Chaggas and Status Quo

So you got lucky and married a Chagga. Let me warn you – Chagga’s have a thing with status quo. When you meet a Chagga and he rises an eye brow, by that gesture he doesn’t mean he’s trying to place you, he actually means, “and you are?” Granted, names are everything to many people. They says it’s connections that get you places. But duuh! I used to think our cousins up there are bad, but kweli us Chaggas deserve a trophy! If your family does not have clout – then consider yourself status quos – no name – a nobody.

          “Shimbonyi mbee. Yesterday I invited Mushi over for some brandy, that livestock thief,” I want to hear a Chagga say that one day.

You go to a Chagga funeral or wedding – kama ni jina fulani, you will see all the big shots seated at a ‘high table’, where they will be doing what they do best – erm, telling it as it is … If there is no high table, which is most unlikely – anyway, how to spot a Chagga with clout at a big gathering – there will be a bottle of VSOP, blue label or black label something on the table.

          “Yesterday I wired my daughter who is studying in Canada US$ 10,000 for her birthday present.” One would start with a goblet of the best Cognac in his hand, “she wants a car … when I was working for the embassy in the UK, Nyerere used to be the guest in my house … you see my Mercedes, it’s custom made … my daughter can not speak a word of Swahili. She didn’t grow up here, you see … my first born got his degree from Harvard, my second born from Yale and the last is doing his degree at Oxford … I’m alone today, missus has gone to Dubai for shopping. She need a new car, the X5 is getting to familiar – everybody has it. Even Rweyemamu has it jamani!”

Lets take this story about this Chagga boy, lets call him Lelo.  Lelo had accompanied his friend, lets call him Nderima, to the airport to pick up Nderima’s father. Lelo was the one who was driving the car. Lelo loved cars – so whenever he got the chance to be behind the wheel, he would beg and gravel. Anyway, so Nderima’s father got into the car and after brief introductions, like any typical Chagga (man) he wanted to know more about Lelo.

          “So Lelo, what’s your father’s name?”

          “Massawe, baba.”

          “Aah, Massawe with the gas station? Great man1 Very intelligent!”

          “No, baba. Not that Massawe, baba.” Infact they were not even related maskini – even by clanship

           Nderima’s father kept quiet hoping that Lelo would say something else, say a bit more to the story. After what seemed like a mortuary silence, he went on, “so is the Massawe with the chain of butcheries your father then?”

          “No baba.”

          “Massawe whose daughter is married to that tycoon of …”

          “Hapana baba,” Lelo interrupted even before Baba Nderima could finish his sentence.

          “Okay, it must be that Massawe with the hotel in …”

          “Hapana baba.”

          “Aaah, it must be that Massawe who has been with the UN since …” Baba Nderima started off dreamily as he leaned on his walking stick – but again he got interrupted.

          “No baba,” Lelo replied, with his grip getting tighter on the steering wheel.

          “Then who the hell is your father, boy?”

          “John Massawe, baba.”

          “John Massawe? Hmmm … the name doesn’t sound familiar at all,” Nderima’s father scratches his balding head. “what does he do?”

          “He is one of the labourers at the coffee plantation …”

           Before Lelo could even finish his sentence, Nderima’s father tapped him on his shoulder with his walking stick with ivory and  a gold plaited tip, “stop the car boy.”

          “Dad, what is wrong?” Nderima asked his father.

          “The boy has no name! His father is a labourer, for chrissake? What will I tell my friends? Whom will I tell drove me from the airport?  A nobody?!”  He growled.


~ by saharasoulfood on August 10, 2007.

14 Responses to “Chaggas and Status Quo”

  1. haa.. haaa…you said it about the wachagga men not me (but you are so right!!) .

