My mum moved to Mombasa, and I tagged along to help her settle in. But as usual, the worst part is finding a place to stay. After hustle, we ended up at Mtwapa.
For a while I was in denial that was going to be home. As most of the larger populations that have another image of Mtwapa of the copious amounts of sex trade that happens. Clearly my mother had never heard of them when she enthusiastically said ‘WE ARE MOVING TO MTWAPA”. Naturally because in her social circles, the topics we discuss would barely pop in their vocabulary.
But on the first day, the reality of why I was shy to move there, became clearer, especially to her. We had a free show, which of course had not paid for. As we were walking out to head to town, we met the diva herself. Now, I am not opposed to wearing short garments, I love them too. Infarct I love them so much that I thank every designer who makes them, but on other hand some garments are for specific occasion. I assumed its occasion was for the bedroom. However, I am not male, so perhaps the outfit was not designed to impress me, I am sure. I therefore withhold my opinion to self.
Though still, let me describe the outfit. It ended no sooner had it begun. It was brown in colour, a dark brown dress, that is the height of a T-shirt. The said woman was of equal colour, which means that from far it appeared as though she hadn’t any. Oi, that is where my mum’s eyes looked like they were going to drop on the floor. And the shape of her mouth changed in to an ovally shaped frown, saying “Girls these days” For which I find too funny. I always watch out for my mothers reactions, they are always priceless.
This was not the only episode where we had a generous view of “naked” people, in my mothers words. She uses the word naked for literally every clothing. She even asks me why am I walking naked when I wear another blue short, for which she made me stop wearing as she perceives that outfit as utter nudity. So this continued over exposure was not working for her too well, then she became paranoid.
Sooner than later, we could not have any decent conversation without her telling me to whisper. I could not even talk about weaves for fear that if anyone heard as talking about weaves we would be assumed to be working. WHAT ON EARTH COULD WE TALK ABOUT WITHOUT WHISPERING? I wondered. So I ended up telling her, that she needed to accept me for my loud voice, if at all we are to ever have any conversation.
Anyway, I started adjusting faster than she did. She kept telling the Caretaker we are leaving until the care taker one day asked us “Kwani hamuendi”. I think her culture shock took much longer. Infarct when my brother called her, she never called it home, she called it “This place” Me on the other hand had found the most homely place to be. Coast is amazing and so beautiful that I just thought this was part of the flavor. From a time when I was slightly whispering when asked where I live, to a time that I had taken time to research it’s history. Though I must admit for the while that I lived there, I never wore any short or tight garments,I wore maxis 24/7 and huge T-shirts and baggy jeans, that I shall not be mistaken to be in business. At least that, I had to make clear.Though that was certainly extremly challenging.
Curious to know though how “this place”, as my mother puts it, came to be. How did it acquire this image yet the larger populations was not all about prostitution. Actually Mtwapa on one hand is one of the fast growing economies of Kilifi county, besides being the main party joint. It is one of the few towns that never sleep, you will get from a party at 2:00 AM loads of people still on the road. It is safe, and you will always find Boda bodas to take you home.
Yes, “the business” is real even as early as 7:00 pm, you see tiny girls in tiny clothes in big shoes, and oi and the numerous grandpa daddies very tempting, but the larger population is just everyday professionals and local inhabitants going on with their everydayness, trapped in an image that may take a while to clear, for the repeated stories that keep being shared of “this place”.
This place that I had actually come to find extremely fascinating. How the long walk from the bus stop would comprise of sinking in the sand. And shortening distances would be of taking Boda bodas to the house when late. Always refusing to sit my legs parted would always make the Boda boda guy amused. I would hold on to their stomachs like my life depended on it. I enjoyed every bit of it, until when we did eventually say goodbye to the village. The town that certainly never sleeps with music from every direction and full of life.
However, with more other stories of” this place”, the story may change. Of other recreational facilities and trade and a life that goes on day and night. As Chimamanda puts it; there is need to tell, the other side of the story that often is not told.
Mtwapa is a historical town of Swahili people. Many retired white settlers especially from Europe came and find home here. They have created economies in this place. As a result many young ladies found their way in pursuit of greener pastures through association, and some that association has been sex trade, which irrevocable is the Koinage of Mombasa.
The name Mtwapa comes from a swahili word “Mtu wa hapa” meaning one from here, or one who lives among us. This was given as a name to the many immigrants that had come to live here, and permitted to stay. The name was to show that they had been accepted as – Mtu wa hapa. This would prevent the outsiders from being ostracized. And this here, is what makes Mtwapa one of the most diverse regions in the country as well.