocha, 3)

more dust falls
from the window pane --
National Archives

~ Jescah Auma (Peacock, 4A)

Kenya Archives --
bulbs on the ceiling
multiply my shadow

~ Otakwa Livingstones (Peacock, 4B)

midday sun --
a chokora picks lice from
his shaggy hair

~ Diana Dola (Peacock, 3A)

scorching sun --
the boda boda men rest
under a tree

~ Dorothy Syombua (Peacock, 1A)

National Archives --
historical pictures posted
on the walls

~ Winfridah Malesi (Peacock, 4A)

Kenya Archives --
Murumbi's artefacts
surprise the haijin

~ Emmanuel Mutati (Bamboocha, 4)

roadside music --
the haijin enjoy the beats
through the window

~ Akaliche Rose (Peacock, 3A)

statue --
the mother breastfeeds
her baby

~ Margaret Ndinda (Peacock, 4A)

a black pigeon
lands on the dusty mabati roof --
ginkoo walk

~ Teresia Wanjiku (Peacock, 2A)

matatu touts
compete for passengers --
Nairobi city

~ Ahomo Felix (Peacock, 2A)

in his akala shoes
the European man spits --
Kenya Archives

~ John Maina (Peacock, 4A)

crowded haijin --
mixed laughter rings
twice in my ears

~ Maurine Nafula (Peacock)

slippery floor --
she misses a step
touching an artefact

~ Beatrice Syombua (Peacock, 3B)

heavy traffic --
a boda boda strives
to cross

~ Mercy Amunze (Peacock)

Kenyan Archives --
students bend on an
old bench

~ Derric Ambale (Peacock, 3B)

ginkoo walk --
two black pigeons play on the
dusty mabati roof

~ Jecintah Wafula (Peacock, 2A)

scorching sun --
small boy dancing while
spectators watch

~ Susan Njeri (Bamboocha, 3)


at KNA window --
the Tom Mboya statue
waves at me

Patrick Wafula

National Archives-
I admire a golden
wrist watch

a sweet scent
from yellow banana peels-
Muthurwa stalls

Andrew Otinga


- Saijiki Forum -

Related words

. The Haiku Clubs of Nairobi .



Nairobi Digest News


Nairobi Digest News

source : Caleb Mutua - October 28, 2012

Africa’s best haiku writers meet in Nairobi

The best group of haiku writers in the whole of Africa met in Nairobi yesterday to exchange ideas and participate in a haiku walk competition.
The Kenya Saijiki is part of a World Kigo Database (WKD) that brings together haiku writers from various parts of the world through the internet.

According to WKD owner Dr Gabi Greve of Daruma Museum, Japan, the database of seasonal words (worldwide saijiki) gives poets an opportunity to deepen their understanding of season words in haiku and to appreciate the climate, life and culture of many different parts of the world.

Haiku, a very short form of Japanese poetry, first started in Japan centuries ago and later spread to Europe and further afield.

African countries including South Africa, Burkina Faso and Kenya have in the recent past starting to appreciate this unique genre of poetry, with Kenya Saijiki members leading the way.

“This is an educational site for reference purposes of haiku poets worldwide,” says Dr Greve, who also advises Kenya Saijiki on haiku issues.
Since its inception in 2005, Kenya Saijiki members joined the wider haiku community in the WKD and have been collecting season words, known as kigo in Japanese, for Kenya and writing haiku poems.

The poems are then shared among all members and with the whole world through the internet for comments and discussion on the Kenya Saijiki web pages, starting at http://kenyasaijiki.blogspot.com/ with a long index.
“This was the 13th kukai (meeting) of Kenya Saijiki. The atmosphere was excellent, and all involved participated with full energy and in great spirits,” says the group’s Moderator Isabelle Prondzynski.

Kenya Saijiki is based in Nairobi and currently comprises three haiku clubs; the Peacocks and the Bambochas (based in secondary schools) and the Cocks, a group of poets who have graduated from high school but still write haiku.
The poets include both adults and secondary school students from Kayole Estate and Soweto Slum, Nairobi, with several other poets living in various parts of the country outside Nairobi.

Among other things, the group teaches the students how to write better poems, improve their communication skills and how to use computer and the internet.
The co-ordinator of Kenya Saijiki and the Bambochas’ Patron, Mr Patrick Wafula, recently won a prize after his poem was entered in the Annual Poets’ Choice Competition of the Shiki Kukai.

full moon—
cumulus clouds slowly
form a wolf

The haiku came into my mind while playing with my puppies in my home in Soweto. I have a habit of enjoying moonlit nights and the serenity that comes with it,” Mr Wafula told Kenya Saijiki during its 13th kukai.
During the kukai, the school-going poets enjoyed a one-hour haiku walk observing and writing haiku.

A panel of judges from Kenya Saijiki went through the haiku that were submitted and selected the following top 11 prizewinning haiku.

hot afternoon–
he washes his face
with sewage water
-Rodgers Adega

immense heat
in my white plastic shoes–
i walk on toes
-Brian Etole

scattered feathers
of a slaughtered chicken–
ginkoo walk
-Geoffrey Maina

dry grass–
a black goat struggles
to graze
-Getrude Wahu

scorching sun–
he splashes some water
down his chest
-Dennis Wright

ginkoo time–
she writes haiku
on his back
-Molline Wangui

hot afternoon–
he washes his head
with cold water
Walter Machembe

the rustling Napier grass
bends in one direction
Stanely Joshua Kaweto

scorching sun–
two little boys fight over
a bottle of water
Julieth Oketch

garbage site–
I scare a swarm of flies
from a pawpaw peel
-Margaret Ndinda

scorching sun–
a hawk flying around
the smelly dumpsite
-Stephen Macharia

- Related -

***** The Haiku Clubs of Nairobi



Slum fire, fires


Slum fires
(Swahili : moto (singular) mioto (plural))

***** Location: Kenya
***** Season: Topic
***** Category: Humanity


The urban slums of Kenya are highly prone to fires.
This is due to a cumulation of causes.

