The first time he saw his own left hand after January 17, 2008 was in a picture displayed in a street photo exhibition.
He recognised it as his and was further assured that it was by the brown watch that was still wrapped around the wrist of the lifeless hand. He has no idea where the hand was taken after the shutter button was pressed.
LOST HIS HAND TEN YEARS AGO
Even though Eric Kioko lost his left hand 10 years ago to attackers during the 2007/8 post-election violence, he works as a DJ and is famously known as DJ Talanta.
Observing Talanta as he bends to the left to use what remained of his hand from the elbow to spin the turntable as the right hand takes control of the console buttons, you get the picture of a professional DJ who loves his job and enjoys his own mix.
But just like he spins the turntable, life has been a back-and-forth affair for the “One-handed DJ”, as his slogan goes. After his arm was slashed in Mathare, his wife left him, a brother who would have been of help also died and he was stripped of his ability to do some few basic things he could do effortlessly before. But not even fate could prevent him from mixing songs to the pleasure of his fans.
“This is a job I love to do. Even before the violence that led to the loss of my arm, I used to be a DJ and a conductor. Again, this is what puts food on my table,” he said.
That fateful day, DJ Talanta had gone to the Mathare 17 Area 3C in Bondeni to check on his mother’s house. His mother had been putting up in a tent at a rescue centre pitched near the gate to the Kenya Air Force base on Juja Road.
“I had moved from Kisumu, where I worked, to Nairobi because chaos had erupted in Kisumu and I feared for my life,” he said.
When he arrived in Nairobi, he traced his mother and sister to the camp and had to stay with them, since he had nowhere else to go. They were later moved to the Mathare Chief’s camp, which was guarded by Administration Police officers.
“We stayed at the camp for two weeks and then when things were calm, or so we thought, I decided to go to our previous home to check on my mother’s house. Everything was intact, although many houses had been razed.
“As I was returning to the camp at around 7pm, I came across three people who were attacking an elderly woman as she cried and begged them to spare her life and not rape her and so I tried to help.I did not manage to do it, as one of them who had a very sharp machete accosted me and tried to hit my head with it. I lifted my left hand in defense and with one fall of the panga, my hand was on the ground.
I felt the panga upon my hand, then a thud on the ground .The pain was unimaginable.”
RAN FOR HIS LIFE
He decided to run for his life. He ran to the camp and upon arrival, his mother and sister saw him and fainted. When they regained consciousness, all they did was cry. His hand had been cut just below the elbow.
“I was treated by medics from the Kenya Air Force. They dressed the profusely bleeding hand and gave me some painkillers before taking me to Kenyatta National Hospital, where they kept dressing it and giving me medicine.”
By the time he was discharged from the hospital upon his request one month later, he had accrued a medical bill of Sh30,055. He had no money and he pledged to pay Sh200 per month until the bill was settled.
“I had not healed and so my friends took me to Kikuyu Hospital. The hospital staff told me that my hand had to be amputated at the elbow joint for it to heal. And so they did.”
He stayed at the hospital for a week and later decided to go look for his family so that they could reunite, because there had been restrictions on movement and so he had not seen them since he was taken to hospital.
“Things were calm by that time and Mum had moved from Mathare to Umoja. I also rented a house in Kayole even though I remained jobless. My wife left with our child. I exhausted all my money and I only depended on well-wishers. I begged,” he said.
In 2012, though, DJ Talanta was contacted by then Ghetto Radio presenter Mbusi, who had previously seen him perform. And just as he was about to start his job at the radio station, his only brother died after falling sick.
“I started working at Ghetto Radio and together we hosted a couple of shows, among them “Splash” and “Changamka”. While working, I preached peace and presented myself as a peace ambassador considering another election period was looming,” he said.
After leaving the station in 2014, he was contracted by the Dajoski Club on Kangundo Road, where he still hosts a Tuesday night reggae show alongside DJ Bling and DJ Charra and MCs Bonoko and Daddy Carlos .
His mother has since moved back to their rural home. He remarried and has two children with his new wife. “My life is now moving smoothly, but I have always wondered where my hand was taken. The fact that I lost it hurts me. Someone who knew me handed my watch to my mother and said it was removed from the hand before police took it.” “I never received any money from the photo exhibition as people insinuate. The only money I received from the government was Sh10,000 and I hear they have this week wired some Sh50,000 to us. That amount is little compared to what we have had to go through.”
DJ Talanta says he has forgiven whoever attacked him and he is now using his misfortune to preach peace everywhere he goes.
“These politicians fly their children out of the country and their houses are guarded 24 hours against you, who are fighting for them. They don’t even know you and when you die or lose your abilities, they will never help you. Just vote wisely and maintain peace.”