Author: Brian Rath

Impressions of Kigali: This city works

The first and only time I had been in Kigali before was in 2009 and I saw only a little of it. I remember that I was unable to complete my tour of the holocaust memorial for the emotion that overtook me; successive rooms of shelves stacked with hacked and broken skulls, the skulls getting smaller as you progressed through the dark display. My tour didn’t last long and I left there quickly, only to be shown the bridge from which mothers were forced to throw their children into the river far below. The place left an impression on me.

This time it was different…

The last 50 kilometres of Ugandan road, to the border with Rwanda, is hardly a road at all. The potholes are huge and our vehicle jolts and shudders with the unremitting impact of those potholes we fail to avoid. My back starts to hurt and I’m very irritable by time we reach Katuna, a small border town on the verge of Rwanda.

It takes standing in a queue for half an hour to exit Uganda. Then, after a short walk to the Rwandan side, there’s no one at all to delay us. The stamp on my South African passport is simply routine and the customs declaration for our car is handled efficiently. Our journey continues. The machine gun-toting policeman checks our passports, swings the boom and politely ushers us into Rwanda. Immediately we change to drive on the right hand side.

Suddenly the road is impeccable, although it is still being cut out of the Virunga mountainside. It is wide, newly surfaced, perfectly cambered, and winds easily down into the nation’s capital, Kigali.

Two hours later, in Kigali, I am first struck by the fact that the city is spotless and inhabited only by well-dressed people going about their business. Shoppers are carrying big brown paper packets and I am told that no plastic packets are allowed. It’s midday and there’s no sign of a traffic jam anywhere. The dual-lane bypass sweeps through the city, out and on.

Unlike Kampala, where simply everywhere is a trading zone, Kigali is highly ordered, zoning regulations clearly in force. There’s no one selling cooked chicken pieces on dusty sidewalks. In fact, there are no dusty sidewalks; on the sides there’s paving, and at the centre of the dual carriageways are well trimmed lawns and palm trees.

While Kampala might have the highest per capita number of motorbike taxis in Africa, Kigali must come a close second. But again, Kigali is different. Whereas riding a motorbike taxi (‘boda-boda’) in the vehicular mayhem of Kampala poses threats to life and limb (especially without a helmet), Kigali riders are sedate, controlled, everyone wearing protective headgear, colour-coded according to the mobile service provider that sponsored it; green for MTN and blue for Tigo.

A street in Kigali. (Pic: AFP)
A street in Kigali. (Pic: AFP)

Both Kampala and Kigali are cities built on hills and both cities are widely spread out. Large sections of Kigali’s hilly suburban areas are beautiful, the older parts very reminiscent of the older parts of suburban Cape Town; narrow, meandering roads wind around the hills and you even find the occasional cobbled street.

During my week-long stay, the Rwandans I meet speak their own language (Kinyarwanda) and although almost everyone is fluent in French, the language is seldom used despite the fact that the locals I meet have names like Jean-Baptiste, Philippe and Patrice among them.

Kinyarwanda sounds a bit like a Bantu language mixed with Russian. It is not an easy language at all, but that the colloquial version is infused with variations on many Swahili words makes it a little easier for me to understand. Some of it I get, at least. And many Rwandans are fluent in Swahili too.

“English is problem,” I am repeatedly told.

On Saturday night I am taken out to see the Kigali night-life. It is sedate by comparison to Nairobi and Kampala too. People are well dressed and well behaved and I hear smatterings of French being spoken around me. People drink cognac and expensive whiskies more than beer. Around midnight the place starts to empty and by 1am we are heading home.

Patrice, my host, is a connoisseur of fine spirit liquors and we stop at Kigali’s only 24-hour liquor store. Instead of the cheap liquor one might expect to find in a store that services the needs of the all-night drinker, this one stocks mainly Hennessy, Johnny Walker Black Label, Chivas Regal and Jack Daniels.

“This place will finish me,” Patrice says as he hands over more than $100 for a bottle of Johnny Walker.

That there is a lot of money in Kigali is obvious from this store alone.

My visit coincides with Rwanda marking 20 years since the genocide that happened in the country.