Each homestead has as its main focus the jiko, the fireplace or brazier, where food is cooked and heat is generated in the cold season. The jiko can be the traditional three stones, with firewood or maize cobs used as fuel. In the urban areas, it will more commonly be a brazier using charcoal, or a small metal cooker using kerosene oil.

Light is produced by hurricane lamps burning kerosene. Most homes keep a small supply of kerosene for their lamps and jiko.

Houses are small, and many combustible materials are kept within close range of any of these open fires. People, possibly with trailing clothes, move around the vicinity, and sometimes children play too near the fireplaces. During the cold season, nights are chilly, and there can be a tendency to leave fires to burn themselves out slowly while people are already falling asleep.

Ironing is done with charcoal irons, using live coals.

Many Kenyans are smokers, and careless handling of cigarettes can also cause fires.

Some small businesses use open fires -- maize roasters, fish fryers and mandazi bakers. These fires are normally well supervised and in any case extinguished as night falls.

Slum homes may also be threatened by external circumstances. These are fires starting in their neighbours' homes, fires due to sparking electricity cables, and (in one terrible incident in September 2011) a fire at the Kenya Pipeline in the Sinai section of Lunga Lunga slum. The huge oil pipeline, which ran through the slum, sprung a leak, and the slum dwellers tried to catch the spilling oil. It caught fire and exploded, killing and burning many. Some people jumped into the burning Ngong River to quench the flames, and many drowned there.

Text and photo © Isabelle Prondzynski


Some terrible pictures here of the Sinai fire (explosion at the Kenya Pipeline)
source : www.flickr.com

And a video of the scene :
source : http://www.youtube.com


Written in August 2012

About a month ago, fire broke out in one of the houses in the Tujisaidie community in Soweto (in the Kayole suburb of Nairobi), and everything that the family owned was destroyed. Fortunately, no one was injured and the fire did not spread to neighbouring plots.

The community's youth group, Tumaini, was at that time welcoming a group of British visitors. Abandoning their guests to respond to the call for help, the youth ran to the site of the fire and, together with the neighbours, worked hard to put it out. This involved carrying water over quite a distance, as the pipes were dry at this time. The visitors helped as best they could, carrying jerricans of water in a long chain from the Nursery School water tank, until the flames had been quenched.

For the next day, they had planned a programme of calls to several projects in the community. But the visitors discussed the matter overnight and decided that helping to rebuild the burnt house was much more important. And so, they each contributed whatever funds they could, so that building materials could be bought, and the rest of the day was spent putting up a new corrugated iron house.

The rest of the community also got together. Everyone who could, donated some clothes, some pots and pans, a blanket and other essential items, to give the affected family a new start. Slum families support each other... and each of them had probably been helped by others already, at some other time...

Isabelle Prondzynski

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


as his fire crackles
there is laughter and chat --
maize roaster

last rays
of the red sunset --
maize roaster’s fire

evening cool --
the fish fryer’s fire
glows from afar

Isabelle Prondzynski


updates of fire
in Soweto on Facebook --
tears on my face

the fire --
Soweto goes dark
once again

still standing --
burnt electricity poles
telling the story

black smoke
engulfs the Soweto sunset --
a rush of helpers

water water
everyone calls --
flames and smoke

Antony Njoroge


Fire in Soweto, August 2012

fire outbreak --
a woman cries pleading
for quick help

rescue group --
the watching crowd
moves away

fire outbreak --
black smoke makes its way
to the atmosphere

~ Brian Mulando

singing a song
from a blackened Golden Bells --
smouldering remains

dancing smoke
from a burnt mattress --
village fire

~ James Bundi

On Saturday at dusk, after the fire tragedy that also destroyed a transformer and left a section of Soweto in darkness for three days, while we stood by watching the Kenya Power and Lighting Company staff fixing the transformer:

shooting star--
we mistake its bright streak
for power return

Patrick Wafula, August 22, 2012


thick smoke --
my eyes are drenched
with tears

she wails
on seeing burnt bodies --
Sinai inferno

oil floats on
sparkling sewage --
Ngong River

an injured boy
is lifted onto a stretcher --
rescue mission

Sinai heat --
flames bubbling in
the smokey sky

Sinai tragedy --
oil fumes linger
in the air

a pastor leads
the bereaved in prayer --
Sinai fire

Tom Mboya Hall --
a pile of burnt mabati
at the entrance

bereaved parade --
a photographer identifies
an impostor

~ Andrew Otinga
(on the Sinai Pipeline tragedy mentioned above)


fire tragedy --
a crying child asking
for her mother

Sinai fire --
displaced children
crying for food

Authors unknown


August cold --
a maize roaster pokes
his smouldering fire

Caleb Mutua


on a jam
dusty matatus on a stand still -
Nakumatt blaze

Nakumatt blaze was a great supermarket fire in 2009.

Siboko Yamame

. Matatu minibus .

Related words

***** Jiko (brazier) and makaa (charcoal)

***** WKD : Fire (kaji)
kigo for all winter in Japan



Mitumba, mtumba second hand goods


Mitumba (singular : mtumba) -- second-hand goods

***** Location: Kenya
***** Season: Topic
***** Category: Humanity


As in many other African countries, second-hand goods are very popular in Kenya. They enable the wananchi (citizens) to wear high-quality and fashionable clothes and shoes at an affordable price, to drive decent cars and to obtain hifi or computers.

Most of the time, when we talk about mitumba, we mean clothes or shoes. These are sold in huge markets, such as Gikomba, where smaller traders can buy them wholesale in bulk as they arrive, split the contents of the sacks and sell them either in Gikomba itself, in the city centre or in the various residential areas around the city. Huge loads are also carried up-country to the rural areas for sale there.

