Kipoo was dosing off to sleep. He felt he deserves the rest. It had been a long and tiring season last year with all the visitors trudging all over him to take one last look at his receding hairline. Yes, his receding hairline. He never thought it would ever come to this. He was always so proud of his wonderful snow white crown. But now it was slowly fading away… along with all the glory of his yesterdays. No more would he be able to stand proudly among the rest of his peers as the tallest, most handsome one, with that awe inspiring crown of white on his head.
He has been privy to conversations about his receding hairline. Apparently the only solution is some growth activator called tree. It is said that this growth activator was what had kept that crown on his head for so long. Kipoo just could not understand it all. How come that growth activator was not there anymore? He is sure he did nothing to remove it. What had his people been doing with it?
Then he thought…. it must be Mawenzi’s fault. Mawenzi must have become jealous of him after that incident so many years ago. Yes, maybe Mawenzi was at fault. After all, that incident was related to fire, and fire requires wood, … and does wood not come from tree?
As Kipoo lay on his bed, he began to recall the events that culminated in that incident, way back when… he was not so young, but certainly younger than he is now… and boy was he handsome then.
It was a time when the people in his territory were so much fewer. As the chief, he knew his people, and he had been able ensure they took care of their environment. Things have changed a lot since then.
Anyway, at that time he had a friend called Mawenzi. Mawenzi was just as handsome, and just as tall. Mawenzi was the chief of the territory next to Kipoo’s. They were good friends, but Mawenzi had a little problem. Kipoo could never understand why Mawenzi was always coming to him for embers of coal from his fire. He thought it was strange, but then, this was his friend, so he let it be for some time.
Now, Kipoo has always been a patient one, known for calmly and silently watching his surroundings and letting things be. But after many years of this behavior, Kipoo just had to ask Mawenzi: “My friend, why is it that you always come to get embers from my fire to start your own fire? Why is it that you cannot start your fire from your own embers?”
Mawenzi was startled, and looked down with embarrassment. He never thought Kipoo would ever ask him this question. As Mawenzi looked down, Kipoo looked at him with concern. “Mawenzi,”, he said, “what is it that you cannot tell me? You make me worried when you look down like that. What is the matter?”
Mawenzi sighed. He took a deep breath, and sighed again. He stood up and said, “My friend Kipoo, if you do not want to give me any more embers from your fire, just tell me. All I want is just a little coal to take with me to my home so that I can cook for myself. Why is that becoming a problem for you today?”
Kipoo did not like this response. He felt that Mawenzi was not being honest with him, and Kipoo was beginning to get angry. A simple explanation would do, but instead Mawenzi was trying to make him feel guilty about not giving him something that did not belong to him. He pushed Mawenzi harder for an answer but Mawenzi would not tell him.
Kipoo sat still and thought, “If I do not give in to him, we will lose our friendship.” So, he decided to give Mawenzi the embers of coal, and then find out the truth another way.
When Mawenzi had gone, Kipoo followed him quietly to see what he would do with the embers and what it was that Mawenzi was hiding from him. When Mawenzi got home, Kipoo hid, and watched Mawenzi start his fire and cook his meal. As Mawenzi cooked, Kipo became hungry. He should also have been cooking his own meal, but was now here watching Mawenzi cook. The food Mawenzi was cooking was smelling really good, and Kipo almost came out of his hiding place to invite himself to Mawenzi’s meal. Surely Mawenzi would be happy to see him?
But he stopped himself. He still had not accomplished his mission, and today he had decided he was going to get to the bottom of the embers story. As Mawenzi ate his food, Kipoo licked his lips… hungry. Boy was Mawenzi enjoying that meal!
When Mawenzi finished his meal, Kipoo got up to return home. Kipo felt that this mission had proved to be a waste of time. But… suddenly, Mawenzi stood up and facing the fire, urinated all over it! He was putting out the fire completely!
Kipoo was livid! “What?!”, he thought, “Is this what Mawenzi has been doing all these years?! Putting out his fire and then coming to beg me for embers from my fire?! Surely Mawenzi knew better than that!”
This upset Kipoo too much. A hungry man is an angry man they say, and without thinking, Kipoo got out of his hiding place and confronted Mawenzi. Kipoo was angry, and Mawenzi was angrier still. Mawenzi could not imagine that his long time friend had the audacity to sneak up on him and peep into his home like a thief. There was an altercation, and then a fight.
Kipoo was too angry to remember that this was his friend, and eventually he picked up a big stick and smashed Mawenzi’s head with it. Mawenzi’s head was shattered. Gone was that wonderful crown of white on Mawenzi’s head. Kipoo stepped back, waiting for Mawenzi to come back at him, but, wounded, Mawenzi could not fight any more.
Kipoo left Mawenzi’s home triumphant, he had won the fight, but he had also lost a friend.
Now, many years later, Kipoo’s hairline was receding, and soon he would end up almost as short and ragged as Mawenzi. How would he, proud Kipoo, stand up among his peers again?
He turned on his side and thought: “If only, if only someone would bring back enough of that growth activator called tree… if only…”
As Kipoo fell asleep, he prayed that God would bring more growth activators so that the crown on his head would grow back again. He would be ever so thankful. “Maybe God will guide those people who are visiting me to see my receding hairline to do something… “, he thought, “maybe they will bring more growth activators to him… maybe… just maybe…”
Come… Walk with me in the Garden.
Copyright © 2014, Ophelia Swai. All Rights Reserved.
Kipoo is the local pronunciation for Kibo Peak of Mt Kilimanjaro. Mawenzi is the second tallest peak on Mt Kilimanjaro. The incident between Kipoo and Mawenzi is an adaptation of a folk tale of the Chagga people who traditionally live on and around Mt Kilimanjaro.