Volume 5, Issue 2, 2007 (25)
By: John Sibi-Okumu
A Wind Of Change
Rest assured that Zahid Rajan, our Executive Director, is still alive and well and living in the city. However, at a recent editorial team meeting we decided, amongst other resolutions to be evoked further on, to adopt such initiatives as might point to the fact that AWAAZ is, and always has been, a collaborative effort. To this end, having a different spokesperson, from time to time, was deemed to be a good move. So, I'm going first, to sum up and be counted. For one thing, it will allow you to put a face to the regular writer of "Alternative Angle."
I came to AWAAZ three years and eight issues ago. Not merely to add some colour to editorial proceedings but because I was glad of the opportunity to contribute to a project in which I believed viscerally. By way of anecdote, let me recall my very first invitation to an Indian home: On our way back, not that long ago, from a dinner with the family of one of my students in Parklands, Nairobi, I expressed my amazement to my wife that it had taken me about thirty-five years of being in a multi-racial society, coming into contact with South Asians on an almost daily basis, for such an event to take place. I had gone there with prejudices rationally rejected yet emotionally embedded. The more I thought aboutit, the more I realized that almost all of those prejudices were owed to the "What-are-they-upto?" factor. So many deeper friendships, lunches, weddings and, sadly, funerals later, I have realized that "they" are up to pretty much what "we" are upto. Mystery begets suspicion which begets hate. So, it is important to demystify in order to unify. I do believe that AWAAZ is playing a part in that process of demystification and hence my involvement.
You will also have noticed that we have chosen to announce the journal simply as AWAAZ…..Voices, a direct translation from the Hindi, taking a few liberties with grammar, (plural for singular), in the interest of sense. It was felt that our unifying agenda was not being well served by passing judgment on the nomenclature debate: South Asian? Asian African? AfricanAsian? Kenyan Asian? Kenyan Indian? Kenyan Indo-Pakistani? Much like a similar progressionthat saw Negroes become Afro-Americans before it was universally politic to speak of African Americans, why not let social history decide? In the meantime, we have decided that AWAAZ will be unapologetically "diasporacentric but Kenya-focused." Which will recognize its ownroots even as it constantly reaches out to demystify related experiences elsewhere.A case in point has been the raw racism on display lately over the future of a piece of forest land in Uganda. That chilling incident is revisited at some length in this issue and indeed the theme of race relations in general is very much to the fore. Hopefully, those attached to our customary inputson history, literature and the arts will not be disappointed this time round but, above all, our more faithful readers will be the first to register an increasingly "contemporary," as opposed to"archaic" feel to AWAAZ. Talking of the contemporary, between now and the next issue, eligible Kenyans will have been called upon to cast a vote that counts in momentous, general elections. Would that we might be adequately demystified to be unified in our political maturity; neither to use the instruments of prejudice and hate to suffocate each other with tear gas, nor to beat each other senseless, nor to shoot at each other with live bullets, nor to loot each other's shops, nor to rape each other. Good luck to us, one and all.
John Sibi-Okumu, of the Editorial Team