A load of shoes being taken from Gikomba to up-country markets

Almost every Kenyan, whether rich or poor, owns several items of mitumba. Many of the clothes sold as mitumba are almost brand new and in excellent condition. Some could be remnants from large chains in Europe or the USA sold in bulk to wholesalers for resale in African countries. Many are clothes donated to charitable organisations in the West. These sort the clothes according to their general condition. The poorer quality clothes are given free of charge to refugee camps and as emergency aid. The better quality clothes are sorted according to type (men's / women's, skirts / blouses / socks / trousers / T-shirts / underwear, etc.) and packed into sacks further graded according to the quality of the goods. These sacks are then shipped and sold in Kenya (e.g. in Gikomba) without opening them, according to the goods inside and their quality grade. Most buyers are too small to be able to afford an entire sack, so a group of traders would get together to share the cost and split the contents.

There is a whole debate as to whether charitable organisations should be selling mitumba into African countries at all. These imports could destroy the national market for clothing, it is said. And it is true that during my years in Kenya, as imports of mitumba have increased, many of the smaller dressmaking and tailoring businesses have had to close. Others now specialise in alterations of mitumba clothes so that they fit their new owners. The more high-quality businesses have continued without too much trouble, particularly those specialising in African dress styles, as these are not in competition with foreign imports. School and work uniforms too have not been affected. It is my feeling that the import of mitumba is, on the whole, a good thing, as it enables Kenyans to dress smartly at a reasonable cost, provides many jobs in the informal sector -- and it even enables the original owners in other countries to give away their clothes and shoes in the knowledge that others will be able to benefit from them.

Clothes stall under a tree

Text and photos © Isabelle Prondzynski


It is mtumba in the singular and mitumba in the plural.
The word literally means second hand and could be used for clothing, shoes, cars, etc. -- it refers to anything that has been used and is being resold. The Government of Kenya recently zero-rated taxation on importation of mitumba ''to ease the high cost of living on the common man you know!''.

Andrew Otinga

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

Read more here :
source : www.seatimesafrica.com

Gikomba Market

gikomba or gikosh
is a second hand clothes market that started in the 1980’s as a result of space in retail market. the lack ofphysical space forced the more that one hundred traders to move to the area between majengo, karikor and kamukunji

The original settlers were allocated plots but with time as the market became more popular settled illegally…today there are more than 4000 traders
source : www.mwakenya.net


a watchman bargains
for a mtumba jacket --
Muthurwa market

a seller shows
a high-heeled mtumba shoe --
mia mia!

(mia means a hundred in Swahili)

a street child picks at
muddy mtumba trousers --
riverside market

~ Dancan Omoto

a student catwalks
in her mitumba high heels --
beauty contest

a stall with
cheaper mitumba jackets --
I buy three

~ Catherine Njeri Maina

a student tries on
his mtumba shirt --
new smell

~ Andrew Otinga

abrupt rain --
pedestrians scramble for
mitumba raincoats

~ Dennis Wright

Mtumba shoes for sale
Photo © Isabelle Prondzynski

mitumba wholesaler --
he presses the sack down
to remove rain

~ John Maina

mitumba display --
she grabs the blue jeans
and quickly pays

~ Stanley Mutinda

sudden rain --
she shelters mitumba clothes
with a red umbrella

~ Synaidah Kalahi

mitumba stall --
a nursing mother sorts out
a shawl from kangas

~ Brian Mulando


I have worn mitumba clothes and shoes my entire life and one thing I know for sure is that mitumba are not just anything sold as second hand.

Yes mitumba are second hand merchandise resold in the Kenyan Market but there are several attributes that set mitumba apart from new or other second hand goods.

Mitumba mostly come from western countries and are imported in bales which wholesalers buy and then sell to mostly middle-class Kenyans in retail. They include shoes, clothes, bags, curtains, bed sheets.

But even more importantly, mitumba merchandise are of good quality (original) and that, I think, sets them apart from other second hand goods.

Its worth mentioning that there is a myth in Kenya that mitumba are cheap...Well, while most mitumba products are cheap, this is not entirely true. I know a place in Gikomba Market, the biggest mitumba market in Kenya, where a mtumba shoe is far much expensive than a new shoe in the shop. And some people appreciate mitumba so much that they wont wear anything new.

Mitumba goods, unlike other second hand goods, are very unique. What I like about mitumba is that you can get a shirt that very few people have in town. In fact, my friends and I refer to any new merchandise as "Kenya Uniform" because you will find many Kenyans with the same shoe, shirt or jacket.

For instance, early last month I bought a mtumba blazer and I have been to several tailors who've all told me that I cant find a trouser of the same material and colour to match the blazer because its one of its kind.

The word "mtumba" has lately been used loosely to mean anything second hand. Nonetheless, my point is we should not forget what "mtumba" really means.

I am currently an intern with The Daily Nation Newspaper and last week my editor sent me to Kariokor where Gikomba and Ngara mitumba traders had attended a public hearing arranged by Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA).

It emerged that the government of Kenya through KURA plans to demolish almost half of these markets to pave way for construction of roads

Traders openly expressed their anger and distrust on the government plan to compensate them after demolishing their temporary stalls.Please find time to read the whole story on my blog
The Nairobi Digest - http://nairobidigest.wordpress.com

mitumba traders trickle
in the hall

mitumba traders
clap and whistle in unison--
Kariokor hearing

Caleb Mutua

Related words

***** WKD : Reference



Kibanda hut


Kibanda hut

***** Location: Kenya
***** Season: Topic
***** Category: Humanity


kibanda - stall, lean-to, cottage, cabin, booth, kiosk, etc.

large enough for several pedestrians to shelter there in the rain.