Rwandans gather under a banner at the Amahoro stadium in Kigali on April 7 2014, during a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of Rwanda's genocide. (Pic: AFP)
Rwandans gather under a banner at the Amahoro stadium in Kigali on April 7 2014 during a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of Rwanda’s genocide. (Pic: AFP)

‘Kwibuka’ is to remember. Remember, Unite, Renew. The Rwandese are not about to forget what happened in 1994. Everywhere around Kigali are large corporate banners with the logo and in the week that I’m there, spending time among Rwandans, I don’t hear the words ‘Hutu’ or ‘Tutsi’ even once. The genocide is remembered but is obviously not up for discussion any longer.

I fly from Kigali International Airport on a RwandAir flight direct to Nairobi. My departure is handled efficiently and we take off only a few minutes late because passengers connecting from Burundi arrive late. The flight takes just over an hour as the pilot makes up for lost time. We land exactly at the expected time of arrival.

Things change immediately. At Jomo Kenyatta International Airport it takes nearly an hour to clear Immigration and get my luggage. Nairobi’s perfunctory traffic jam starts at the airport parking area where the pay station has no change. The boom rises as we are told to proceed to the next pay station, outside the parking area. Here the ticketing machine is not working and we have to wait for a half hour for the jam to build enough for a supervisor to let us all go, scot-free.

I am left with the impression that Africa can indeed work as the west might expect. From what I saw, Kigali has achieved it. For now, we’ll leave the contentious subject of there being a dictatorship in Rwanda, even if somewhat benevolent. We’ll leave the subject of restrictions on mobility imposed on the local population. We’ll leave the fact that you can’t ride a bicycle into the city, or be void of shoes when you walk there. And, we’ll leave the contention that Paul Kagame is “eating” as much as any other despot in Africa. So too will we leave the contention that Kigali is packed with Kagame’s spies, tracking down any likely suspect.

Africa can work, even if its operation is conditional and enforced.

Brian Rath was born and raised in Cape Town. He now lives and writes in Kenya, and recently had a novel published.

Kenya’s self-styled Prophet David Owuor

His website’s name is Repent and Prepare the Way; his radio station is called Jesus is Lord Radio. He claims humanity is on the brink of the apocalypse and must be ready for the second coming of Jesus. He also claims to have the gift of prophesy and healing, and draws thousands to his “Revivals” and “Crusades” at the three main centres of Christianity in Kenya: Kisumu, at Lake Victoria; Nakuru, in the great Rift Valley, and the capital Nairobi.

His name is Dr David Owuor but he’s also called “The Luo Prophet”  by some (he’s from the Luo tribe in Kenya), the “Man of God” and “Prophet of Jehovah” by his followers, and a sham by others. Like many other celebrity pastors, he has flamboyant style – he  rides in a Benz and wears long-tailed white suits. Owuor is overtly critical of the Church, orthodox or otherwise, for its corruption and money-making concerns. In turn, religious leaders have raised questions about his “activities”, called for him to be investigated and dubbed him the “prophet of doom”.

President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and Raila Odinga (C), attend a prayer meeting on February 24 2013 led by David Owuor (R). (Pic: AFP)
President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and Raila Odinga (C), attend a prayer meeting on February 24 2013 led by David Owuor (R). (Pic: AFP)

Videos of him on YouTube include prophesies, made at distant locations about distant locations. He’s been hosted in Venezuela, South Korea, Oslo and Paris.

In July 2009 he reportedly had a vision at OR Tambo International Airport of the Pale Horse coming to earth, thus breaking the Fourth Seal of the Apocalypse.

A year and a half later, on February 8 2011, as Egyptian demonstrators were crossing the bridge to Tahrir Square, something strange seemed to appear in the news footage of the day – a phantom horse.  Owuor saw it and hailed it as his prophecy fulfilled.

His other self-proclaimed successes include summoning rain on June 5 2005 in front of a stadium crowd (video here) and predicting, back in 2004, the full scale and extent of Kenya’s post-election violence that occurred three years later.

While I am not a practising Christian myself, I am wont to believe that prophesies can come true, that miracles do indeed happen. So I thought it might be interesting to interview the man and see what he had to say about prophesy, healing and celebrity.

I tried to reach him on the numbers listed on his website and filled out a few ‘contact us’ forms, but received no reply. I dialled a  number that a well-connected friend got for me. My calls were cut. Eventually I managed to get a separate email address for the ‘Repentance Office’ and sent my request there again.

