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African Feeds

by David Kerr

The stretcher bearers, too late, pull the blood-stained woman from the rubble.

Garikayi closes the file, drags it into his Somalia folder, and mentally slots it alongside the Kenyan bombings. He feels the warmth of creative work rising. Yes, he is proud of his role in ‘African Feeds’; for too long TV and radio stories about Africa have relied on BBC, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. Now he’s able to pull together the wobbly shots from citizen journalists, cowering behind shell-blackened walls all over Africa. It’s as if the anonymous survivors of African wars, massacres, plagues and famines are collectively asserting their relevance through Garikayi’s lap-top.

He changes DVDs and starts some less exciting but still important logging. In the middle of an interview with a westernized Somali woman, the power in his small flat fails – an almost nightly event. He thinks of switching on the generator but is afraid of the electricity surges it sometimes creates. He could use the battery but knows there’s only about 10 minutes left.

Instead, he saves the file and decides to simply light three candles and sit back in the almost dark, contemplating the images and sounds he’s been editing. After five minutes he flaps his arm under the chair, and among the coiled tangle of dead wires, his fingers find the mbira which he often plays whenever there’s a power outage.

Garikayi’s shadow rocks as his fingers pluck the metal keys and the gourd vibrates. The liquid notes seem like an extension of his communication with the slaughtered Kenyans and Somalis. Nehanda, the great martyred spirit medium, is herself pouring balm from beyond the centuries onto all those African souls.