…of womanplace

photo: Oxfam International, Eddy Mbuyi 2013

photo: Oxfam International, Eddy Mbuyi 2013

Still mindful of last week’s International Women’s Day and the fact that many rural women all over the world spend much of the day hauling firewood to cook by, here’s a poem about it. I wrote it after visiting farms in Kenya’s Central Province in 1997. There had been elections at the start of that year and the farming community concerned had given financial support to a local politician on the understanding that he would bring electricity to their farms. He didn’t. So here’s what happened: it’s a case of woman living creatively or the triumph of art over adversity.

Power-play

 Joe Maina, small-time farmer

says before the polls he paid

some local boss three thousand bob

to bring the power lines down the Rift.

Their broker won, but now as ever

Faith Waithera Maina cooks githeri,

bending at her hearth,

three rocks to hold the pot,

sleek skin cured  hide in smoke-house fug.

Next, slogs like an ox to fetch more wood.

Our days’ career – she shrugs.

Till dusk she lights her sofa room with fumy lamps,

where hanging on the wall,

with keep-safe snaps and family memorabilia,

a cast-off city sixty-watt

has second lease –

recharged, of course,

to make a perfect vase

for trailing sprays

of purple

Tradescantia.

On the farm in Kenya's Central Province

On the farm in Kenya’s Central Province

Text and photo collage: copyright Tish Farrell

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