Mwena-Mweni (Awino's Monologue) is the first section of Waafrika
a new play by Nick Mwaluko

In Darkness:

Chakula hichi ime toka kwa mkono wango
Naomba ita kaa kwa mdomo wa Mzee
Mzee mwenyewe atai pendaaaa
Yake nii kuu sema ni yeye
Sio yanguuuuu
Ni yake
[Awino strikes a match. Light grows from a candle on a small dish. Awino picks it up, walks across the stage to Baba’s kraal]

Mwena mweni
Not mine, his
Mwena mweni
Not mine, his
Mwena mweni
Not mine, his
Mwena mweni mwena mweni
[Awino reaches Baba’s kraal, enters]

(To the Father)
[Awino puts the dish-candle down on the ground]
Your food, Baba…It’s chapati naa soupu-soupu mixed with some nice, thick, sweet gravy sauce right there on the side of your dish…Yes Sir, I sang on the way to your kraal, Mwena mweni Mwena, I sang so the food is blessed. Eat from the east…west…north…south. Safe. You can eat whenever you’re ready Baba…
Salt?  Because I can run all the way back to my kraal to get you salt if…Okay, no salt, pepper? What about—no? Paprika? Ame ile new spice at the kiosk? No worries Baba, I don’t mind running barefoot wherever you need me to go. Might get pinched by thistle on my feet but I’ll survive so long as you’re pleased, Baba, that’s the most important…Do you like the dish? 
[The flame dances]
It’s good you like it. My cooking? No no no… I can’t cook, I can only burn …
[Takes a step closer]
Baba? Please, one minute, if you have for us to talk …Well, Sir, um, please can I go for school?…Everyone reads…Who’s everyone? Cleopa, Peter (pronounced Pee-tah), Joshua, Mark, Steven, Merinyo, even Otieno. You should see at the kiosk, this is me: One two three four—counting my fingers like a little baby in front of everyone. When I visit the city center—No, Sir, I’m not leaving this village. How can I? I don’t have…Yes, I love my tribe…I do love my people, Baba, and my country, my tradition…Daddy, please, I can’t do maths, can’t read, not even simple things someone like Otieno—Yes, I know Otieno is my brother but Baba—Yes, he’s the first-born, I know but, yes I know he’s the first born, sorry, I mean to say he is your first-born I know but you know and I know I am ten times more cleverer than Otieno and ten times more serious when it comes to work if you just let—Ati what?…Yes boys do schooling first but I am a boy … Repeat what? Oh. Mimi nii mwanume: I am a boy so can I go to school? What kind of boy? True, I’m not traditional ‘cause I don’t have beards, not yet but I shave every morning with a leaf. Sleep on my stomach so these mountains, these…hills here can grow in instead of out.  Look, no hips, only waistline. Do I ever make eye contact? Rarely. And my shoulders are small but they grow, every day broader and broader. Listen: “Vipi mambo?” See?, my voice goes down not up at the end of a sentence like a woman or a child’s. And one day it will break, my voice will, I know it will break down when I mature and—(He slaps Awino)
[To the audience]
He slaps me.
[Awino registers the sting of the slap, falling back]
It hurts. Not my face, but inside.
(To the Father)
Sorry…I am Sir, very sorry because I never meant to disrespect you…No, I am not jealous of my brother…No, I’m not,I have great love for him. Great love—for my tribe, my people, my family, my traditions, my world around me…Yes Sir Baba, it is as you say: in time, I will marry. Someone, a man or boy, will pay for me with cows. And I will bring back those many cows to your home, to this village that will mark our particular place with pride and joy so that you, my father, can stand proud among our people. I will be…I will be (Closing eyes) I will be a beautiful woman…Open my eyes? You want me…? (Opens eyes)
(A beautiful woman)
A beautiful—(Pause) woman
When I grow up. 
[Awino stands]

The dish, are you finished?

[Candle light dies.
Awino picks up the candle-dish
I’ll be sure to tell my mother you like her cooking.
[Exits Father’s kraal.
Daybreak. The sun glides across the stage.
Sound of cattle grazing in the open fields, occasional sweeping light breeze]

(To Cow)
Okay Cow, it’s you me and this savannah, married all day, everyday, all year until forever or at least until we both get sick and tired of each other, okay? I don’t want more trouble, understand? No moving, no kicking, no biting, just stand still for as long as it takes. I said something: you understand me or not?

