Rangi Ya Bahari – Four


Shakwe dropped from his perch, wings a thrumming of urgent beats to stay aloft snatching the spicy fritter offered at the end of Ativa’s outstretched arm. The toe of one web-foot hooked the red and black bracelet Ativa had tied around her wrist sending a scattering of beans and seeds that bounced and skipped about the smooth stone porch and into the house and into the street and into the frothy grey flow of the rough stone gutter.

Ativa stared at the naked threads …but I am fearless …then her thoughts interrupted, words for Shakwe caught in her throat, enchanting verses of adhan from the Riyadha mosque forced recollection. …it’s time, the market …and as she loaded a wooden barrow and secured the ill-fitting harness to Punda’s ever-nodding head, Ativa’s aunt knowing the young girl, reminded her well.

“…go straight …market …no stopping …feeding …and make sure …Ativa are you! …and to school …no.

But the words that reached Ativa were not her aunt’s, but the weighty caw of the crow that then gently swelled full to a siren’s song. Head full of dreams she had already set sail in her own secret world where she was Shah Rukh Khan, a flamboyant hero, a dramatic sea rescue, some long-lost archipelago showered in song, dance and colour.

Their musky odor reminded and the acrid fragrance of urine hung in the spaces between the stone walls that separated earth and sky leading from one end of the maze to the other. Some three thousand donkeys lived and worked on the island and now Punda joined the caravan of carts and flat-bed wagons in a stream of early morning commerce, a life’s blood that lead to the heart of Lamu. Ativa knew most of them on sight, had fed the tired and neglected with fresh produce from the back of her own family cart, but of the striped legs of the ass before her now she had no recollection.


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