The next day, I received this reply:

Blessings Brian,
The Man Of GOD The Mighty Prophet Of JEHOVAH has just returned from THE ITALY NATIONAL CONFERENCE, and HE has ACCEPTED to set time for your interview. However, please get in touch with the ARCHBISHOP Dr. PAUL ONJORO who schedules THE MAN OF GOD’S MEETINGS, that a date my be localized for you. This is very important because THE MAN OF GOD will soon go into a seclusion of prayers and Total Dry Fast for the upcoming HEALING SERVICE and as the guests pastors from abroad begin to arrive, HE will be really tied up timewise.

Pastor Muthoni
Repentance Office

Sent from my iPhone

I replied immediately via email, asking for the Archbishop’s contact details. No response. My repeated SMSs to the number I had already went unanswered. I gave up.

A few days later,  I received a call saying that I could indeed interview The Prophet in a few hours, just before he left Nairobi for his Nakuru ‘miracle healing crusade’ held on 9 – 12 August. As I got ready to meet him, I received a text message cancelling our appointment.

I ended up watching most of the first day of Owuor’s event on television. I saw people claiming to have been healed of various diseases, including HIV. A ‘medical expert’ was on hand to testify to the HIV cures. He was holding what I assume were medical records so it’s not clear whether these miracles happened at Nakuru or before. Another man claimed to be healed of his blindness. He reported seeing “a blue sky with bits of white” for the first time. A woman in a new and impeccable suit had already removed her tatty back harness by time she got onto the stage. She jumped and down in joy, saying that previously she couldn’t even sit. She sat now, beaming. There were others who gave testimony too during that first day and each of them were rewarded with a bottle of Fanta, handed out by The Prophet himself.

The three-day event made the headlines not only for this, but because two people died while waiting to be healed. Whatever the case, about this incident and other things, it’s clear that the good doctor and his people don’t want to answer any questions.

Brian Rath was born and raised in Cape Town. He now lives and writes in Kenya, and recently had a novel published.

The barbershops of West Africa

Andrew Esiebo is a Nigerian photographer whose photo essay, Pride, is an exploration of barbers and their shops across seven West African countries. He captures the spaces in which barbers operate and looks at the aesthetics of their shops.

Pride was recently featured in the New York Times’ online magazine Lens, and ten of his prints have been added to the permanent collection of the Musée du quai Branly in Paris.

Côte d'Ivoire.
Côte d’Ivoire. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)

Esiebo chatted to Voices of Africa about the barbers, their shops and the hairstyles he shot.

How did the barbershop project come about?
The idea for Pride came about during a street photography project I was doing in Lagos. While photographing people on the street, I stumbled upon a barbershop and started talking to the owner. He said to me that while he might not be considered an important person in the society, he was proud to be the barber to one of Nigeria’s ex-presidents. That resonated with me and made me think about the role, and importance, of barbers in West African society. I thought about the idea for several years and in 2012, following an artistic award I received, I was able to develop the project. I travelled to several West African cities and looked at the relevance, and the role, of the barbershop in the city.

Liberia. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)
Liberia. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)

What can you tell us about the role that the barber plays in West African societies?
Barbers help people to gain an identity. Some people have to have the right cut to project who they are. The way they look, through their hairstyle, influences the way they feel about themselves, the way people see them and address them.

Barbers are also influential because their shops are what I call “public intimate spaces”. People share their problems in conversation with the barber. The barbers learn a lot from this, and this knowledge is then shared with other customers.

So, barbershops are not only a place for cutting your hair but a space where people meet, where they come to relax and discuss issues; a space where relationships are built, business deals are sealed and where intimate subjects are often discussed.

Mali. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)
Mali. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)

Which barbershops were most interesting to you?
The barbershops I found most interesting were those which displayed icons, religious images, pictures of hip-hop artists, posters of soccer teams and icons of global black culture. There was a shop in Mali where the guy had posters of [Osama] Bin Laden and [Muammar] Gaddafi next to pictures of President Obama. I found this contrasting use of icons interesting. The barber said that, on the one hand, Bin Laden and Gaddafi were his heroes while on the other hand Obama is a global symbol of black power. For a black African to be the president of the US is something to be proud of, he said. So he named his shop Barack Obama Coiffure. There were many others I found interesting too.