    You know who else has boisterous pride? NIGERIANS. Oh my Goodness……
    Lord help you if you should find yourself in the company of a wealthy Nigerian. He will let you know. What cracks
    me up about them is that they are not ashamed to buy class (or try to)…maana like Nigerians
    unaweza kualikwa kwenye li-mansion proper la m-nija, everything’s remote control. From the main entrance gates to the curtains in the house…. Only the most expensive cars will be packed OUTSIDE of the 7 car garage, (for display). From the latest Range Rover, a Benz to a Porsche, a Cadillac Audi, etc…All impressive. Inside the house, you are hit with a pungent smell of their traditional foods; although, if you concentrate hard enough on the air your are breathing, you might get a slight whiff of what is probably very expensive perfume/cologne. NB: the windows haven’t been opened since moving in 10 years ago!! Infact they are sealed shut with silver tape and matching aluminum foil so you couldn’t see outside, even if you opened the thick couture drapes, (or KOTURE as nigerians call them). You instantly feel an arctic chill from the industrial strength airconditioning. You sip in short little breaths cos you know half an hour in here, and a week of pneumonia is imminent!!

    So then you are given a TOUR of the ’14 bedroom Casa Grande’…..Abhaaa…24 ft ceilings, french chandeliers, what expensive furnishings, the finest silk materials, and rococo sofas, persian rugs (oops! are ALL those food stains on those rugs…..mmh..??). Oh… all flooring and bathtubs are marbled. There’s a conference size, 18-seater, mahogany-wood-dining table (wait a minute what is that nasty ONCE TRANSPARENT HARD PLASTIC sheet covering the whole table and on those dining chairs!!!!). Perhaps they are ‘preserving’ their furniture for their grandkids? Then there is the UK Council flat-style wallpaper on the wall, with a Kojak series 70s motif to it, (big bold orange and brown patterns – flowers mixed with stripes, the print is enough to hypnotize you)…..some of the wallpaper is peeling because the every now and then the 9 kids, Odemunyi, Bafaeola, Deletundu, Gwosidunye, Orutumni, Ikehintola, Folabisemi, Moyinmoyin and Defanumoseli, (ranging from age 1 to 10 have been having a field day playing ‘peel that paper’….

    You are offered a plethora of drink choices from a well stocked bar, and you then lead outside to the patio by the olympic sized pool. At dinner time….you move back inside and are seated at the now dressed up table with the finest dinnerware. The lady of the house immediately lets you know her china set is from the ‘Vera Wang’ collection. Abhaaa…..if you are a mpare like me you turn the plate discreetly just for proof. And it is. The white attired, mute servants come to serve the appetizer salad, just as they do in the finest restaurants. So far so good….

    Of course as a guest you begin to ask yourself ‘is class from ‘nature’ or ‘nurture?’ That is….CAN YOU BUY CLASS or ARE YOU BORN WITH IT? It’s the ‘piece de resistance’ (spellings) of the dining experience that kills you, it’s a surprise…… your host family are all excited to have it revealed…the kids are grinning their widest cheshire-cat smiles as if we are all about to open our xmas day gifts. There is silence….the Butler comes to open a bottle of Crystalle champagne for all the adults. Then he takes off one of his white gloves, and like a magician, yanks the cover off that stunning dome-like silverware dish……………………………………………………….the hairs on the back of your neck, (and everywhere else hairy) stand on ends….it’s thousands of fried ‘kumbikumbis’ (the big ‘flies’ that flock to light after rain), with their wings intact!!. All marinated and shiny. If you are me you immediately begin to wonder is there ‘Roadkill’ under all that or is this a mountain of pure ‘kumbikumbis’?

    Onto the next dish…. ;a highly ‘odored’ fish stew. The man of the house proudly offers you a history behind this fish you are about to eat – “DAT FISH CAME FROM RIVER PARK…IT WAS THEN TRANSPORTED BY LIMOUSINE TO A PORT HARCOURT. OVER DERE IT WAS SUNDRIED! FOR TEN DAYS O! TEN DAYS OF PURE GOD SUNLIGHT!! ALL DE WHILE ON DE ROOFTOP OF CHIEF ADEMOLA’S HOME! IT WAS DEN HANDCARRIED…HANDCARRIED IN A LOUIS VUITTON BAG!! BY PERSONAL COURIER, PERSONAL NOW!! DEN IT WAS PUT IN A FIRST CLASS FLIGHT ALL DE WAY TO AM-ERICA!! AND NOW……….HERE IT IS WE ARE OBOUT TO CONSUME IT, LIFE IS FINE O”. He then explains that….”DIS IN NIJA IS DE HIGHEST HONOUR WE CAN BESTOW ON U CHAAAAAA”. And so you eat…..reluctantly….afterall if food poisoning doesn’t kill you….the pneumonia you are generating now from that cold air conditioning will….Ah heck life is short. So you eat and live to tell this story.

