In Eliye, about 65km north of Lodwar, in Turkana County, I recently met a promising young man. His name is Idaya Ligoi.
Here, his nom de guerre is ‘‘Diamond,’’ after the Tanzanian music dynamo but also a truncation of his name, Idaya. He is not called ‘‘Diamond’’ without a reason. Idaya is a prolific rapper. His music prowess is exceptionally good.
Actually our meeting was perchance. I was heading up the higher ground facing Lake Turkana, so I could get excellent aerial shots of the magnificent water body, the largest desert lake in the world.
Atop the cliff, I meet this young boy. He could be about 10 or 11 years old. Tucked in his armpits was a bottle of Coca Cola. He tells me he’s delivering it to somebody, presumably someone elder, who must have sent him on the errand.
We instantly strike a conversation. I quickly notice he is very outgoing and an excellent communicator. He is animated.
He tells me he is in class 4 at the nearby Eliye Primary School. Schools have closed since they opened in October this year. I also get to know that he is from a family of 9. And his father died in 2019.
‘’I Want to be a Pilot’’
Because he comes out as a naturally outgoing kid, I am tempted to ask what a typical day looks like for him.
‘‘When I wake up in the morning, I brush my teeth and leave for the shores of the lake to play with my friends,’’ he says. It is their unique way of staying engaged. To forge the challenging life they have to confront day in, day out.
The play he is referring to seems a day long affair in the scorching heat of the north with temperatures averaging 39 degrees. I ask him why he isn’t herding goats today.
He says he isn’t on ‘duty’ on the material day because the goats are left to freely roam the wilderness to fend for themselves and will be back to the kraal by sunset.
‘‘We do a lot of summersaults in the sand and also swim a lot in the lake,’’ he tells me, confidently.
Intrigued, I ask him to demonstrate. He doesn’t hesitate. He quickly jumps at the ‘‘theatre of action,’’ some small gully below adjacent where we are and before I know it, does a quick jump backwards. I am fascinated. Our friendship gets better.
Keen to understand him better to get the feel of the things that shape his world view, I prod him further. This time around, it’s about his future. I ask what he wants to do in future, that’s after school.
‘‘I want to be a pilot so that I can build my mother a shop, a big house, buy a big car and fence our homestead,’’ he quips.
The plot of my engagement with him is getting thicker without doubt. I still want to know why he prefers being a pilot and nothing else.
‘‘Initially I had wanted to be a boda boda rider. One of my brothers had given me a motorbike after e bought a bigger one. I was hoping to use it once I finish school,’’ he tells me.
However, something else is bothering him on this wonderful gift from his brother.
‘‘My brother-in-law came and took at away. He now uses it in Lodwar. So I said I want to drive something greater, the aeroplane,’’ Idaya says, with innocence.
A formidable Quartet
As we talk, his sister Esandei joins us. She’s hawking some handicrafts, made through locally available raw materials, especially palm fronds.
Every day, Idaya tells me, there’s a makeshift market at the nearby Eliye Springs Resort, where they lay bare their wares on the sand, hoping to capture the attention of visitors to the hotel.
She pleads with me to buy at least a piece. It goes for KSh.200.
A few moments later, Idaya’s bosom friend and classmate Ekatoro Lochap seems to gain interest in our conversation and joins. I ask him he same question I asked Idaya before, on what he would like to be in life.
‘‘A teacher,’’ he says, ‘‘ So that I can teach other children in our area here,’’ he adds.
Like Ekatoro, the other fiend of theirs, Kennedy Biste, who is in class seven, also wants to be a teacher. We are later joined by Kush, another young lad, who is a bit older, but could be 17 or 18. He tells me he is a fisherman. But today he is not battling the waves of Lake Turkana. Instead he is resting for the Christmas festivities.
It would an opportunity for him and other fishermen to savour the little loot they may have reaped from their numerous sojourns in the lake.
Together, these young they form an indomitable quartet from ‘‘Nabei City,’’ as they call their village, dotted with manyattas. This is a profound name. Almost a statement of intent of the trajectory of their future.
Theirs is a resilient spirit. This is determination at its best. They don’t seem to worry a lot about their daily struggles, which are now part and parcel of their life. They march forward, with confidence, to seize their dream, crafted by the shores of Lake Turkana.
They know too well that inspite of their circumstances; they have something to look forward to.
I Shall Return
So our high-spirited conversation drags on for about two hours. I don’t notice how fleeting time is. My colleagues, whom I had left by the shores so I can take more images of the area, call me to join them for lunch by the lakeside.
It means I have to bid farewell to these incredible friends of mine. I offer to buy them lunch too. I send the money to a friend of theirs, who is older, and has a phone.
But before I leave, I make a special request to Idaya. I want him to ‘‘give a rap,’’ to demonstrate his musical skills.
Initially he is shy of his friends. Eventually he agrees. And yes, he gives me one minute of his own song, which he renders and embellishes with a lot of flair. I am dazed. What a talent!
I still got to leave. ‘‘ Go well,’’ they say.
‘‘I shall return!’’ I proclaim to them as I head down the cliff, to the lakeside.
Soon the sun’s rays will lose their mid-day rage, and a sudden coolness will engulf the land again. Idaya and his friends will soon retreat to ‘‘Nabei City’’ to nurse their joys, and the sorrows and look forward to the future with optimism.
I can’t tell for sure when I will go back there next, but one thing is, I made incredible friends, Idaya, Esandei, Ekatoro, Biste and Akush. They inspired me. That in the midst of what looks like gloom; hope can still propel the human spirit to greater dreams in life.
And no dream is too big to attain. Such is the spirit of these young boys from Eliye, Turkana County.
I promise myself to return. One day. I don’t know when. But I am interested in checking on the progress of Idaya and his friends. To encourage them to focus and work hard in school. I certainly look forward to him overflying Lake Turkana, and hopefully building his mother a big shop, a big house and fence their homestead and in doing so, make ‘‘Nabei City’’ great.
His music would probably be high flying too.
It is possible.
As I head downwards towards the lake, I can’t stop but imagine the oneness in humanity. That out of many, we are. That regardless of our station in life, we can connect with such profound people.
Well, as former US President Barack Obama says, we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye.