This weekend, I had the chance to leave town and drive a few hours away to visit family friends in the central part of Kenya. For so many reasons, I love taking long drives when I’m in Africa because its a powerful glimpse into the heart and pulse of what keeps bringing me back. I know I am an outsider, with one foot in and one foot out. I know that I can only understand so much. But for my own personal reasons, being in the village, in an area where power and water are infrequent, where material things are limited, but love and humanity is infinite, sends me to a quiet place of understanding and wonder. After nearly 20 years of taking these kind of drives, I delight at the beauty and amazement to this day.
It’s seeing kids walking along the road in their school uniform or playing with a tire or homemade toy.
It’s the little girl dressed in an absurdly ruffled yellow dress, running to catch up with her siblings down the road.
Or the four men leaving church in their suits and ties sitting under the tree waiting for the matatu.
It’s passing through the town center on a Saturday filled with repair shops, motorcycle taxis and women selling fruits, bandas, and household items.
Its the dry, open field with sporadic huts and communities. Or the lush landscapes and rolling hills, with farms, trees and workers walking to and from.
This is the kind of richness you never hear about. This is the Africa I love to see, the Africa we all should know. Its beauty, simplicity, honesty, creativity, and richness is simply stunning. What is it that those of us from abroad keep thinking needs to be improved, developed, and strengthened when there’s plenty of examples of what’s working? I’m sitting here after a four-hour cross-country drive musing over the sad irony of the North-South divide.
Probably the best part of Africa’s local buzzings are with its savvy, local marketing and advertisng approaches – or wallbranding as its apparently called. The local life, the day to day energy and trends of local communities, consumers, and businesses thrive and bustle right under the world’s noses. Shops, cafes, and bars are lined up in each center or along main road, freshly painted with a logo or familar product, like Omo, Safaricom Nescafe, Coca-Cola, Orange, M-Pesa, or local company product for fertilizer, mchuzi mix, rice, tea or something.
Its hard to say which is more impressive – the artwork itself or the catchy names. I started collecting all the different store and shop names but then the list became too long. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember the ones in Swahili names and didn’t have paper with me to jot them down. But I did manage to take some pictures and collect my favorites.
Here’ s my list along with pictures at the bottom (Please note: If you choose to use any of my photos, please credit them to Sahafrica and link them back to my page! Thank you!)
- Happy Senator Pub
- Plentiful Bites Restaurant
- Precious Super Kids School
- Blessed Truth Salon
- Jesus is With You Hardware
- God First Shop
- Fancy Flowerists
- Prison Break Pub. On main road located directly across the street from a Kenyan prison.
- Go Down Cafe (Located right at the top of a hill, near a road sign alerting to drivers to the sudden decline)
- Gental Laundry Detergent. Unfortunate misspelling but still makes the point.