alexa Oh beauty! What art thou? And even in my old age why do I love ladies so? - Daily Nation

Oh beauty! What art thou? And even in my old age why do I love ladies so?

Saturday January 12 2019

Michelle Obama

Former United States first lady Michelle Obama. 

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Ladies are very much on my mind as I approach my 75th birthday. It appears that age in itself does not either blunt or diminish the natural or social urges with which we respond to our men or women friends and prospective lovers.

This is why you find that even in places like old people’s homes beautiful love affairs sprout and flourish. Thus, I admit that, try as I might, I cannot rein in my insatiable “celebration” of my intriguing, tantalising and inspiring sisters, which is just about all of them.

So, while I was pondering the hefty matters of the new year, like the projected “slowdown” in the world economy and the accelerating effects of climate change, three dadas (sisters) that I could not take my eyes or ears off, popped up onto the scene, and I could not resist the temptation to tell you about them. Two of them you know anyway, because they are “Kenyan”, and I keep talking about them.

Do you remember Michelle Obama of Kogelo and “Akinyi” Williams of Seme? The latter recently got herself into a match, of the sporting type, with one of the most admired fathers of twins in the world, and that truly melted my heart, as I will tell you in a moment. As for Michelle, a recent “news” item startled me with the claim that she had replaced Hillary Clinton as the most admired woman in the world.

Well, I have the most profound respect for former First Lady, Senator, Secretary and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. But I have never even begun to consider her as a competitor of Michelle Obama for my admiration. I think that Michelle, apart from her exceptional intelligence, courage and articulateness, is incomparable in her gracefulness as a person! But that may simply be the opinion of an infatuated old man.



But the latest manifestation of Michelle's versatility is the publication of her latest book, Becoming. I will not say much about it here because I am still reading.

But what already strikes me is the profoundly sincere and generously “sharing” angle that she adopts. Having been where she has been, and being where she is, she could have dazzled us with her most glamorous experiences. Instead, she appears to choose what most matters to you and me.

I think that anyone who wants or cares to become a better, more caring human being, should read this book.

The third lady, quite near home, is a beauty queen. She is the current Miss Africa, Ugandan Quiin Abenakyo (“let-her-have-it” in Lusoga, the language of the source of the Nile), who earned the title by finishing among the top contenders at the Miss World beauty contest in China last month. I cannot describe myself as exactly a fan of beauty contests. But, as we advance in years, we inevitably become more tolerant of divergent views.

Indeed, one of the most valuable lessons you learn as you grow older is that no one is infallible.

Anyway, whether we support or oppose beauty pageants, we can hardly ignore them. In the case of Quiin Abenakyo, I could not help skinning my eyes and pricking my ears when, on her triumphant return from China, she was honoured with two invitations to visit my age-mate, Ndugu Yoweri Museveni.

That in itself reassured me that I am not alone in my curiosity about these matters, regardless of age and the many cares and chores of office.

But, looking at the many really photogenic shots of the beauty queen with the President, I wondered if she could help me answer some of the many questions that keep nagging me about beauty.

Is beauty, for example, something that one is, something that one has or something that one does? Secondly, supposing that you are, you have or do your beauty, what exactly do you do with it? Maybe I should go back to school and study Aesthetics, the philosophical study of beauty.


But the loveliest images, and symbols, of the early days of this year for me were those of two great athletes of our time meeting, competing against each other and expressing the deepest and sincerest respect and admiration for each other.

Swiss Roger Federer and American Serena Williams are recognised as among the most successful tennis players of all time.

But they had not played against each other because, at its toughest, the game is a one-to-one contest, with men playing against men and women against women.

The rare opportunity to play each other came when the two greats participated in a format of the sport, called mixed doubles, when a man and woman team play against another. The match was in Australia, at what is known as the Hopman Cup, and it was a festival of superb tennis for lovers of the sport, like my friend Joyce Nyairo and I. What struck me most poignantly, however, was the open, generous and unreserved homage that these two sporting legends paid to each other.

Federer is a man and a European, while Williams is an African-American, adopted by us as “Akinyi Nyaseme”, because of her memorable visits to Kenya and her charitable contributions to Kenyan education.

But in the Roger-Williams mutual compliments, there were no shades of nationality, race or gender. These were two professional athletes acknowledging each other entirely on the basis of their competence and proven performance.

Is this not a timely reminder of Martin Luther King’s “dream” of a world in which people will be recognised and respected not because of the colour of their skin but the content of their brains? The elimination of all prejudice on grounds of race, gender, class or religion and other such accidentals should be uppermost in our minds as we mark Martin Luther King Day on Monday 21st, and Black American History Month in February.

I count on you to remind me of the theme of the month this year. I would simply call it Federer-Williams!