Two weeks ago, Graça Machel shared a dinner with a group of remarkable people that I know. A group of young persons, still stuck in the throes of discovering themselves, the paths lying ahead, the choices to be made, the baggage to be dropped and more importantly, the causes (and underlying principles therein) to be picked.
At the end of a most hearty evening inundated with a few deep-rooted question, one remained unasked. How was it being married to Samora Machel and Nelson Mandela?
Hence, it lay to the said young minds, excusing a deeply engrossed and burdened dignitary to attend to her itinerary, to delve in and reconsider the above question. Over and over again. What was it like, such that one could nonchalantly point at a proudly-borne ring and declare, “This. You see this? This was given to be Madiba.
A lawyer. An icon of the anti-apartheid struggle. A lover of the written word. A man known but not entirely understood by those who knew of him but did not know him.
A trained teacher, with a perfectionist streak. Ambitious, and oblivious of how convoluted a path the world had drawn up for her.
In another land, there stood. Mutegi Kiriga Kabugu. Beatrice Karimi Mutegi.
A learned friend, riding on the shoulders of giants before him, setting a standard as none had before.
A teacher, sowing the seeds of curiosity and knowledge that she had been lucky to be introduced to only so few years ago, but impeccably efficient nonetheless.
Within those conversations, reverberated the tone that carries in me always, and the answer to the question of Mama Graça’s question.
A marriage of equals.
The world as we know it reduces the most nuanced of issues into binary options. Rudimentary, if you please. Assuming that a doctor is intellectually superior to the nurse, the engineer to the mechanic, the judge to the paralegal, the teacher to the assistant. Within the cocoons of professional knowledge, perhaps. But without, throw that notion to the kerb!
If I have ever had proof of exceptional capability, it is what my life represents. The twenty-three years of it.
Twenty-three years on this day, nobody is quite sure if I cried. Everybody else did, that’s for sure.
But looking at where we are, I don’t care if I did or not. I see the resilience, ambition, output, open-mindedness, wit, focus, love, grit; all that comes with the Mutegi name. And I am proud.
And I know he is proud. Especially this year. Especially. Twenty-three years ago, he should have been an Ivy-leaguer; LLM at the 30s. Lookie here now, LLM in the 20s.
This one is for the greats, and those who have steadily stood by them.
And more, who my then-nascent mind does not readily recall.
And of course, nyinyi watu wote wa Hill Court.
Mostly though, to those who carry (or will soon carry) the name. It is our solemn duty not to forget the benefit gained from the effort of one man and his equal; an equal who carried on that task more exceptionally than anyone would ever have thought.
This is a salute. To my father. And my mother.