FREE MAIZE

Wiley! (at length)

Skream! (1hr with Gilles Peterson)


Binyavanga Wainaina!
(on, among other things, Negroponte’s 100-dollar laptops “for the whole brown world”, Binyavanga first muddied up here.)

When free American maize turned up in Kenyan schools in 1984, thanks to Bob Geldof and USA for Africa, it arrived in gunny bags and presented itself at school dining tables: steaming yellow, not white like the maize-flour we knew as a staple. We had heard that this food was coming. We had heard that people were starving to death – only a few miles away from us, in fact, over the border. But even that was “out there.” We were all hearing on the radio this song by big celebrities about the starving people in Africa. We were singing these songs, as well – thrilled that we, too, could feel mushy about people in Africa. We saw the sacks unloaded. But they were silent. So we started to speculate. I must confess that I hated school food, anyway, and that yellow maize porridge tasted not that much worse than everything else we were forced to eat. But our speculation was powerful. It is American animal feed. And it started tasting a bit too earthy. It has been treated with contraceptive chemicals. And it started to taste metallic. It was sent to us because it has gone bad already. And it started to smell funny.

Soon, in the Njoro High School dining hall, vast amounts of yellow porridge went directly into the bins. Our teachers, normally violent fascists in matters of discipline, looked the other way. We had food fights with the porridge every evening, and the floor would be littered with the clumpy remnants of America’s love.

– from Glory, Binyavanga Wainaina. Bidoun.

3 thoughts on “FREE MAIZE”

  1. Those words about the maize…..shhhhhhhittah!
    Where was it we visited and they told us that they received Vietnam-era rations from the US?! Sarajevo, methinks….yes, Sarajevo.
    Thanks Sam, but no thanks.

  2. I used to teach at Njoro about 30 years ago, and the chalk was better tasting that the posho. But knowing that Kenyans hate American “corn” and would rather starve than eat it, I will gladly use it as automobile fuel and not feel guilty about starving Africans.

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