Hairstyles. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)
Hairstyles. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)

Tell us about the hairstyles.
Many of the hairstyles offered by barbers were similar, inspired by football stars or hip-hop icons in America. While the hairstyles themselves overlapped, their functions differed, depending on the country.

In Senegal or Mali, which are restrictive Islamic societies, a hairstyle can be a way of making a social statement, while in Liberia or Côte d’Ivoire, that same hairstyle can be a way to get attention from the ladies.

There was one particularly eclectic one from Senegal, worn by a barber.  I asked the guy why he barbered that style for himself. He told me: “You know, this is a very conservative society but through my hair, I have the freedom to express what I want”.  I really fancied that. He was rebelling against the conservative nature of the society.

Benin. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)
Benin. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)

Were there any regional or national differences across the barbershops you photographed?
To be honest, I did not find many regional or national differences in barbershops across West Africa. In fact, I found them very similar. There also was unity in the hairstyles themselves; unity in the language of using your head to talk.

Sure, there were differences in the names of the styles but many of the styles were the same. It shows how globalised or how connected the world is today. Many of the styles come from the same influences:  Western media.

Côte d'Ivoire. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)
Côte d’Ivoire. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)

Are you exhibiting Pride at the moment?
No, but I hope to exhibit this project across West Africa and beyond. I am still looking for an organisation to support the exhibition. I would also like to publish a book on the project because I think this is an important part of our culture that needs to be documented. It has to be celebrated and shown around the world.

Ghana. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)
Ghana. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)

What is your next project?
I will be looking at the nightlife of Lagos and beyond through the eyes and lives of DJs. DJs at parties, DJs in concerts, DJs at various ceremonies. I want to use DJs, who are an integral part of our nightlife, to depict life in Lagos.

Senegal. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)
Senegal. (Pic: Andrew Esiebo)

Any advice for aspiring African photographers?
I think the only advice I can give is for them to work hard, to be passionate about what they do, to never give up and always be ready to learn new things. Keep pushing and open your horizons. You’ll go places with that.


Believe it or not: Witchcraft in Kenya

When I first arrived in Nairobi, I saw the signs but didn’t know what they meant. Once I started understanding Swahili, I learned that the profusion of ads, nailed to fences, stuck on poles and printed on A3 paper, were for waganga (witchdoctors) offering assistance mainly in matters of business, money, love and infertility. In just about every suburb of Nairobi, you’ll find at least one ad, hand-painted, on a little plate, nailed high up on a pole. For an average of around 6000 shillings (R600) you can get to see one of these mgangas but it is advisable to avoid those who advertise on paper. They are reputed to be con artists.

(Pic: Kiragu Thuo)
(Pic: Kiragu Thuo)

There’s a distinct undertow of witchcraft to the interpretation of many unusual events in Kenya. Even Christians, confronted by some unexplained phenomenon, might exclaim “juju!” (black magic) in the middle of the conversation, and usually everyone will agree.

There are two main ‘currents’ of witchcraft practised in the country. The first, often termed kamuti (kah-moo-teh), is attributed to the Kamba people. It is Bantu witchcraft, similar to that known in South Africa and involves the use of charms, ‘muti’ and spells to achieve the client’s ends. This type of witchcraft is heavily traded in the areas of Kitui and Kitale, not far from Nairobi.

The second stream of witchcraft derives from the Mohammedan influences in East Africa – from the Arabs who landed here centuries ago – and involves the deployment of ‘genies’ (as in Aladdin) to achieve one’s ends. It is grounded in texts from the Qur’an and here, you ‘rent’ the services of a genie to fulfil your wishes for you. You can even buy a genie to work for you permanently and exclusively if you have a few hundred thousand shillings at hand. This type of witchcraft is heavily traded in Mombasa, at the coast, and is reportedly common among the Swahili people. It’s even more strongly associated with Zanzibar, and Dar es Salaam on the Tanzanian coast.

Recently, a friend of mine was involved in a minibus accident. She was the only one without a scratch. The makanga (conductor) with a bleeding face wanted know where she got her juju from because he needed some.

