Outrage & Toxicity

This is not a work of fiction.  Sometimes shit gets very real.

 

In light of what happened to Ivy Wangechi and what has been happening to women for a while now. 

 

Three years ago when I still had my studio at Kuona Trust, a boda-boda operator used to stalk me. I used to walk then or ride my bicycle. This guy used to operate near Kuona Trust where they sell fruits. (his name is Moseh). He had carried me home once. He then started showing up at the studios and because some artists used him for rides, at first I thought he was coming to drop or pick someone. But the glances and random appearances of him especially whenever I showed up early really unsettled me. On numerous occasions as I walked, I could have sworn he was following me on his bike. He’d have a helmet on but I could sense it was him. I never used to talk to him but somehow he got my number & started calling me. I told him off but he continued. So I stopped picking his calls. He started using a different number. Once I realized this I ignored that as well. He got other numbers. At this point I couldn’t pick up any calls if it was an unknown number. I stopped walking and riding my bike and changed my route & hours of going to work & coming home.

 

It is then that he started sending me texts. You know the kind of texts I mean. A text or several almost every day around 1am. I should probably report him to the police you’re thinking. I had blocked all his numbers & he had stopped showing up at work…until one afternoon I decided to just walk home. You know, it’s broad daylight and it’s a busy road I thought.  He must have seen me because he proceeded to run up to me and insisted on escorting me. It is here that actual fear engulfed me. I stood there and with the most stern face I could muster told him I would scream if he tried to follow me. He turned back, amused, but I was in shakes.

 

The first people I told were 2 male artists at the studio and one of them actually laughed & said, Naeza ona vile unaeza-stalkiwa. (I can see how you can be stalked).

 

It became a joke and the impression was that I should take it as a compliment. A few weeks passed with no sightings nor contact from him & I kinda relaxed though never attempted to walk again. Then his texts reappeared more aggressively. I was not going to sit around & wait anymore. I filed an official complaint to the director (female) because I wanted him banned from coming to the work place at the very least. I still thought of going to the police but I wanted some backup. So we decided to first confront him. I also insisted on this because I felt like I needed everyone to see what I’d been dealing with. It had been over a month since I had actually talked to him. To set the plan in motion, this time I approached another (male) artist who used to be ferried to work by the stalker. I told him what had been going on & what I had planned & asked him if he could come with the guy the next morning and get him to enter the gate so that we could ambush him. He agreed.

 

The next day his response was, Niliona hiyo ni mambo yenu nikaona nisiingililie. (I figured that was your business so I decided not to interfere).

 

With all the triggers in the world, I ended up eventually calling the guy the next day pretending that I needed him to take me somewhere. He was mad excited to finally hear from me after so long. The plan worked & I managed to lure him into the directors office where now suddenly other mens had gathered. To confirm my story? To defend my honour? To fight the guy? To watch?

 

Here’s the thing though, when confronted this guy didn’t even bother denying shit. If anything he told them they were interfering in his and mines business. Sound familiar? This he said while extending his arm towards me as if to touch me. Shudder. No fear whatsoever.  We were like six people in that room against a ni**a.  At one point he did get up all fists & flustered, ready to fight. He was banned from ever entering the space and contacting me and we made him delete my number. It was decided we shouldn’t involve the police afterall because he promised not to do it again. I know, I know. So he’s still out there. He’s never contacted me. He didn’t get me, but he’ll get someone else. If he hasn’t already.

 

Ivy Wangechi was hacked to death by a man using a fucking axe in full view of the public. A man who knew her & had extensively stalked her over the years. A man who travelled some 300+kms to go find her at her university as she sat for her exams and kill her for rejecting his advances.  My god.  My god.  This story brought me chills. We just marched last month against femicide! Do you know how many women need to die in order to organize a fucking march? The answer should be zero. But Ivy is part of a dizzying statistic of 30+ women who have since died in the hands of men since January 2019. It’s just April. We speak out, we ignore, we remain silent, we plead, we hide, we change routes, we change addresses, we reduce ourselves, we show you proof, we ask for help… Trash, men are. Fucking trash.

 

I’m sharing this because over the years I have reprimanded myself severely for not being more vocal /more bold & not going to the police at the very first sign of stalking. We are so lacking & terribly silent as Kenyan visual artists in these greater conversations of violence, harassment, freedom, safety, care & accountability. Our spaces are toxic. TOXIC. There are and will always be hordes of male artists feministing left, right & center, taking up space, quoting Hooks, Toni & our dear Lorde to affirm their wokeness & solidarity. ni**a die.

 

What happened to our sense of outrage?

 

Make. It. Your. Fucking. Business. To. Ensure. Womxns. Safety.