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Monday, July 14, 2008

Obsessed with taking photos


My school times memories would be incomplete without sharing about the fun we devoured from posing for pictures. I attended one of the remotest schools in Maj. Gen. Kahiinda Otafire’s county but life was good and sweet my friend.

The opening and end of the school term and the swearing-in-ceremony of new student leaders were crowned with parties in which we danced vigorously and dexterously to South African and Congolese music and posed spectacularly for pictures.

Bakwata, the village photographer, would go on one knee, close his right eye and ask us to say “cheers” or “smile” while the flash from his beautiful black Yashica camera literally blinded us.

I was a rich kid who vended a 20-litre can of milk on my father’s Roadmaster bicycle every morning before I pedalled to school, so money was not my problem, and together with other ‘rich’ kids, we took as many ‘snaps’ as we liked. Rummaging through them this morning I was amazed at the moves we pulled.

In one shot, I was wearing a cowboy hat and “listening” to my pocket radio. In another, I was standing next to my friend in a scarlet tie (‘stolen’ from Dad’s). How I laughed reading the words written at the back: “Me and my friend Junior enjoying life at school. My message is this – a poor man is one who does not have a friend!”

In another, three of us were sporting prototype sunglasses with red bandanas around our heads, with mean faces looking like Lil Bow Wow at 12, proving that we were “local” but with style.

There’s another shot of us young “scholars researching for our next philosophical work.” I captioned it: “Being wise is better than being strong, yeah, wisdom is better than strength!”

During socials, the school’s dancing wizard would ask the cameraman to get ready as he wobbled on the dance floor like a caterpillar. Oh sweet nostalgia! We would pose for pictures in front of the headmaster’s office, outside the school gate, or playing soccer with balls made out of dry banana fibres.

I cracked up when I came to the one I took with “Mr. Pajero” – famous for defending his pen snatching ways with a slogan that stealing is not bad unless you are caught.

One day, we had special visitors at school that came in a Pajero on whose bonnet he sat to have his photograph taken. Suddenly, the car siren went off murderously, forcing him to take off at a speed faster than the car’s. That’s how he got his nickname, and we often teased him that not even the car could stand his body odour!

Anyway, the most popular pose was standing straight like electric poles, legs astride, staring ahead with hope, while girls in ready-made cotton dresses liked to rest one of their tender hands on their hips and smile for the camera seductively. The sharper of us would rest his hand on the shoulders of one of the girls while the cameraman snapped away!

Laughter and friendship filled us and so free were we that we even took photos in the mango tree in the middle of the school compound, shaking hands, jumping like frogs or wearing caps made out of leaves and sometimes Muslim caps to resemble young Imams.

The shots are full of fond memories but fonder is the one taken of me enjoying the ‘zero-distance squeeze dance’ with my crush. I’m sure the Guinness Book of World Records people will find something in my secondary school photo album to enter their annals!

--Sunday Monitor, June 29, 2008