A kibanda in Kenya can be a haiku topic, but definitely not a kigo, as we have them all year round, and they are not normally built big enough to shelter several people from the rain!

Isabelle Prondzynski


kibanda hut

source : Photos of Kibanda

kibanda stall

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


under kibanda-
the incoming pedestrians
make it full

sudden shower -
I find shelter
under a kibanda

Elijah Juma

Related words

***** WKD : Reference



Japan Culture Week 2012


Japan Culture Week in Nairobi 2012
Invitation to the Haiku Clubs of Nairobi
Date: Thursday, 5 April 2012

The members of the Bamboocha and Peacocks Haiku Clubs had been looking forward to the great day with expectation and excitement. Unlike on other occasions, when the haijin had used public transport, this time the school bus was made available for them. It was one of their smoothest and most enjoyable rides from Kayole to Upper Hill, listening to music and sightseeing. The haijin were 78 students and four teachers.

It was a cloudy morning, and it had rained the previous night. This was the first rain signalling the onset of the long rains, which had come a little late this year.

On arrival at the Embassy, we were warmly and courteously welcomed. The security procedure was elaborate and rigorous, as all items were screened and deposited with the security staff. Both the haijin and teachers were amazed at these rigorous security checks. Mobile phones and cameras were not allowed into the Embassy; no photographs in or around the Embassy were allowed. We were only authorised to take photographs in the Embassy Hall.

The first session was a film about Japan, which highlighted the following areas:

-- education,
-- the economy,
-- culture,
-- international co-operation,
-- industry,
-- technology.

Preparing for the film projection

Session two was origami. It was exciting as the students were taught how to make things of different shapes by folding paper. These things ranged from animals to geometrical shapes. It was amazing to learn that it takes four days to construct a horse! After the demonstration, students were each given six papers and asked to make a cube. It was exciting even to the teachers.

I fold paper
the opposite way --

missing one step --
I assemble a wobbly

~ Patrick Wafula

Origami sheets ready

In the third session, the haijin were taught some Japanese greetings, common phrases and the numbers 1 to10. This was followed by an oral quiz to assess which haijin in the hall had been the most attentive. Most as some of the numbers, it turned out, sound like words in the English language. The haijin enjoyed finding those words and matching them with the numbers to enable them to remember the numbers better.

1: ichi (itchy)
2: ni (knee)
3: san (sun / son)
4. shi / yon: (she / yawn)

Session Four was a Japanese Love and Family Relations Film, which was very much enjoyed by all. It was about a young man called Matsuo and a girl called Izumi, and a restless, ever travelling old man called Tora, who had so many women in his life, but none for a wife, until he met Lily, an aged, but beautiful woman from an island. Izumi was in love with Matsuo, but her parents betrothed her to another man because Matsuo was jobless, but in the end, each of these couples were happily married.

dark room --
the projector’s gentle

Film projection

Lastly the haijin were allowed to tour the library and take a number of photos before boarding their bus and heading back to Eastlands. The rest of the experiences are very personal and are only revealed through the haiku and photos that accompany this write up. All the haiku were written within the Embassy.

The haijin are gratefully indebted to Isabelle Prondzynski, our Moderator, for providing the haijin with transport fare, Otinga Andrew, for organizing the St. Mathew haijin, availing the bus and providing administrative support throughout the excursion; the Japanese Embassy staff, Shemi, David and Susan for taking the haijin through all the exciting events above: David san for a very interesting origami session; Susan san for teaching the haijin Japanese greetings and numbers; and Shemi san for organizing the whole event and inviting us. Last, but not least, the entire Embassy of Japan in Nairobi for their six years of co-operation and support to the Haiku Clubs of Nairobi.

