Writing Sunsets

Michael Onsando
17 April ,2018

Suppose I wanted to write about a sunset. How would I do that? Would I begin by describing the colours? The smell? The sounds? I ask because I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to start this essay and the most apparent way was to write about a sunset. But how would one go about writing about a sunset without making it seem like they were writing about another banal thing. Even if it were the most fantastic sunset that they had seen – it would still be another banal thing to write about, because we know, as a thing, that the sun will set – fantastically beautifully at times too.

“They are here.”

Little has to be said after that. We will remember Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

A fragment of something I’ve been failing at writing:

I miss my grandfather. In many ways I imagine this is when our relationship would have been strongest. United by a common misunderstanding of the world. Except he’d lean towards hope – and I to despair, or the other way round. Maybe this is a romanticisation – it is the only thing you can do to someone who only lives through fragments of memory.

This is not a tribute.

“She will forever be revered and remembered as a social worker, a consummate leader of our Struggle, a mother not only to her daughters but to us all and, most important, our firebrand shero.”

Maybe only a little.

Another in a series of notable deaths:

“As folks mourn Matiba, it must not be forgotten that he was one of that class of Kenyans who used public office to enrich themselves; and while he did take a brave stand for multipartyism, it was he who wrecked the original FORD, condemning us to an extra decade of Nyayo.”

As the sun sets on the independence generation and we see icons fall to nature (rather than to the other brutal ways in which we have seen icons fall) we are pressed every day to see the world through their lenses. Increasingly we are forced to ask ourselves – is this the world for which was fought and bled?

And, in holding ourselves to this light we find ourselves returning to the vision of freedom.

“You need to talk to Kenyans, explaining why you did this [deal] and what is the objective of it all. And this must not be about power-sharing”

To remember that freedom is a negotiation. And that the question on freedom must be asked to all. And that the answer, in truth, will always be complicated. And, because we know it is complicated, we know we must ask – for to ask is to interrogate further towards the truth. Because we know that those that lead us can, and will, let us down.

We look at ourselves – the ones who were supposed to be free. And we find ourselves still unfree despite it all. Despite an entire generation having gone past.

“But what do you know of the freedom that you seek?”

Now one can ask – but what is freedom? Well, freedom is a multi-faceted concept. Just like oppression, freedom is custom made. So to that question one responds “fees must fall” and another responds “repeal 162” and so forth and so forth. But freedom is not something that is given to you. And so the paradox – of being told you are the free and yet feeling unfree.

It is this space between where we are and what is free that their vision allows us to see. In holding ourselves to a nation that could only be dreamed, we see the places where our reality just fails to live up.

Still, even as we hold ourselves to these visions (and pursue accurate representations through research, debate and google) we must remember that these dreams were also just dreams for a time. And that we need to also actively shape what we have for a future that might not look like where we are coming from (despite moi era alarmists. The alarm might be necessary, but the moi distracts).

We are not afraid of the darkness, we trust that the moon shall guide us.”

Which is why I ask about a sunset. Like death, we know there will be a sunset tomorrow. And so to write about it would be to say, “This thing. This thing that we knew was going to happen. It has happened, as things happen. Except this time; it was fucking beautiful.’

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