Another friend’s sister was victim of a grenade attack at a church in Mombasa. Shattered glass went everywhere but she, standing at the window, was not injured. She said that people were muttering things about the protection afforded by genies. Interestingly, she was at church but had recently converted to Islam, not that anyone knew. Not anyone visible, anyway.

From the Bantu-Kamba kind of witchcraft there’s a tale so oft-repeated it has reached the level of urban legend. It’s the story of an unfaithful wife and her temporary lover who become “stuck” after having sex, like what happens to dogs. Of course, medical science refutes the possibility of this occurring among humans. But it happens – a YouTube video says so.

The clip shows a rather large woman and a rather small guy lying on top of her, unable to do anything to release himself. The woman is covering her face from the peering crowd, and the guy looks terrified. They are eventually released from each other when the husband comes into the room and does something to free them. One can’t see what he does in the video but the stories I have heard mention the uncapping of a Bic-type pen or the flicking of a Bic-type lighter.

Stories of “Nairobi girls” using this kind of witchcraft to secure a man is also legend. This kamuti involves the insertion of herbs or crystals into the vagina to keep the man abnormally attracted and emotionally ‘stuck’. The man will also be unable to gain an erection with any other woman. These kinds of stories are discussed very matter-of-factly in Nairobi. It is known to be a part of the girls’ personal arsenal, and is reputed to be a common practice.

Despite its widespread acceptance in Kenyan culture, witchcraft obviously has it detractors too. There have been horrific incidents of ‘witch’ lynchings – in 2009, five elderly men and women were burned alive by villagers in western Kenya who accused them of bewitching a young boy.  Last year, The Star newspaper reported that elders in the coastal Kilifi Country were fleeing their homes out of fear of being killed for practising witchcraft.

(Pic: Kiragu Thuo)
(Pic: Kiragu Thuo)

Speaking to other Kenyans, mainly from the coast, I have heard stories of genies and what they can get up to if their master is properly paid and clearly instructed on the client’s wishes. I met a guy called Gilbert who told me he was forced to have sex in his car with a work colleague who had a crush on him. His brand new car refused to start and wouldn’t move when he tried to push it. Once he had done the deed with her, it started on the first turn.

During the mayhem that followed Kenya’s disputed election results in 2007, shops were looted and burned. A Mombasa youth grabbed a TV from a shop and escaped with it on his head. When he got home, he was unable to get the TV off his head. He only managed to remove it when he went back to the shop to return it. The clip isn’t on YouTube but millions of Kenyans saw it on national TV.

Skeptics will be wont to dismiss these juju stories as just that: stories. But before you do, let me add my own experience for light reflection: A few years ago, when I was researching witchcraft for a book I was writing, I was referred to an mganga based in Mombasa. He agreed to be interviewed on condition I undertook ‘rehma’ (spiritual cleansing) with him. I couldn’t resist.

I met the mganga at the Nyali bridge, just outside Mombasa. He looked very ordinary, wearing a plain shirt, khaki pants and flip-flops. He took me to a small, corrugated shack in the village of Bamburi. A fire was lit, molasses tobacco smouldered near it and incense was stuck in a banana to attract the genies. Evidently, genies like sweet things.

The ritual involved handfuls of rice sprinkled over me amid chants of a Muslim prayer. A goat was forced to inhale my recollection of negative experiences over a small fire and I was washed down by a live and wetted chicken. Salve (mafuta) was spread on my breastbone and applied to my palate and I left with little packets of sticks and ointment that I was to apply every morning to ward off evil. It took about 20 minutes in all, and I paid the mganga 8 000 shillings (R800) for the privilege. I didn’t feel any different afterwards, but the guy that had introduced me to the daktari (doctor) warned me that rehma would make me become “a magnet for women”. I laughed at the time and didn’t think any more of it.

I don’t consider myself to have any special appeal to women, but let’s just say that for the few weeks after my rehma, I had a torrid time of it all.

Brian Rath was born and raised in Cape Town. He now lives and writes in Kenya, and has a novel due to be published shortly.

Author’s note: Please be cautious of the claims and contacts that are provided in the comments section under this article. Readers have been given misleading information and have lost money. Exercise proper judgment.

Transvestite on the town

Erica (aka Eric) is one of Nairobi’s very few transvestites, a “trannie”, “a woman born in a man’s body” –  and the ultimate party animal. A nocturnal creature, she sleeps during the day and goes out at night. On any week night Erica will be club-hopping around the city, seeing most nights through to daybreak and beyond. She is something of an institution, much celebrated in Nairobi’s night-time scene and warmly greeted by ‘security’ everywhere.