School bus waiting for the return journey


cultural show --
reflected ray from Japanese

~ Caxton Okoth

car park --
our bus enters after
a security check

~ Diana Dolla

rush --
the sliproad overloaded
with vehicles

~ Moses Nyawanga

writing haiku --
her head moves with the
grasshopper's hop

~ Flora Mbayi

origami --
colored papers litter
the grey carpet

security check --
a tweet on leaving
the glass cabinet

~ Brian Etole

origami --
I find it exciting making
colored boxes

learning lesson --
I find it hard pronouncing
Japanese words

dark clouds --
I shiver from light showers and
cool breeze

~ Brian Mulando

slippery floor --
I nearly fall but my friend
catches me

~ Winfridah Malesi

dark clouds --
an eagle flies around
the embassy aerial

~Annabel Mwendwa

dark clouds --
raindrops fall on the
happy haijin

~ John Maina

dark room --
I enjoy a Japanese
comic movie

~ Ezekiel Mbira

the end --
the Japanese movie leaves
me in suspense

~ Dennis Wright

haijins' uproar --
three dolphins dance
on water

coloured cubes
on white tables --

folding --
the yellow paper
gets torn

one bulb after
the other turns on --
roaring generator

~ Andrew Otinga

Andrew Otinga and the origami sheets

we go through
the vigorous screening...
Japan Embassy

~ Jackson Shilaho

origami --
I concentrate on making
my colorful box

~ Metrine Okalo

Japanese embassy --
a warm welcome from
the guards

~ Geoffrey Maina

coloured papers --
I struggle to make
a cube

colorful table --
students display their
finished cubes

lights off --
the start of a Japanese
cultural movie

rain drops --
rythmic mabati sound
lulls her to sleep

~ Elijah Juma

Japanese library --
she is attracted to the left

chilly noon --
trees swaying

~ Marcellina Amunze

upstairs --
he holds a flower

~ Joseph Musango

several folds --
a colourful box on
the table

embassy library --
the books arranged

~ Joshua Kaweto

colourful compound--
flowers nourishes the

~ Agness Ndinda

Japanese Embassy --
the Japanese flag sways
in the breeze

~ Mary Wanjama

a bee sucks nectar
from morning glory --
Embassy wall

rain --
morning dew shining
on the grass

~ Sylvia Mmbone

Japan Embassy --
a paved corridor roofed
with climbing plants

Japanese film --
quiet theatre as we watch
a cultural show

~ Isaac Ndirangu

shuffle of papers
as we make cubes --
silent room

~ Stephen Macharia

Japanese Library --
haijin enjoy Japanese

~ Lucy Mukuhi

jovial faces --
haijin enjoy Japanese

~ Willis Wanga

origami makes
the haijin to think --
calm room

~ Collins Omuganda

noon drizzle --
droplets fall from
a eucalyptus tree

colourful fireworks --
Japanese culture on

~ Eric Mwange

jacaranda tree --
leaves sway from side
to side

~ Irene Aluoch

students tour
the Embassy --
short break

~ Felix Kavayo

Embassy --
such a clean

~ Hillaey Shisoka

dolphins swim
and dance happily --

~ Melvine Ayako

dark room --
cheers after watching
the movie

~ Emmanuel Mutati

Japanese poem --
we understand Japanese

~ Koskei Cornelios

students squeeze
through security door --
Embassy exit

~ Consolata Akoth

haijin sit
on the grass to write haiku --
Embassy visit

~ Anonymous

cold weather --
we put on sweaters
outside the Embassy

~ Mary Njambi

haijin struggle
through the security door --
Japanese Embassy

~Victor Obutho

cold morning --
the scent of flowers
at the gate

~ Susan Njeri

flower bed --
a withered rose
falls down

~ Eunice Katiwa

echoing hall --
the haijins’ jubilation
after the movie

flower bed --
an uprooted weed lies
on the pavement

~ Gloria Kerubo


Report and photos by Patrick Wafula for Kenya Saijiki

Related words

. Japane Culture Week 2008 .



Mini Haiku Walk


Kenya Saijiki Mini Ginko

11 February 2012

Report by
Patrick Wafula, Andrew Otinga and Caleb Mutua

On Saturday 11 February 2012, the haiku clubs of two schools, Bahati Secondary School (the “Bambochas”) and St. Mathew Secondary School (the “Peacocks”) converged for a mini ginkoo at St. Mathew Secondary School’s Soweto campus.

The interaction was in the afternoon, after the student haijin had finished their Saturday tuition. The Patrons of the haiku clubs (Patrick sensei, Otinga san and Caleb san) were there to provide guidance and to allow the student haijin to interact freely and write haiku together.

Ø Brief talks from club Patrons
Ø Brief talks from the clubs’ representatives
Ø Five senses of observation
Ø February Shiki Kukai competition
Ø Message from Kenya Saijiki Moderator

Caleb san, assisted by Peacock club representatives, helped arrange the venue and led the introduction part as the students waited for Patrick sensei and Otinga san. When the two patrons arrived at the venue, Caleb san invited Patrick sensei, who was running late for another meeting, to officially start the first Mini Kukai of this year.

Patrick sensei expressed his satisfaction with the performance of the students in the Kenya Saijiki Forum. He also thanked the Moderator of the forum and Gabi sensei for their continued participation in the Saijiki. He then proceeded to share with the students the programme and activities the Patrons had outlined for this term. Among other things were two meetings each month between the two schools and continuous discussions on the progress of the students.

Five senses of observation

Patrick sensei explained how to use the five senses of observation when observing and writing haiku -- this was after Otinga san had asked him to help his students because he had observed that most Peacocks wrote most of their haiku based on their sense of sight.

Each haijin was asked to write down each of the five senses and descriptive words that go with each sense. The haijin were then asked to bring the list with them to the outdoor activity fieldwork scheduled later in afternoon. He elaborated this by writing two desk haiku on the sense of hearing and the sense of taste.

Mr. Otinga was next. As the host, he began by welcoming the audience to St. Mathew Secondary School and asking them to feel at home. He then thanked the students for beginning the year with fervour and zest. He said he was impressed with the improvements the students had made and thanked the Moderator for her comments on the haijin’s haiku. He stressed that these comments had helped the students a lot. He also thanked Patrick sensei for taking it upon himself to give detailed responses on questions about the five senses. He hoped the haijin would make a habit of using the other senses as well as the sense of sight.

He thanked sensei for his devotion and asked to be excused from teaching haiku because he believed he still had a lot to learn. However, he asked both Patrick sensei and Caleb san to allow him accompany them every time they alternatingly went for haiku discussions. He finished by inviting remarks from all club representatives from both schools.

Club representatives were brief with their congratulatory presentations thanking their patrons and club members for the support they have been receiving.

Caleb was the last to speak. His presentation was based on a message from the Moderator of Kenya Saijiki, Ms. Isabelle Prondzynski. He read to the audience some of the latest comments from the Moderator. He underscored to the students the need to keep the words that “belong” together in the same line (together).

He wrote on the blackboard some of the haiku which the moderator had suggested that their author of those haiku rewrite by putting words that “belong” together in the same line. The meeting was closed and students proceeded to Soweto Stage where there is a market for groceries and fruit.


Mini Ginkoo

Haijin converged at Soweto Stage Market a few minutes past 2pm. Caleb and Mr. Andrew Otinga reminded the haijin to take a keen interest in plums and mangos, being the current kigo.

Late lunch
After the ginkoo, the haijin went to a famous café called Babylon Kitchen where they brushed up their poems over a late lunch.

On behalf of the clubs, Mr. Otinga sincerely thanked Patrick sensei for offering to buy all the haijin present at the ginkoo some snacks. He termed him a cheerful giver.

After the lunch, he patrons closed the kukai and thanked all the haijin who had given their time to make the event a success.