    Sandra….your stories are short, funny, wonderful and relatable….i wish you would do a book of short African stories. I couldn’t help but write that about my personal experiences. You must do a book…..I don’t know you could call it ‘AS ONLY AFRICANS WILL DO’

  2. Ouch!

  3. :Oh yeah. Serina, that’a typical Chagga for you. Lol. But we are generally very nice peolple. Lol. you get married to a chagga you are guaranteed of BIG everything. Lol.

  4. true my dad is a chagga and my mum a kenyan and he detest me like nothing lakini roho juu

  5. Haters

  6. @Regina Malya: your father detests you? pole sana. I’m quite surprised, as one thing Chaggas never do – with all their interesting faults – is forsake their family, as long as you’re your father’s child. Chaggas are very good at taking care and providing of their children.

  7. Kuddos to you Sandra another great piece about Chaggas, and is very true.Chagga people are good at that, watakuchimba kama mzizi just to find out ‘who’ your father is! Its amazing how this became part of us and am sure some pp might be hurt by this, esp. those from ‘no where family’ like me.But life goes on and at the end of the day I am very proud to be Chagga.
    Btw I like the Nigerian story as well, I have a good friend from there and i know exactly how that MAJIGAMBO goes, those are ARROGANT people on Earth, inataka moyo wanabore sana kuwasikiliza.

  8. Ha ha ha! I hope to read much more… I certainly miss the chagga humour nowadays…far out girl!

  9. Never had luck with sistas from Uchagani

    wont mind to look around though

  10. sahara soul food, I like your blogs and the fact that you are a chaga and so proud to talk about your people. I am a chaga and I am proud to be a chaga coz they know how to look for that ooh so good life above everything people think they are.

  11. I am proud of being a Chagga – but there are certain things we believe in that I am not very proud of – fine we all want the god life, given. But should we really put other people down because we have more.
    I once asked my dad, why is it in any Chagga househould, whenever they have some sort of get together the liquer drnkers, always the onces with clout naturally, will be seated somewhere on cushy upholstered seats under nice a shed, with nyama choma coming in faster than they can say “kiruu!”; while the mbege drinkers, with their tattered khangas and pants maskini, will seat under migomba, while swatting away mosquitoes, and if lucky they will just get bones.
    So my darling daddy explained that if you see someone you know seated on the cushy seat drinking Kacky daniels, you will do anything to get there – be it work, get a degree, steal – as long as you get that clout! Ndo maana wachagga wengi wezi! They will do anything to seat with the Mangis sipping single malts.
    Your typical Chagga dad, “whose child did you say that was again?”
    You mention a certain mangi, the child will be welcomed mpaka chumbani! You mention some No-name, that child will be lucky to even get a “how are you?”
    Not something to be proud off – there are more important things in life than clout.

  12. I love your articles but i am afraid – Are you afraid of being married by a Chaaga. Am a Kikuyu and i married a chaaga maybe maybe you can say a few stereotypes of the Chaaga Ladies. I will love that.

  13. I have to say, I have a Chagga boyfriend who is trying to marry me. I don’t think the family approves, even with my impressive name, I am a muslim. I am very afraid now, too afraid. D’oh!!

  14. I LIKE THIS and I appreciate,
    (though fiction)
    much of the story’s incidents are true and often happen in Chaggas’ daily lifestyles.

    They are much seen true stories than fictional

    I AM CHAGGA TOO. (with Paternal&Maternal ancenstry purity)

    “People have to learn from us (Chaggas) only the good things and leave the bad ones go as no-comunity can be 100% civilized&perfect.”

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