I racconti del Premio Energheia Africa Teller

Looking through the eyes_Robert Mungai Mbugua

panorama_Africa Teller 2007.


Owl: As I perched I could see the village it was morning at sunrise. I

could see the children playing and chasing each other. I could smile

though I had a beak. They seemed to amuse me very much as they run

up and down I wondered what it could be if I could join them. The hut

that stired me was one below the branch. For a moment billowing smoke

from below caught me by surprise. I wondered what was cooking.

Swiveling smoke saw me beckoning for another branch. There was an

old woman who saw me thought I was an owl in her mind but the she

just looked at me. Her gazing opted for some children to start looking

at me as I could see their eyes. They were full of innocence and courage.

I had perched there for sometime and turned my head towards

the other end.

Peter: “Grand mother” the bird has big eyes like a human being eyes.

What is it?

Grandma: It is an owl my grandson. He was young and energetic his

face resembles his father.

Peter: Why does it have big eyes?, he asked.

Grandma: As I replied to Peter telling him that the owl has big eyes

to see well at night, then they all laughed loudly. Grandma was trying

to get the fire to glow so that she can prepare some food for us. The

wood was not quite dry enough to lit the fire quickly. We talked about

the owl and how it became to be there and I explained everything concerning

it to Peter.

Grandma: I took the pot and went inside the hut where the mild smoke

was. I gathered some firewood from outside and put them on the

fire. After adding some water into the pot which was starting to boil

the with the three stones supporting it. I added some cereals in it and

went out. The sun was getting hot and the air was humid. The children

were still playing in the scorching sun. Then a kid came to me as

I tried to straighten my back which was now aching done my old age.

“Grandma, can I stay with you under this tree?”, I said, “Yes my

Grandson”, as he sat next to me under the tree. Whirling breeze made

me feel freshened as we talked with my Grandson. Suddenly there

was a voice calling Peter from the mother. “Peter, where are you?”

“Here I am, mummy”, he replied as he stood up. My back was feeling

much better. His mother came out of the hut and came to where we

were. I felt thirsty and I decided to send Peter for some water for me

to drink. His mother wanted to sit too but, on the other end there was

some white patches next to where she was. I explain that they were

owl’s tears and she sat where Peter was.

Peter: As I stood up I watched my mother and grandmother I left and

fetched some water for her. After I returned with some water in a gourd.

I handed the gourd to my Grandma as I watched her hands were weak

and her eyes pale. Certainly I thought how old she must have been she

grabbed the gourd with her fingers faintly and she drunk from the guard.

She swallowed slowly and slowly I kept on thinking about it as she

drunk. Her eyes met mine as she was drinking. Her brittle fingers seemed

to have weared out and gave me back the gourd. I left with it back

to the hut.

Grandma: My thirst was quenched as handed the boy back the guard.

I thought he is a nice boy and he smiled and looked like his father. For

some time I just looked at him as he left for the hut. His eyes were

sharp and confident. He came back and pointed to me some white patches

on the grass. Grandma has made him a nice boy as I thought as

I wondered what will be of him when he grows up.

Peter: The white marks on the grass made me remember that the owl

was crying last night. I narrated the story to my mother as Grandma

listened. It was a terrible dream and I was scared. It had woken me at

night as I told the story.

It was a terrible dream and I was so scared due to the sound of an owl.

I could hear the sound of the owl, it was quiet but its sound could be

heard from a distance. I had listened to it for some time when I crawled

back to sleep. Grandma watched as I finished narrating the story.

She was keen and listened every word. Mother interrupted me later

and told me to go and fetch water from the river.

Peter: The scorching sun at noon and I went back to the hut. I picked

a big gourd and headed to the river. It was clear and clean as I wanted

to fetch some water and take it back home. I just glanced at the river

pondering what to do next. There was a little frog an a rock which

I had gazed for sometime. Looking at it, I could tell it was hiding from

the hot sun. Suddenly I saw a small snake, which drew me to its attention.

The colour of it made me aware that it was not poisonous, or

harmful. Though it was small I toyed with it. The frog just looked at

me from a safe distance. The snake wanted to eat the frog that had scampered

to safety. As I toyed with it by pocking it with a piece of stick

It got annoyed by me and bit my finger. I dropped the stick and then

run back home crying.

