, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 6 – They came out in their Sunday best; their fabrics shiny to match the shiny new Maendeleo Chap Chap office whose opening they were present to witness at Kim’s Court, a residential development on Lenana Road turned into office space.
They milled around patiently as the organisers worked to secure a banner, with Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua’s face on it, off one of the terraces.
They remained patient as a security guard worked to clean the premises, a desk was carried in and as purple, blue and red balloons were hang over the door and ribbons tied into a bow stretched across it.
Then it was time to get them ready. The Master of Ceremony had them stand shoulder to shoulder in two lines across from each other all the way from the gate to the Maendeleo Chap Chap Nairobi branch entrance. Then he got down to warming them up, they would after all need to be amped up to pull off a rapturous welcome when the time came. “Even in death there are rehearsals,” he said into a microphone.
And so with their handbags slung over their shoulders, he got them dancing first to a song that sung Mutua’s praises, then to Esther Wahome’s Tutapaa kama tai (We shall soar on wings like eagles) before winding things down with a Kamba song done in the fashion of Lingala music.
But the Wahome song, he made clear, is what would be played when Mutua finally arrived and made his way, through them, to the Maendeleo Chap Chap office.
And when that moment arrived, no notification was necessary; the ululations could be heard from down the road and just as they had been instructed, the mothers, daughters and wives, began clapping, “pigeni makofi ya kilo,” they’d been told – three claps in quick succession followed by the words, “chap, chap, chap,” instead of the original “nyayo.”
When Mutua eventually made his way to the ribbon tied across the door, arm raised over his head as he waved at his adoring crowd, the group of gathered women launched into, “Mwanamberi Mutua,” a twist on the traditional Abaluhya number.