Recommendations and Conclusions
1. Patrons and club representatives concluded that haijin had started the year well.

2. Club representatives from Bahati acknowledged that some of their haijin had not been serious haiku poets and promised a change for the better.

3. Both patrons and haijin concluded that smell of urine is a kigo for the hot dry season because even though the smell of urine is there all year round, during the hot dry season the stench is increased because of the heat.

4. Club patrons concluded that the next ginkoo will involve haijin from St. Mathew Secondary School (Kangundo Road branch).


Patrick sensei also submitted his own poems :

morning sunrays —
our hen pecks at itself
in the mirror

shouts of goal —
a trail of dust follows
the polythene ball

Compiled by Caleb Mutua
© Kenya Saijiki

© Photos : Isabelle Prondzynski

Related words

***** The Haiku Clubs of Nairobi



Valentine's Day Kenya


St Valentine’s Day (Valentine’s Day, Valentine)

***** Location: Kenya
***** Season: Hot dry season
***** Category: Observance


Despite the little knowledge about its origin, the majority of Kenyans, especially the urban folks, believe Valentine to be the celebration of love. The colour red is the predominant mark for this day, and it is exhibited in flowers and clothes.

In Nairobi, St. Valentine's Day is highly commercialised. Flower, clothes, shoe and other accessory vendors and supermarkets, as well as hawkers, capitalise on this occasion and stock red coloured Valentine's items at strategic points to attract customer attention. Since red roses are expensive and in short supply, traders substitute them with plastic ones. Husbands and wives buy each other gifts and flowers and they dress in red; so do lovers. Couples go out to exclusive joints to spend a romantic moment together. Restaurants, hotels, pubs and resorts are decorated in red and special entertainments and menus are prepared to match their clients' needs.

The best climax about St Valentine's Day however is the renewal of love vows and re-affirming love and faithfulness to each other in our relationships.

A whirl of red synthetic roses with a bottle of grape drink

Text and photo © Patrick Wafula


This year, 2012, I was amazed by the ingenuity of Nairobi business people with regard to St. Valentine’s Day. This time round they went a notch higher with the Valentine affair. To start with, a couple of days prior to St. Valentine’s Day, they put up flower tents on almost every major street in the city centre. The flower tents were complete with smartly dressed sales people; the red flowers, which are usually synthetic (plastic), were this time round mingled with real fresh red roses. Secondly, to make it even more fabulous, the flowers were wrapped along with other beautiful gifts such as red teddy bears, chocolate, ribbons, or small, cute traditional reed baskets. The prices varied depending on the package. A whirl of real red roses cost as much as Kshs. 1,200. A teddy bear could even cost Kshs 2,000.

The supermarkets too were more creative. They set up Valentine stands right in the entrances, all shrouded in red. They offered very attractive Valentine packages with alluring gifts. All packages
included at least a red flower and ribbons. But some packages contained not just flowers and beautiful wrappings, but red wine, hot chocolate and huge teddy bears with fantastic love messages, such as “I am Thinking of You, My Thoughts Are Inside,” scribbled across them. A gift wrap with a bottle of wine, sweets and a chocolate bar cost around Kshs. 1,300.

Valentine’s Day stand at Tuskey’s, Moi Avenue

Nairobi city centre last evening was engulfed in romantic shopping sprees with supermarkets remaining open up to 9.00pm to serve their ravenous Valentine clientele. Hawkers too, strategically positioned all around the city, were making a kill; they sold the flowers and gifts at a more reduced price than the supermarkets.

Kenyans may not be as romantic as Nigerians, but I can assure you, they are pretentiously romantic: during day time, they harbour severe faces and religious behaviours, but at night, as darkness descends over the land, they turn vivacious, lascivious and openly romantic.

Valentine —
a red ribbon fluttering
on a matatu mirror

Moi Avenue —
an abandoned
red plastic flower

Text, haiku and photo © Patrick Wafula


Unusually for a saint, St Valentine’s Day is not usually celebrated in church. The reason is that he lived so long ago, that no one is quite sure whether the stories about his life are true, or whether they have grown over the centuries without there being a firm basis of truth. On the other hand, when St Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday, the churches usually take the opportunity to talk about love, loyalty and faithfulness to one's partner.

It is to find red roses in Nairobi on St Valentine’s Day. Kenya produces the greatest number of roses exported in the world, many of which are red, and almost all of which come from around Lake Naivasha. But as the export trade is so strong for red roses around St Valentine's Day, there are usually insufficient of them left for Kenya itself! Every night, there are several Jumbo Jets flying out of Nairobi, loaded with nothing but flowers (mostly roses, as it happens)...

loading the plane --
surrounded by the scent
of St Valentine's

With its huge variety of other offerings in red, Kenya has truly made St Valentine's Day its very own festival.

Preparing an arrangement of red roses at City Market, Nairobi

Text, haiku and photo © Isabelle Prondzynski

Worldwide use

WKD : Valentine's Day 2012

Things found on the way


In Nairobi ’s Kayole / Soweto slums where I live and work, February is usually a dry dusty month full of dusty breezes. But the sunrises are gloriously splendid. You wake up guaranteed a golden orange sun and an azure-blue sky. But on 14 February 2009, I celebrated a unique Valentine like none other I had ever had. I dated a person living with HIV/AIDS.

Valentine’s day--
red roses displayed
on dusty roadsides

17: 05 hours: I did not know what could be the best gift for my date as I closed and locked my office. I started off to our rendezvous — her flat. It was a lovely evening with a cool breeze sweeping across Soweto slum, mildly stirring up a little dust here and there, and sometimes a whole litter of polythene bags floated in the dark blue evening sky. Most of the young cute-looking people I met on the streets were either fully or half dressed in something red or at least had something red tagged somewhere on their cloth.

students crowding
a lush red coloured stall —
Valentine’s cards

Romanticism was slowly enveloping Kayole and Soweto slums in the twilight; the boldness of the uniformed students in pairs bargaining for Valentine Cards and gifts that were variously and creatively designed to offer variety totally mesmerized me; this scenario pushed me a notch higher on the Valentine Richter Scale. I was pressed for time. Not only was I required to accomplish my date with Miss L. (not her real name -- names are not mentioned here for confidentiality reasons), but I was also required to take my wife out on a date to Nyama Villa and later throw a late night family party with for our three daughters Faith, Esther and Liz.

Valentine ballads —
nostalgia for memories past
burns me up

Let me tell you more about my work. I work in a community secondary school based in Nairobi ’s Kayole Soweto slum. The school has a mixed population of both boys and girls of about 600 students aged between 13 and 18. But sometimes we receive extraordinary and unusual students not only in age, but also in background and experience. Some are aged over twenty and some are just below twenty but their experiences are flabbergasting. The oldest student we have ever received was Master R who was aged twenty-six in 2005. Master R completed his KCSE examination in 2008 and is now a teacher.

In fact, our school is a very special centre that mends broken dreams, lives, brains, hopes and hearts. For the seven years I have worked here, though, the year 2009 was an exceptional year for me. For the first time, we had two students, Miss M and Miss D sitting their KCSE exams with distended blessings in their wombs. And for the first time, we also had two students living with HIV/AIDS in our midst. They were Miss B and W. Of course I do not imply that we have never had teenage pregnancies in our school before; far from it. In fact, we do have them every year, even though our statistics for the last five years—2005-2009—show a sharp decline. The fact is that in 2009 we did not treat these cases in the usual tradition of expelling and stigmatizing. Instead, we showed sensitivity, understanding and moral as well as psychological support. We advised them to sit their exams and sternly cautioned all the other students against any form of discrimination and stigmatization. The question that triggered this was:

“Why haven’t we, as a society, ever expelled or stigmatized the boys or men who usually impregnate these girls? Why should the girls carry the burden of pregnancy alone, while the boy or man with whom they shared the pleasure of pro-creating is allowed to go on with his life totally uninterrupted?”

she is too large
to fit in between the desk —
her distended tummy

Thank God for our Government for endorsing this new policy. The girls can now sit their exams even if they are pregnant!

she tells a female teacher
that she’s older than her —
student mother

Our school also broke the record among community schools in 2009 for allowing two student mothers to study and sit their KCSE exams. The most outstanding was Miss E, who had been forcibly married off at the age of 16, due to poverty in their family. She had with much difficulty given birth to two children by the time we caught up with her in her matrimony. With the help of the authorities, we managed to extricate her from the abusive marriage. She joined our centre in 2007 and successfully sat for her KCSE exams in 2009. She had dropped out in Form 2. She had come to the centre with a broken heart, body and brain, as well as spirit, but she left the centre a healed, pretty girl in specs. She was very close to my wife.

sharing SMSes
from her ex-husband—
student mother

Generally, our students are the most beautiful-looking in the whole slum. With their resplendent uniforms and proud looks and posture, they usually attract so many others to the school. But underneath these beautiful faces and uniforms, are resilient spirits who have fought all forms of social and economic evils: drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, abject poverty, sex abuse and molestation, domestic violence and child labour. The year 2009 was also extraordinary because we had admitted the two students living with HIV/AIDS.

18:10 hours: At the market stall, I struggled undecidedly with Valentine’s cards and gifts to buy for my date. The cards and gifts, although all in red, differed in size, decorations and material and hence the variation in prices. In the background, ballads, vehicle honks and the usual market din and the hawkers’ monotonous sales slogans and stories blared on. I finally settled for a small but cute Valentine’s gift for Miss L. It was a nicely woven traditional basket made from wild date palm reeds. It had a huge fully bloomed red plastic rose at the centre with red ribbons fluttering all around the red rose and the basket. There was a simple love message scribbled on a rectangular paper glued to the side of the basket:

To Someone very SPECIAL,
On this Valentine :

Thinking of you : Valentine’s chocolates

18:30 Hours: It was getting dark and twilight was fading into night, but colourful lights kept shooting into life from all buildings around, thus brightening the night. Night clubs, pubs and all entertainment joints were Valentine red in lighting and decoration.

I arrived at Miss L’s flat and knocked on the door. It was a high-rise building with several other tenants in it. As I stood outside her door waiting for it to be opened, I noticed that it was smeared with several stickers, all carrying HIV/AIDS messages. But the most outstanding sticker was the one with the President holding hands in a tight circle with people of all ages, classes and religions. And the poignant message on it was:


“Let us unite

to eradicate

I read this message over and over again as I waited for the door to be opened. Soon there was a click and the door opened. And before me, a beautifully dressed lady in jeans trousers, open shoes and red T-shirt, stood before me in the light-flooded sitting room, smiling sweetly, but her eyes were sad and lonely. That was Miss L. She had done a lot for the community — rescuing girls and women who suffered from HIV/AIDS stigmatization and discrimination. Our school had formed a network with her organization for the same reason; she had been the first girl in this part of Nairobi to publicly declare her HIV status.

I held the gift out to her and watched as pleasant shock and surprise engulfed her; she pouted the surprise. I silenced her with a hearty embrace and two pecks on both cheeks. The light that sparkled in her dark lonely eyes as she whispered:

“Do you mean you love me this much?” made my Valentine.
“Yes,” I said, “You deserve much much more. You have made a difference in so many lives here.” We released each other. “But I’m afraid I won’t stay. I’m taking my wife out to Nyama Villa and we have a family party later to-night.”
“I’m so grateful you thought of me, Pat. You’ve made my Valentine.”
“Don’t mention it”, I said and kissed her Happy Valentine.