When I reached home I told Grandma what had happened. She wanted

come to the river, but she was weak from the scorching sun. A neighbour

was called by my mother to go and kill the little snake, when we

left I had forgotten that I was crying when we headed back to the river.

On reaching where the gourd was I pointed where the little snake

was. It was still there next to the gourd on other side of the river

the little frog was also there. The little snake was hiding next to the

gourd as it lay on the ground. The gourd was lifted up and little snake

was laid bare. My irritated neighbour picked his stick up and crushed

the little green snake.

Frog: Far abit a cross the river I had escaped from the snake, little that

I was feared the little snake. I had seen everything from there. How

the and how the boy came, how the snake wanted to eat me. I saw it

biting the boy’s finger. Even how his neighbour killed the snake.

Peter picked the gourd and filled it with water. He then gave it to his

neighbour to it back home.

He waded across the river which was knee deep and where I was. Though

I was scared I chose not to jump into the water. I just watched him helplessly

as he picked me and put me into his pocket and carried me to

his home. Deep in his pocket he reached me and grabbed me with his

hand. I was so tiny that he could grasp me in his palm with his clenched

fingers. The light, new environment shocked me there was no

ponds, rivers, or swamps. The place was dry which I later came to know

it was Peter’s compound. As he let me down from his hand I couldn’t

leap or jump. The place was so scary and noisy. Down on the ground

I watched helplessly as a cat running came next to the boy. It was dark

in nature and a bit rough in nature. It had happen to been near me, only

a few meters. It eyed on me as it preyed how to eat me, the boy watched

in amazement. The snake wanted to eat me and so was the cat.

It didn’t pounce on me but I was looking at my shinny body. I looked

like a perfect menu for cat only that I was so small. The cat turned away

after a little stare. All in all my life was saved. The boy moved from

the hut carrying food for some women who seemed that they couldn’t

stop talking and handed some food to them. Later he came back to

me and sat next to me.

Peter: Looking at the small frog that seem the interest me so much. I

thought that I should eat some food and went back to the hut and brought

some food with me. While I was eating I heard some noise from a distance.

It was a merry kind of sound. Being too excited I left my food

next to the little frog.

It didn’t mind, only its sparkling little eyes looked at me. I raised from

the ground and run towards to the direction of the sound in the village.

The village festival had just begun. People were gathering walking

to celebrate it.

Frog: At first the boy almost knocked me down with food as he almost

squashed me with his feet as he raised up. Poor me I thought will

I die for being a small frog. Then the women stood up from under the

tree and came towards the hut.

Peter’s grandmother and his mother came and picked the half empty

plate from where I was and went with it back to the hut. By now I was

getting hungry and I couldn’t eat human food. Starving as I were, I

had no choice and hoped to the forest nearby and disappeared into it.

Cat: It was almost sunset a sound come from the granary and I decided

to check it out. I went slowly and keenly toward the grains store.

I held my breath as I came near. Looking at a sack to see where the

sound was coming from. There was a mouse which seemed to have a

nice time nibbling what was in the sack. I pounced to it with such a

precision and caught it. It become my evening meal which I ate become

my fill. Later I licked myself and went over hut once more.

Peter: I passed through the forest and across the river to the other village.

The sound became more clear and real. Women voices seemed to

dominate the air. The drums could sing for them, boom, boom it went.

On reaching the village I couldn’t wait to see the harvest festival. It

had started earlier only that the rhythm of the drums was not so intense.

I could see my mother coming as she had followed me from home.

The drums echoed from every corner. People sat at every space

available. Others couldn’t wait as they danced to the melody from rhythmic

drums and trumpets. Their bare feet seemed more accustomed to

the beat and dust. Merry was in the making. Some old men sat next to

a tree while they feasted. The older men loved to sip some beer from

a giant gourd which they drew from. More women were cooking while

others were eating. My anxiety as a boy went straight to where my

age mates were. Music and dance filled the air. People were dancing

in turns. The younger boys who are always mischievous, daring ones

tried to get some beer out of cunningness. It got more and more interestingly

funny. The harvest festival and the dancing took the centre

stage. They were charming especially when a new note of beat came

in the air. Everything was in style and elegance. The beat, jingles, dancing

and aromas filled the air as I danced more than I thought. The

beats changed our mode and mood of dancing. The slower and faster

the beats embedded our nerves. It was truly African, pure cultural and

intense. When it paused for some time my mother came to me and said

we could go home. Now I had stopped dancing and we decided to go


The festival wasn’t over, but we needed to go home look after Grandma.

