The drums pulsated through the streets crowds upon crowds milled out of their offices screaming. Dancers flipped, split and tossed each other in the air to the rhythm of the drums. The drummers biceps robust and covered in sweaty gleam, power upon more power with every strike. Some drummers with sticks; others with their wide palms pounding relentlessly. The rhythm would shift and so would the drummers. First a sound of crashing waves that slowly died to a simple lap. The momentum built, crashed, built, crashed and screams from the crowds. Streamers flooded the skies.

A man in stilts towered over the awe stricken children below. Heads craned up towards the giant now bathed in the glory of the blinding sun. One child fell to the ground and lay on his back to get a better glimpse of the lanky giant. His face burst out into laughter and a giddy flailing of arms; excited. More children saw his reaction and fell on their backs screaming and laughing enjoying the carnival from that position.

As they lay down, a troop of acrobats flipped over them hands first, then feet, hands, feet, it was like 5 consecutive forward flips. The crowd went wild. Then a stream of fire emerged from one of their mouths. More flips and splits from the acrobats and a limbo under a fiery pole. Lower and lower they went, gasps could be heard when the limbo acrobat’s tummy almost grazed the flames. Screams and wild cheers when he got through the 60cm height.

Then a line of graceful, bronzed legged lasses strutted by clad in nothing but Ostrich feathers. A chimmi to tease the crowd and then they spread and lay low burying their heads in ‘sand’. People cheered.

Peter had been in the crowd watching all of this and taking pictures. He would occasionally get carried away screaming, clapping and almost drop his camera. But when the Ostrich lasses act ended the next performance more magnanimous and caught everyone clicking away and going uncontrollably wild in an encore, save for him.

While everyone saw triumph and glam, he saw tragedy and froze. The beautiful and boisterous float, lit up like the Mayor’s Christmas tree, was crowned by a stunning ethnic ebony queen with a mane that roared. Her nude colored leotard and spray painted limbs defied her territorial beauty. She pawed the air as the other ‘animals’ on the tiered float bowed and adored the African ‘King’. Peter no longer saw a performance with synchrony matched by none in Nairobi. What he saw atop the float was his tragedy.


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