9222145527_eb186ec76a_zall cities yield their grammar,
even Nairobi, sixteen years on.
i have learnt the concrete nouns
of places, the conjunctions of fly-overs,
along Thika Road, Jogoo, Uhuru Highway, scattered.
i know the chaos of pronouns
inflecting themselves at bus stops.
i have heard the roaring verbs
conjugating on the suburbs, fluent
in the gin-soaked slang of eastlando,
the vanilla pidgin of ghetto.

i know that life in Nairobi
is lived adverbially,
busily, showily, hopefully. with #hashtags and throwbacks,
double-taps. Nairobi, babel of adjectives,
amorphous, arcane, mercantile, plain,
from terrestrial Korogocho to city’s aquatic illusions.

street by street i have walked its prepositions,
from Koinange across the Muindi Mbingu to Tom Mboya.
i have grown accustomed to the dialect
of houses, the shorthand of scenery.
i have seen the aura of Upper Hill edited
by the sibilant ocean of zeal
and the incessant seduction of posterity
yet the city is a theatre of interjections of histories
shackles, sentences, protest, patronage, conviviality, chasm.
dancing sarakasi bodies are broken passages telling its stories best
winding, rhymes, phrases, steps
balances at conjunctions and intersections like between
the pavement and the parliament, like between the street
and the stage. the alleys of this city are paved by idioms that are legacies
from the depth of Africa, the islands and plateaus from several nations
across the oceans. by this i mean replete is this city
with clauses and metaphors that are genealogies
waiting for bodies to tell their stories.
i come as a chronicler
of its carnivals. i arrive as a performer
of its pulse, of its syntax and tapestry.



Post image by Xiaojun Deng via Flickr.

About the Author

Portrait - RedscarRedscar McOdindo K’Oyuga (@RedscarMcOdindo) is a medic, writer and chaser of dreams. He writes in both Swahili and English. His work has been published in the Mandala Journal, KUT, Jalada, Gnarled Oak, Praxis Magazine, Lawino Magazine, Breaking Silence (a global poetry anthology) and Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation’s Bodaboda Anthem and Other Poems: a Kampala Poetry Anthology, among others. His Swahili poems (mashairi) are published in Taifa Leo and/or Taifa Jumapili, Kenya’s nationwide Swahili Newspaper. He is a winner of the Fern Poetry Prize and contributes to Hivi Sasa Magazine. His work has also appeared, or is forthcoming, in BEST “NEW” AFRICAN POETS 2015 (a poetry anthology), Kwani? Anthology, assorted newspapers and other poetry anthologies.

Tags: , , , ,

I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

3 Responses to “A Grammar of Nairobi | by Redscar McOdindo K’Oyuga | African Poetry” Subscribe

  1. Gathoni wa Wairura 2016/01/05 at 5:24 pm #

    How so refreshing to read a piece on Nairobi. Thank you Brittle Paper, and thank you Redscar Mc Odindo for taking me back to my city:) You write beautifully. I hope to see more of your work.
    Best regards

  2. Fred Joiner 2016/10/13 at 10:14 am #

    you may want to check that these poems have not been plagiarized.



  1. throwback – a litany of misdeeds | Let's Tell These Tales - 2016/04/07

    […] A Grammar of Nairobi […]

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


A Book About Soups, Sex and Nigerian Taste Buds


Congrats to Yemisi Aribisala! Her essay collection on Nigerian food and culinary culture is set for an October 31 release. […]

Chimamanda Adichie Had a Christian Dior Moment


Head of Dior Maria Grazia Chiuri made a bold statement at her catwalk show in the beautiful gardens of the […]

Opportunity for African Writers | Enter to Win the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize


The 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize is now open for entries! If you are a member of any of the […]

Nnedi Okorafor’s Chicken in the Kitchen Wins Children’s Africana Book Award


On October 8th, Nnedi Okorafor attended a ceremony at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC  where […]

Adichie Has Some Thoughts About Michelle Obama as a Figure of Black Femininity


As Michelle Obama concludes her 8-year run as first lady, The New York Times Style Magazine assembles a group of […]

Welcome to London | by Lucky Edobor | An African Story


05:40 am. The immigration man’s backside is too flat, even for a skinny white man. It is hard to not […]