Grandma: By the fireside it was warm. I sat next to Peter his Mother.

I was asking about the festival. My grandson was feeling cold and he

covered himself with a blanket. A cat that was still licking itself from

the meal it had before. Peter’s mother said it was a harvest festival in

which people were celebrating about. It had brought every body excited.

Due to my age I could not stay awake for so long. I decided to

call it a day and went to sleep. Peter and his mother were still talking.

His father was coming the next day. Peter asked whether his father would

bring him a present for him. His mother said “You know your father

always comes home with a present”. I couldn’t wait to hear their

conversation and I went out like a candle.

Next morning comes and the weather had changed, it was cold, cloudy

and windy too. From the bed I left and went outside. It was chilly

as it was early in the morning and Peter had not waken up. I called his

mother and she prepared the morning tea. After having breakfast I gained

my full spirit from a cup of tea and I went out. The weather was

terrible for an old woman. I wondered where the sun had gone. If could

be here it could replenish my withered body to feel much better. I sat

next to a stool warming by the fire. Peter’s mother picked her hoe and

went to the garden. Peter wakes up and comes for a cup of tea still yawning

from his overnight sleep. Looking at him reminds me that he is

always loved his father. After sipping from the cup he asked me where

his mother was. I told him she had left her to the garden. His mood

and spirit was always good. Time goes by while still warming ourselves

by the fire. Peter goes out for a while. I seemed to loose my concentration

when Peter says “Daddy is coming”. The words from Peter made

me aware what was going on . I sighed as he entered the hut. Peter

couldn’t wait for him to get inside. He just met him as he got into

the house. As his luggage is being put down a smile showed from his

face. His tiredness seemed not to affect his warm smile. “Hello Grandma”,

he echoed. My son how have you been? My brittle fingers met

his firm hand. I was getting old and it had affected my concentration

and sight. I stood up in my weak body. He felt sad and said “Mummy!

Don’t wake up from your seat”, as I melted back to my seat as

my hands seem to be shaking. Certainly I thought that age had caught

up with me. I felt happy as a family and we decided to have a little

chat. My mind was a little mixed up by my anxiety which seemed to

have taken my brain like a storm. I thought wisely for some time as

thought how to put the words together and talk to Peter’s father.

Peter’s father: The old woman who I was his son, watched me parental

love. I sent Peter to fetch his mother who’ left in a lightening speed.

We talked with Peter’s Grandma as I waited for my wife to come from

the garden. She seemed excited for me coming home. It had been a

few weeks, but she thought that it was ages since I left. Perhaps her

memory was fading as she seemed to forget when I had left. Her face

brightened from the time I had entered the hut. A smile radiated from

her face which assured that she was alright. I loved her for not being

just a mother to me, but also an example to my wife and Peter. Weariness

had faded away and I felt much better.

Peter’s mother: The conversation between my husband and Peter’s

Grandma was clear as I entered the hut. I couldn’t wait to see my husband.

Anxiety gripped me as soon I saw him. His usual gentleness radiated

from him. I said “hello my husband”, in which he replied with

an anticipated smile as greeted me. Peter’s Grandma watched with a

warmly heart. It seemed to remind her when she was a little girl the

day she got married, her amazement could tell it all. After a long

conversation I prepared some food for him and we continued talking.

He paused for a moment and he remembered something that he had

forgotten. “Peter”, he called, asking him to look for a blue box which

was in the bag. Peter could not make up his mind whether to look the

bag or go out. He uttered something concerning a frog as he went out.

He was searching for something outside. Then he came back again

saying that he couldn’t find his frog. Then he went to his father’s bag

and pulled out a big box which he open excitedly. “Wow”, he couldn’t

believe it. His amazement shocked everybody including his father.

Well I thought is that my son? Opening the box he had found a toy car

his father had promised to bring him. Before I could even talk he went

out holding the toy car with his hands. We all followed him out he went

out to the tree still holding without putting it down. We all watched

silently as he sat down and then he knelt. He looked up and started


Peter: I looked up and I saw where the owl had always perched and I

looked further up.

I said: “Father thank you for everything. You cared about me, my parents

and Grandma.

Bless them for taking care of me”.

As I finished they all looked me as my eyes met theirs. Certainly I remembered

God had seen it all.