‘Mama Africa’ and the Pope in Kenya

‘Mama Africa’ by John Mbugua Kimani, in art John Silver
‘Mama Africa’ by John Mbugua Kimani, in art John Silver

John is a self-taught Kenyan artist based in Nairobi who makes paintings, sculptures and wood cut prints; his work has found its way into major collections and has won several international prizes. He also trains aspiring artists and has his own Rhino Care project working with vulnerable children in Nairobi’s slums.

I met John at Kuona Trust, the centre for visual arts in Kenya, in October 2007 and we have remained in touch ever since.

I bought this oil pointing from him recently and I now want to ‘share’ it with readers because for me it encapsulates the ‘great values of the African tradition’ alluded to by Pope Francis during Mass with students at Nairobi University earlier today.

To the best of my knowledge the pope didn’t actually list these values, so I thought I might do so here: the strength and dignity of the African woman as mother and provider as she carries the future of the continent on her shoulders.



One thought on “‘Mama Africa’ and the Pope in Kenya

  1. Africa! My love!

    What to say about such a huge continent? Ryszard Kapuściński in “Ebony” explains that Africa does not exist as unique body. It is rather a mixture of the stories of the people he met during his decades spent there. And his amazing book is about these stories rather that about “Africa”.

    In this case, however, there is a simple comment that can be done to the Pope visit to the first slum of Nairobi. It is to re-read what Alex Zanotelli wrote at the time of his life in Korogocho, the third slum of the city. Here it is: https://rebstein.wordpress.com/2008/06/28/dio-ce-ed-esiste-proprio-allinferno-di-alex-zanotelli/

    And finally the famous answer Zanotelli gives about God after his experience in Korogocho. Sorry but it is in italian:

    Alla domanda se abbia mai dubitato della sua esistenza, Padre Zanotelli rispose: “Non una ma molte volte. Quando uno si trova in situazioni così assurde, davanti ad una sofferenza innocente, come è capitato a me a Korogocho, il primo dubbio che viene è proprio su Dio. Perché uno si chiede: ma se tu, Dio, ci sei, è impossibile che non intervenga di fronte ad una sofferenza così atroce. Ma oggi Dio è impotente, è malato. Potrà guarire solo quando guariremo noi. Solo noi oggi possiamo far qualcosa. Dio non può più. Ognuno di noi è importante perché vinca la vita…”. Dio non è onnipotente? “Più ci rifletto e più mi convinco che forse Dio non è l’onnipotente che pensiamo noi. È il Dio della croce. Perché non ha ascoltato la preghiera di Gesù morente? È un mistero. Forse è un Dio debole, che si è autolimitato, che può salvarci solo attraverso di noi”.

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