Before she left Kenya to start her 151 day epic with Invisible Borders artist, (our) traveling photographer Renee Mboya, did some intrepid exploring closer to home. She headed for the Tanzanian border. Here is her story.
My Nigerian friend Adeola and I are going from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. We leave the city at six fifteen on Good Friday; spend three hours riding to the border at Namanga and another one standing in line to get our passports stamped. When Adeola finally gets to the counter the immigration officer tells her that they won’t let her – a Nigerian – re-enter the country from a land border; that she would have to fly back into Nairobi. This is the first chink on our romantic notion of travelling overland – officious officialdom for no good reason whatsoever.
Stranded, we hang around the border strip in Namanga waiting to figure out how to get back to Nairobi. The Good Friday backlog gives us enough time to have tea in a tin shack.
We are accosted by a group of Maasai women who force beaded bracelets onto our wrists. Draped in kanga and Maasai shukas, they block our path like an attacking flock of birds, heckling us into buying one thing after another, until we are laden with pink necklaces, skin scraped and raw from trying on bead and wire rings which clearly don’t fit. Their only concern is that we take something – even if it’s different versions of the same thing. I have often been at Namanga – I have a stock of jewellery at home that proves it – but this time, as Adeola pulls out her camera, I know that retail therapy will balance the disenchantment of not being on the Sai Baba bus as it pulls away, leaving a cloud of dust as it tumbles on, off to Dar, without us. Eventually we also buy kangas.
Adeola and I never made it to Dar es Salaam, but we cut back through the country and after a long night in Makindu we ended up on the island in Mombasa heavy laden with Maasai trend kangas from Namanga. I finally collected my Toghal cushion the Wednesday after we returned and it’s growing on me. Already I’m obsessing about it.