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“A Woman’s Body Parts” by Sitawa Namwalie

“A Woman’s Body Parts” by Sitawa Namwalie

A woman must have the ability to reattach her body parts, every time they fall off. 

This useful advice was given me by my grandmother as we sat together peeling bananas for a meal.

A woman must have the ability to reattach her body parts, every time they fall off.

Over the years my aunties added their voices of counsel to hers. 

Yes, they said, don’t hold too tightly onto your body parts; you will only cause yourself pain.

I confirmed their words as I watched my mother reattach her body parts every time they fell off.

My grandmother was unequivocal.

A woman does not have the luxury of permanent body parts, they must remain detachable. By the time she is grown, her body parts will fall off quite regularly.  Nothing to alarm.

She must gather up the bits and pieces; put them back together again.

When she falls into disarray; only she knows her design. 

A woman must have the ability to reattach her body parts, every time they fall off. 

Her body parts may fall off when she feels threatened; when a man stands and scowls down at her, or when her opinion is disregarded. A woman need not be alarmed. She must learn to simply pick up the fallen part and reattach it.

My grandmother was clear with her instructions.

To reattach a fallen body part, a woman must start with the arms. With her hands firmly in place, she can reattach the other parts. 

A woman’s nose may fall off, often. It is a rather sensitive part of the body and has the tendency to take fright and jump off the face and go into hiding. 

When reattaching the ears a woman must start with her left ear, followed by her right ear. This will allow her to hear again. 

When attaching the lips, a woman must take care not to reattach them upside down. She does not want to look strange like a bird with a beak!

Now she can pop her eyes back into their empty sockets. They may make a sucking sound when pushed back into her head; but that is a small price to pay to recover her vision.

OK; now she can place her head back onto her neck, being careful not to lay it askance or, worse, back to front!

Finally, the legs: attach the right, then the left. 

My grandmother added this bit of wisdom in the dark as we lay waiting for sleep. You see, she said. With her legs firmly in place, a woman can go anywhere.

But what should a woman do with her welling tears? I asked. 

Grandmother was clear on this too. Let the tears flow, let them go. Let your wounded core escape. It is the only way a woman can keep from damning her soul.


Sitawa Namwalie is an award winning Kenyan poet, playwright and performer known for her unique dramatized poetry performances which combine poetry and traditional Kenyan music to create a feast for the senses. “Cut off My Tongue,” her first performance was performed all over Kenya and at the Hay Festival 2009. Sitawa’s growing body of work includes dramatized poetry productions, “Homecoming” (2011), “Silence is a Woman”, (2014) and “Performing Nairobi: The Stories and Drama of a City” (2018), two plays, “Black Maria on Koinange Street” and “Room of Lost Names” (2015). Her performances have been staged in Kenya, the UK, Uganda and Rwanda.

Her poetry has appeared in several anthologies including; “Reflections: An Anthology of New Work by African Women Poets”. Anthonia C. Kalu, Juliana Makuchi Nfah-Abbenyi, and Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka, editors 2013. In 2019 Sitawa started “Our Grandmother’s in Miniskirt” a project which is crowdsourcing photograph and stories of Kenyan women from the 1900 to 1990, to share with the public in a series of exhibitions and in a coffee table book. 

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