[Sound of cow mooing in agreement]

Agreed? Good, stand still…then go as far as you have to after, far as you want. Graze there near the bush under that purple stretch of horizon, mind the hyena, but I’ll let you go near anywhere you like once we’re done here. I know what it means to be locked up, believe you me, I won’t hold you back so long as you stand still…right there…let me reach…

[Awino slips fingers under the belly of the cow]

Slip my fingers underneath your bottom-belly here…
[Stretches, tickles fingers in the air]
Can’t seem to be…to grab at…your nipples…
[Grabs nipples]

Ah! Ah! Squeeze…squeeze…squeeze for milk. Squeezing the…I’m almost done here—God, don’t move, c’mon Cow, can’t you see I’m almost, I’m nearly done here, please. I know I know I know, it’s crazy, some stranger fingers your private parts while you have to stand still to stomach the whole thing but when you move, it takes longer, see? Then you feel more disgusting so let me finish quick, I’ll let you go wherever, however far you—What’s that?
[Awino stands. Sucks teeth]
See that light far off coming closer and…?
[Music grows with the light]
You see it or don’t you? Cow? [Cow moos] Me too, what do you think? I’m thinking a thief wouldn’t come early light in low bushfield if—Woman, look! She’s  …tiny, so small, and thin thin thin kijiko-thin, no more than…Wait, let me see if I have something to offer her when she gets here. Water, maybe a…
[Finds the candle-dish. Picks it up]
[To the woman]
Hello. Here.
[Hands the candle-dish]
(To the Woman)
Hey there, Cutie. You’re soooooo beautiful. What’s your name? I love you. With that soft sweet loose swaggah swag left, right, left and right then BOOM. What’s your name again? I love you again so promise, I’ll remember your name. It’s beautiful. Oh no, not more beautiful than you are Soupo, nooooo ways. Um…women from my tribe, they say they carry the continent between their legs. Can you say the same?…Okay, so you’re not from my tribe. But are you one of those women? The kind who can cook maragwe, speak Kigogo, dance to Lingala slipping ever so steadily down your hips like soup glides down the throat. Liquid soft like poetry? Can you put me in my place with one sharp side glance like so: [Awino makes a sharp side glance look] If so, I’ll buy you for six cows. What? Eh, what’s that you said? Those are big big words, big words…so, um, you go to school? You do, you’re educated? Wow, oh, so, um, um, you’re not from my tribe then are you? Because our women and girls, we make them work. You tired? Rest your head here, see, you can rest now. And, um, let me sit next to you here, may I? Now just rest your head on my lap, look up at the stars. That man there in the sky with crescent moon under his feet lets me know when…night falls.
[Night falls
Daybreak backwards. The sun retreats in the opposite direction across the stage
Your shirt—off.
…You like that? What I’m doing? My fingers on your nipples, squeeze squeeze squeeze…Takes the pain away, doesn’t it? Your tears are dry now. You feel pretty, like a woman, real good…

Huh huh huh huh huh huh huh huh huh
Underwear. Off.
Huh huh huh huh huh huh huh huh huh huh huh huh huh huh
[Lights up.
Awino stands up quick]
No. I won’t. I’m not taking my shirt off, no. Because I say so, that’s why. I’m the man, you’re not. You’re a woman. I get to touch you. You can’t touch me. ‘Cause I say so, ‘cause I’m—Sweeeeeeets? Look at me, Sweetie. These? [Awino tickles the air with his/her fingers] My fingers work wonders. Let me touch your chichi. Down there, yeah. Please, I’ll make you feel good. So good you’ll cry. Please Sweets, let me—Baby, Sweetie, Sugar, Honey, will you—Where’s the joke? So why are you laughing? What do you mean I look funny? What’s funny-looking about me? I am a man. So don’t laugh. I am. Why should I? I don’t have to take off clothes to prove anything to anybody. I said I’m a man so I’m a—Where you going? Where are you…?
[Lights grows father and father away, dimmer and dimmer]
Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeetie! Don’t…go. PLEASE!
[Light is gone]
[Awino circles the stage, returning to Baba’s kraal]

(To the Father)
I’m leaving. Baba did you hear me? I’m leaving. Where to? To find the man in me. Because he’s alive, out there somewhere beyond that light that dies in me day-by-day the more I stay in this stupid, you heard me, this stupid stupid village. Of course you can’t see him in me. You see with your eyes but don’t look, never at me, and never beyond what you see so your truth has no truth to it. But when I look I see him because I am looking at me for me. And he’s calling to me. And I’m going to get him, then bring him back here hoping there is a word for us in our language when we get back, if not I will create the word that will open a space for us. Hear him calling? Listen.
Not female, not male but one golden note of freedom rises high, calling to me. So I go
[Steps back]
And I go to the light
[Steps back]
…Go to the light…
[Steps back]
Go towards the light that sets me free
[Steps back until Awino is eclipsed by the light and disappears, is swallowed by the world]

Waafrika: 1992, Kenya. Rural village some 250 kilometers northwest of the capitol is Luoland. Awino, the Chief's gender-bending-queer "daughter", and Bobby, a blond American Peace Corps volunteer, fall in love when lesbians don't exist.

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Praise for Waafrika...

"Powerful, even overwhelming at times... an important, vital story."
—Christine Dolen, Miami Herald Tribune

"From a sociopolitical standpoint, Waafrika is one of the most vital, visceral experiences you'll encounter on the page all year. It has the immediate capacity to change lives."
—John Thomason, Broward Palm Beach

"Stands as an important cultural artifact for Americans, Africans, and the globe."
—Martin Denton,

"Bold, brave and offering a brand new vision. Run, don't walk to get your copy."
—Kristi K, The K Word

Nick Mwaluko was born in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania but raised mostly in neighboring Kenya. Homelessness, shelter life, intense spiritual dislocation allowed Nick to renew efforts at writing. Nick hates pronouns.