LETTER FROM MAMA SARAH OBAMA
Dear family, friends and lovers of the universal Obama family
I am writing this letter to wish you love and peace until the the day we meet again.
I leave you peace to come to terms with who you are. I, myself chose to be nyaReru and I found peace in being nyaReru. In ancient dholuo Mikayi translates to mother of Caine. And Caine or Kayo is the first born as in the bible. In orthodox (standard) dholuo text Mikayi now means any ordinary first wife and Kayo(Cane) means first born of any ordinary person. So the mother of your first child whether you marry her or not is your Mikayi and the child Kayo or Caine.
In the same orthodox dholuo, the second wife is NyaChira and the third wife is nyaDendi. It is as the fourth wife nyaReru that I found my peace and as you may know in Luo marriage there is no promotion or demotion. If you are Mikayi even zero is not a strong enough place holder as you are Mikayi even if you are dead and cremated. So the rest like nyaReru will never rise to that seat. It was not an accident or random affairs like some who have no knowledge of themselves or Africa still want us to believe. Even now that as statues of colonialists of colonisers and slavers in Bristol, England are being drowned some still prefer to insinuate that I Sarah was kidnapped by honourable Onyango. Onyango, my husband was a real catch but I was also worth my salt. That is why he had to use nyamburko to give him status above me. As a nyareru I knew what awaits me in this marriage. I knew that as the youngest I will survive Onyango just like the rail line survives the train. I knew that like the reru that supports the roof I will carry the roof of this home. I knew that I will receive the best and the worst of the family. I knew that my stepchildren in misguided juvenile strop will find it easier to vilify me. I knew the rivalry of co wife like the opposition of fingers always competing but working for the same goals await me. But I was at peace with my choice as nyaReru
And even when statues of violators like Baden Powell are being rushed away into dark abandoned basement in shame some still believe that I Sarah my marrying Onyango at 16 was a sordid affair and my violation. NO! it was not. I Sarah was proud to have married at 16 because that is what Luo girls did. I am told Mama Ngina also married Jomo Kenyatta at 16. And my daughter in-law also married the father to my grandson the president of USA at 16 as a second wife. In my time if you were not studying what business did you have in your father’s home ka in nyako ma opong’.
And when I told that Odiero, Petro, I hear he wrote in that book that I did not eat in our first night. That I did not love Onyango I think the interpreter was the problem. No I explained that like “miaha nyaka ihad iyi” (you must fast as a pride). “Ok inyal chopo ka wuoyi to ihadho chiemo makata diep di goyi dier oduor” (you cannot just devour like a pig in the early marital days).
It was in this generation that mothers like NyaBoro at 16-year-old was proudly married to a 40+ year old Osieyo jakaGer as a second wife. Nyar Abuor was also married to 30s Omuga, world War 2 vet as a 16-year-old and the colonial and church papers sanctioned that marriage to prove. Nyar-John was also married as a 16-year-old to another jakager Nyawalo Atoto. These were ordinary marriages like any marriage in Hawaii or any part of the world. We were ordinary virgins getting married to ordinary people in an ordinary way. So don’t let them malign your culture like they are doing to my marriage to Onyango in those books of theirs.
I leave you the comfort to live whatever life your marriages offers. For what you might think ours were just ordinary lives. I had my life which you have read widely. NyaBoro was widowed with 10 children, the last one still breast feeding, and in the process lost everything in modern life including a scheme farm, horses and investments in Building societies and it did not break her. Nyar-Abuor led 5 women into early rural retirement at 40 then lived happily clinging to her strong faith in the catholic church and like me handholding the only member of the family. Nyar-John also lived an ordinary life until she was widowed in her mid-50s. I Sarah Obama you know my story that I have lived this marriage without flinching and sometimes getting a break in life to receive all that pertains to Nyareru just like everybody in life deserves a break.
These were ordinary lives and that is why I Mama Sarah Obama was always smiling.
