Kiprop Kimutai became famous when his manuscript The Water Spirits became third in the Kwani Manuscript Project that ended last year. The winner was Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi with her Kintu while number two was Saah Millimono with what was the working title of One Day I Will Write About This War.
Makumbi’s Kintu was launched to much acclaim and she is the darling of anyone who can read for her beautifully written book. Millimono’s book which morphed into Boy Interrupted was launched recently in his native Liberia and the word is still out on that one. The reviews haven’t been forthcoming but eventually, you can expect opinions of how to the novel is from the system soon enough.
Enter Kiprop. We know that his book is still in the editing phase but unfortunately for him some of us can be very impatient with getting our fix of good prose. To counter that he has set up a Facebook group he calls #TrueStoriesFromIten where he gives wonderful stories from his home town of Iten. If the stories on that Facebook page are any indication of what we shall be reading in the novel then this like Kintu will be a big big novel. Here is one of the excerpts from his Facebook page, #TrueStoriesFromIten courtesy of its writer;
A long while back, 1919 to be specific, Scots and Boers had settled in Uasin Gishu and cleared the last lion pride that sunned around Sergoit Hill. They stopped trying to breed their cattle with African buffalo (impossible since African buffalo have an extra chromosome pairing) and took to growing wheat and shooting out the last remaining herds of hartebeest. At this time, Yator, son of Kipkirus had come of age as a powerful witch-doctor. He had inherited from his father a bag and a cow horn. No one ever looked inside his bag so the contents are forever a secret. Inside his cow horn though, was a curious mixture of leopard skin, sinew from a baboon’s back, solanum berries, elephant urine and other ingredients of his dark art. With these, he could command Gabon vipers to bite his enemies or send elephants to trample over them.
One night, he walked up the Kerio escarpment, passed the narrow forest rim at Kamariny and entered Theunissen’s farm (one of the many settler farms in Uasin Gishu). He was in search of a form of red earth to mix with mutton fat which he would smear over his skin. Instead, he was distracted by the fine herds of cattle at the farm. He was so fascinated by their rippling leg muscles and their horns that gleamed like silver in the moonlight that he spontaneously burst into song. He ran back to the valley to rally warriors from the Kapke section of Mutei. He assured them that Asiis (the sun god) and Ilat (the thunder god) had promised them victory. Many of these warriors, who could no longer fight against the Maasai and the Nandi, and acquire the heroic marks their fathers had on their arms, which signified the enemy warriors they had speared to death, yearned for one final glorious bloodshed. So they called warriors from as far as Sing’ore and they descended on the European settler farms at mid-day, when shamba boys were taking rest from the hot sun and the settlers were in their houses, waiting to eat the bread their wives had baked. They poured on the farms, as thick as fog, with their warrior cries numbing the air with the scent of horror. They took away 2000 herds of cattle which they drove down the Kerio valley to hide. That day they sung the victory songs they thought they would never sing again. Many fell into epileptic fits out of sheer joy.
The village headman, Chebon Arap Chessesir, was furious. He told the warriors that the colonial government was not to be messed with. He advised them to brew beer and take it to the DC and seek his pardon. He sent his son to the DC at Kamariny to inform him of their contrition but the DC happened to be away. Meanwhile, the ADC in Marakwet and the ADC in Eldoret armed 10 native askari with guns and, accompanied with 20 warriors from Irong, they invaded Kapke to retrieve the cattle. The warriors, despite their fierce defense to keep the cattle they had raided, were no match for bullets and many fell dead. Yator was arrested and all the cattle (including those not stolen) were taken to Tambach. Afterwards, there was a rinderpest outbreak which killed off the remaining livestock in the villages. Impoverished, the villagers left the valley and sought for wage labour in the Uasin Gishu farms. #KapkeMassacre1919 #LastCattleRaid
In prison, Yator dreamt of a dark cloud coming over him. Suddenly light shot up his groin and pierced through the cloud. The next day his son Suter was born. He grew up to inherit his father’s bag and cow horn and became a powerful witch-doctor too. One day, I might tell you his story.
You can check out more juicy stories from the writer at #TrueStoriesFromIten