People never think much about ‘us’ chairs. I mean, you buy us, sit on us, move us when you change houses-share us, step on us and all the while it has never crossed your mind to be good to us. I guess that is just our life. It is fate. Fate is cruel for she gives you what you deserve. But for once, listen to what I am about to tell you. Forget that I am a red leather chair. I have lived for thirty years thanks to Michael. He came home one night, sat on me and talked about her. He called her name seven times-and before I could respond he was gone. They took him away from me at dawn. His wife-Nancy couldn’t breathe immediately after. His sons came home that evening and talked about him. The name he called-that’s what I want to tell you about. I want to tell you why she left home. I will have to tell you about Michael and his family too. So please take a seat, or pull a chair and listen.
June 4, 1962.
I always knew I would be a chair.
I did not know which kind-but I had the feeling people would sit on me for the rest of my life. I was seated basking in the sun when he walked in. He had a huge afro, brown patched trousers that barely scraped his ankles and an old silver Seiko watch. I was taking in the view of the town and hoping someone would take me home. His eyes, like everybody else, settled on Matiwa. Yes, even chairs have names. If you look up any directory you will learn that there are over one hundred and twenty four types of chairs. There are those made of either hard wood or soft wood. Now, the most common hardwood in Africa is Mahogany. It is the best and most expensive. Very few Carpenters get the privilege of working with this kind of wood. When they do, the finished product is always most expensive. Allow me to tell you about our names. Every Creator gives his product a name. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but just a right name for the product. Writers name books, painters name their paintings, musicians their songs and hence Carpenters their products. Matiwa is named after the owner. First rule of naming a product; give it some connection to its source. All chairs made by Otiwa get a name. Otiwa is the man who created me. So, since he made Matiwa using Mahogany-he gave him the first two letters to symbolize that affection. At this point you are probably wondering what my name is. Truth is, I don’t know and I never want to. It wouldn’t change the fact that I have been sat on all my life. When Michael walked in his eyes landed on Matiwa-just like all the other customers. He changed his mind when he heard the price. He walked around the shed for a while before settling on me. When I saw him, his thin dull face had this promising look. I knew he would be kind to me. See, the thing about humans is that they are visual. I have heard the women who come here complain that men go with what they see. But, with chairs-it’s not what you see but the skill that matters. See, a well crafted chair will be bought. But Matiwa was not just crafted-he was designed. He had a purpose that spoke of comfort, style and elegance. You would look at him and think that he could earn you prestige amongst your peers. A crafted chair has raw talent and blessings from his master. Every joint is in place and it fits just fine. It is one of those items you see at a show and immediately picture yourself seated on it- alone, reading a book or listening to music. If you stare at a chair and picture yourself with your friends having fun-then it isn’t well crafted. I say so because you had to picture yourself enjoying it with others. A designed chair on the other hand serves a purpose. I hear that humans call it ergonomics. It’s where a chair is made to fulfill a purpose. Out of those one hundred and twenty four types I have told you about, most of them are products of ergonomics. They sprang about because humans forgot what it was like to care for things. People just figured they needed things they could use. They never did the Math-and now you end up having a battle of the chairs in your house every time you go to bed. Yes, chairs do argue! We argue so loud that even the silent night cannot hear us. What do you expect when you have a couch, dining chair, lounge chair, patio chair, high chair, desk-chair in the house? It’s a battle that never ends. Take it from me. Michael took me home with him that afternoon. He emptied his pockets to have me. He then had me placed on a cart and was carried all the way to a pigeon-hole house. I heard him say “welcome home, this is just the beginning.” I never believed him. It was 1962; Kenya was not what it is now. He had dark skin, impeccable English and a picture of Queen Elizabeth hanging on his wall. I didn’t know what to tell him-but when I looked around that room, I only saw one small window to my left. It was high up on the wall. If you haven’t added things up, let me tell you-I was the only piece of furniture in Michael’s room.
How can one change the world if one identifies oneself with everybody?