I leave you the courage to live your life with honour. A woman’s life is not only marriage and a man because sometimes the man departs early. And the courage and honour to your marriage will keep the smile in your face.
I was always smiling because in my time unlike today a woman entered into a marriage with nothing but her cultural skills and upbringing to make a home. Unfortunately, today’s woman is disadvantaged to enter a marriage with only training papers and degrees stuffed in her hand bag. So the issue of “can’t-share wont share wealth” is nullified just like our time. But I am happy that our home making skills made sure that I always have a family to surround me. So I am always smiling.
I was always courageously smiling because I knew as nyaReru I am the final receiver of assets and liabilities and all will pass through my door. Presidents, daughter in laws of unknown clans, races of all the world and I welcomed all after all “ka irango gima gweno chamo to ok dicham gweno”. And I never cared what her stepson or grandchildren ate. When you are in Doho you know you have your lanes and know what to concern you. So I was always courageously smiling.
I was always smiling even if as usual wayward step children accused me of being hard ‘slave driver’ like all step mothers are accused since the beginning of time.
I was always smiling because the ordinary life I led made sophisticates bow to me when my only English words were good…good … bad…bad.
I leave you the honour and courage to keep smiling and forgive those who think that your life was unfortunate because they know no history of themselves.
I leave you the nyaReru humility to receive the least fortunate under your roof. Like Awino NyaBoro always said, “receive them receive them all whether they come with a box or without a box (luggage) and whether they come with a box or in a box(coffin)”.
Like a nyaReru receive them all with grace whether they are happily married “kata kend olal nigi e osinde” (they lost marriage in a thicket). Just receive them to show them that the home loves them.
I leave you the philosophical and spiritual wisdom to separate “kit dhano gi timbe dhano” like Awino nya-Nanda used to say. Kit dhano (character) they are born with and timbe dhano (habits) are learned. Do not punish them harshly if they cannot keep a family or have a weak character to certain undesirable trends or matters of the flesh. They did not choose those traits. They were born with them. And do not condemn them for Allah who gave them those traits may just change his mind and shift the overbearing burden to you.
I leave you the strength to constantly persist with your skills. Persistence has its rewards. I was culturally raised with the skills of my time. Not a single day passed without me thinking of my rural chores. They became part of me and I will miss them just as much.
learned and educated
I leave you the wisdom of knowledge whether to be learned like my step son Barrack or be educated like my step grandson Barrack. Barrack was learned. His house had books and books and then more books while Barrack is educated with books. I think the latin word educare that I like and I learnt as a Christian says it better. Learned Barrack like Onyango my husband built the world and made Kenya (Kogelo the home). While educated Barrack like myself built himself (home) and conquered the world (family). 'Learned' is a man and 'Educated' is a woman and the woman most of the time outlasts the man even if not remembered for long. That is the way God worked it out.
Comfort in your happiness
I leave you Godspeed to find your comfort be it in a grass thatched house that made my grandson and his fiancé so comfortable or a concrete palace in the middle of humble surroundings. Seek that happiness whether it is sleeping in several golden king-size beds each night or sleeping in on a satisfactory reed mat on the floor like Michelle my granddaughter in-law and future wife of the American state house. Seek that happiness whether it is eating a 5-course meal in a plane in the sky or dining with Kogelo youths like my granddaughter Akum (Akumu) loves doing. Seek that happiness whether it is embracing your own voluntary choice of the Obama as a marital home or running away as far as possible into some harsh cold foreign lands away from Nyang’oma village in order to escape the glare of your marital perceived mistake- “dhi katedo to onge ga goyo kogno; ma iyudo no ye mari”.
Finally, I leave you the devotion to follow your faith. I myself was raised a Christian and then converted to Islam and have only one regret. That we humans have only one life to devote to our maker. If only we had more lives, then we would devote them all to God.
I leave you love and peace in your heart.
Signed 30th March 2021 at Alego Kogelo, Kenya