Erica earns a little cash by doing women’s make-up for special events but she is otherwise supported by friends and admirers. Her dad has a little money and some property at the coast. She manages to survive in Nairobi.

While we were out together the other night, a guy in a golf shirt and safari boots watched us as we talked. “She is quite beautiful,” he said to me when she left, in acknowledgement, not attraction. I agreed.

She does her own make-up with taste and discretion. Her hair is shortish without any extensions, weaves or wigs. She doesn’t wear jewellery at all. Most often she’s out with a sling bag, wearing a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Until you see her made-up face, you’re seeing a man despite the slight swing of her hips when she walks. Her look is androgynous, seldom camp, and she rarely wears those long fake lashes with curls extending two inches out.

Erica (Pic: Brian Rath)

Under Kenyan law, homosexual acts are punishable by up to 14 years in jail. It’s seldom enforced: Police would have to catch someone en flagrante to prosecute. But the threat is there, so gay status isn’t openly advertised.

David Kuria, an openly gay political candidate, was forced to bow out of the senator race for Kiambu country last December due to a lack of funds and threatening SMSes. Despite this, “the narrative of Kenya being a homophobic society is taken out of context,” he told The Guardian.

“I was getting invitations by many young families for their children’s birthday parties, or first masses for newly ordained priests in Kiambu. Far too many people would show up even when we only wanted to hold small meetings – that really does not look to me like a homophobic society.”

It may be different within Kenyan families. According to a 2011 survey by Kenya’s human rights commission, 18% of LGBT Kenyans revealed their sexual orientation to their parents. Of those who did, 89% were then disowned.

Lindsay, who defines herself as transgender/transsexual, documents life as an LGBT in Kenya on her blog. “In general, if you are discovered to be transgender, the likelihood of you being stigmatised, harassed, discriminated against, beaten up, ridiculed, publicly undressed to see what you have between your legs and, worst of all, corrective raped is high,” she said in an interview with Global Voices.

In a country where an earring is still considered an overt sign of being gay, that Kenya’s new Chief Justice Willy Mutunga wears a sparkling stud is telling. He knows what some Kenyans and his critics think an earring means – and he doesn’t care. He continues to wear it, he says, to connect with his ancestors.

Holding her own
In the time we’ve spent together over the past four years, I have seen Erica face only two ‘incidents’ and the very occasional snide comment. It’s only when a guy at the next table gets drunk that I have heard strong verbal exchanges. Erica is then likely to shout the guy down with something remarkably accurate: “Does your wife know that you’re really attracted to men?” she might scream, in English or Swahili, so that everyone can hear.

Erica hit on me once, a long time ago. “Forget about it sweetie, it’ll never happen,” I told her. And that was that. But when some Nairobi folk see Erica and me together, there are questions. Erica will usually have to explain that there’s nothing between us, there never has been, and we’re just friends. The quizzical looks turn to me then, to confirm, and I usually just shrug. It’s unusual here for a straight guy to have a gay friend, let alone a transgender friend, and I can only act as natural as I feel about it. Those who ask don’t understand it but they can live with it.

Until quite recently Erica hung out in the same spots where Nairobi gangsters and hoodlums do. She was forever being robbed of her phone or having her money ‘picked’, but she’s never been hurt. She is accorded respect simply for being who she is in this harsh city, and she handles herself with aplomb.

Her lifestyle is changing slightly. She has found a new hangout spot, not downtown, but in a Nairobi suburb. It’s called The Solar Garden, presumably because it’s a place to go when the sun is out. Last weekend, I was out unusually late and joined Erica there. It’s a converted house, 1960s architecture, big and plain, with a huge slate patio and a wide lawn up front, replete with a large movie screen. A large group gathered at the bar inside while we sat outside.

There was a celebrity congregation on the patio, mostly guys in dreadlocks, T-shirts, baseball caps and sneakers, with a Kenyan rap artist at the centre. They were slouching on the balcony railing, taking photographs.

After a few hours of socialising, Erica hooked up with a guy. They got affectionate but no one took the slightest notice of their arms around each other.