Interviews for the next Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya just ended. One of the interviewees mentioned how they had made a tremendous effort to ensure that at least each rural household that they encountered in a certain region had a mabati (iron sheet) roof.

We are thoroughly colonized my friends.

There is a reason why traditional African architecture mainly used earth for construction and grass thatch for roofing. Climate.

We are smack on top of the equator (or the equator is right on top of us; under us; passes right through us?). This means that we pretty much experience hot weather for most of the year. The sun is our friend. We love the sun. Us, Africans, and the sun have a good relationship. Sunscreen? What is that?

Hence the need for constructing houses that consider such climatic conditions. Earthen (mud, cob, etc) houses are quite effective in temperature regulation. The house slowly takes in heat during the day, ensuring that the interior does not get too hot. By evening, when outside temperatures drop, the house will be heated, meaning you will have warm temperatures inside the house at night. This is the same effect provided by use of grass thatching.

Compare this to a mabati house. I’ve lived in a mabati house for a couple of years and I can testify that on hot days, staying inside is unbearable. Most times, I’ll be forced to rid myself of most of my clothing save for a pair of shorts or boxers. Same thing during cold weather, when it feels as though the mabati sheets are invisible barriers, readily letting in all the cold from outside.

The only reason we hype up mabati structures in Kenya is because we believe they are more ‘modern’ and ‘humane’ than the traditional mud and grass thatched houses. Rather than modernize the construction process of such earthen houses, we instead swiftly abandoned such ‘archaic’ architecture for the modern construction methodologies.

We need to embrace our own.

We need to go back to our roots.

Our roost suited us well…all we needed to do was reflect them in line with the current age. This reminds me of practices such as initiation. We all unequivocally agree that Female Genital Mutilation is wrong, and should be completely abolished. Yesterday. However, in initiation, FGM was only one piece of the pie. There was a whole ceremony and culture surrounding it involving teaching of morals, customs, traditions and other elements that prepared the young girl for life as an adult member of society. We however banned FGM and inadvertently killed off all the other positive aspects of the initiation ceremony.

The same case applies to males. Many are still circumcised in the modern age, albeit in medical facilities under a healthy dose of anesthesia and/or pain-numbing medication. Great. But why focus on the circumcision if all the other aspects of the initiation are ignored. Of what use is cutting someone’s foreskin if it hardly reflects on the values and teachings that the particular individual will carry with them onwards?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s