Valentine’s date
with a HIV/AIDS person--
the radiance in her eyes

a red night

of eating chicken and dancing jazz —
dating my wife

church flower garden --

two little girls exchanging
red hibiscus flowers

~ Haibun and photo © Patrick Wafula


St Valentine’s Day --
today the computer
is my only love

St Valentine’s Day --
all the church finery
for a wedding

St Valentine’s Day --
the church warden mourns
his late wife

Valentine’s Day --
a lovers’ quarrel going
round and round my head

Valentine's Day --
who may be thinking of me
right now?

~ Isabelle Prondzynski

from Japan, with KitKat chocolate

Valentine's Day -
I send you a sweet

~ Gabi Greve


Valentine's day --
a girl's red tongue licks
a red ice cream

~ Dennis Wright

red flowers --
the leftovers colour
the market

~ Peninah Wanjiru

Valentine's day --
she covers her neck
with a red scarf

~ Ezekiel Mbira

sudden odour --
I stare at the roses
in the market

~ Meg Ndinda


A traditional reed basket full of Valentine’s Day gifts
Photo © Patrick Wafula


Valentine --
a little girl undusts
her fallen flowers

red decorations
on the pear vendor’s wheelbarrow --
Valentine’ Day

youthless church
for the morning service --
Valentine’s Day

~ Hussein Haji

a couple kiss
across the bus station--
Valentine’s day

~ Kelvin Mukoselo

Soweto market --
loudspeakers advertise
Valentine products

Valentine’s morning --
vendors arrange flowers
in the wheelbarrow

Valentine’s day --
a flower hawker whistles
from door to door

~ Caleb Mutua

Valentine’s card --
some sweet melody plays
in the pub

a chocolate pack
in heart-printed wrappers --
Valentine’s gift

Valentine’s Day --
bouquets of red roses
displayed in the shops

~ Gladys Kathini

Valentine's Day --
people in red clothes on their way
carrying flowers

~ Samuel Ndung'u

in a red suit
a man carrying flowers --
language of love

~ Raymond Otieno

stout lady
clutching red roses
clad in red

twenty bob each!
shouts a jovial hawker --
red bouquets

~ Catherine Njeri Maina

people in red
laughing and cheering in the pub --
Valentine’s night

~Walter Otieno


Teddy bears for a Valentine!
Photo © Patrick Wafula

waiters in red
serving red wine --
Valentine's Day

couples in red
cluster around flower stalls --
red twilight

a couple quarrelling
over Valentine SMSes --
sulky faces

form one students
asking the English teacher --
what is Valentine

Muthurwa --
hawkers of Valentine’s gifts
block the pathways

Luthuli Avenue --
broken roses scattered
at zebra crossings

Valentine’s Eve --
the shoe vendor's stall
gradually turns red

~ Patrick Wafula

Related words

***** WKD : Valentine's Day 2012



urine smell


Smell of urine

***** Location: Kenya
***** Season: Hot dry season
***** Category: Humanity


The smell of urine can qualify as a hot dry season kigo since this season, between December and March, makes the smell more concentrated, hence the very pervasive pungent smell.

There is a notorious urine spot in Nairobi's otherwise impeccable city centre. It is along Moi Avenue in the flowerbeds, particularly behind the lone wild palm tree. There is a zebra crossing right there and a bus park for Route 34 before the flowerbeds. Now, sometimes when the buses are so closely parked, the urinating goes on even in broad daylight between or behind the buses. But most of the polluters are the nocturnal revellers who come of the nightclubs such as Florida 2000, Samba and several others along the street.

Patrick Wafula

Haile Selassie Avenue with its
bougainvillea hedge running down the centre

Photo © Isabelle Prondzynski


Urine smell should only be used as a kigo under certain circumstances, that is when it emanates from places where we do not normally expect it, but which at times are used by dissenting pedestrians or nocturnal city revellers. Due to too much heat at this time of year, its components tend to dry, leaving a concentrated pungent smell to roam the air.
When the rains set in, they will wash the urine along with its torrents, hence we expect little of that bad smell.

Andrew Otinga


In Nairobi city centre during the peak of the hot dry season, the smell of urine can hit the pedestrian in places where this does not normally happen. This is of course due to the constantly dry weather. All those hidden corners that have been used secretly by men to urinate in, have not been washed clean by the rain, and so, the smell develops and hits the nostrils.

And so, the "smell of urine" can be a kigo for the hot dry season.

It is important to note though that, as the great majority of Kenyans use pit latrines, it is almost impossible, at any time of year, to eliminate the smell of urine from those parts of the city and the country where pit latrines are in use, but not ventilated and kept entirely clean.

Even so, the smell of urine is stronger, more frequent, more present, in the hot dry season. The kigo focuses on just the smell -- especially if this smell is found in places that one would not normally expect to smell of urine...

Isabelle Prondzynski

Worldwide use

The smell of urine seems to be a topic in other parts of the world.


. Pissing (shooben 小便) .

ichinaka wa mono no nioi ya natsu no tsuki

Throughout the town
above the welter of smelly things
the summer moon

Bonchoo, Tr. Miner

how hot it is, how hot it is
says a voice at every house gate

Basho, Tr. Miner

Discussion by Larry Bole

Things found on the way

Ventilated Improved Pit Latrines (VIP Latrines)
do not smell. They have a small pipe or funnel taking the odours from the pit, so that this smells perfectly clean provided it is kept clean by the owner.

Freshly built VIP Latrine
Photo © Isabelle Prondzynski


city centre --
the smell of urine
meets my nose

Busy city centre, Nairobi

Haiku and photo © Isabelle Prondzynski


blocked urinal --
he holds his nose

Sylvester Mutuku

- Kenya Haiku with Urinal -

- Kenya Haiku with Urine -

Related words

***** . Pissing (shooben 小便) .