The Illusion of Truth by Mara Menzies

Who needs writing when there is Menzies?

Story Telling Session: The Illusion of Truth by Mara Menzies

There was no moonlight at Ake that afternoon (how could there be?), and we were gathered in a hall, not under the shade of a large tree at the village square. There was Mara Menzies though, beautiful, dazzling and majestic up on the stage, telling tall tales, reminding us all of the way evenings used to pass.

She told two stories, one from Kenya and one from Cuba.

On Thursday, Mona had exhorted women to reform cultural practice by force of initiative. Wachu, the first story’s protagonist, was corroboration from antiquity. By migrating the bone of contention—the eating of meat—from the wispy realm of theory into the concrete realm of practice, Wachu’s defiance taught the Gikuyu the arbitrariness of convention. Only the flimsiest of whims, it is demonstrated, prevents the Gikuyu woman from eating meat. Nietzsche be praised.


Nothing, no Greek myth, defines cosmic irony better than the story from Cuba. Perhaps you might reconsider and temper your punishment, Eleshua the supreme deity urged Ochosili, the newly ordained deity of the hunt. But Ochosili was deaf to consideration, giddy with achievement, with excitement at the prospect of retribution.

Someone had pilfered the rare bird he’d meant as a gift for Eleshua; what if it’s twin hadn’t fortuitously come along? No, no, no, that someone’s days were numbered. When I release this arrow, he repeated, throbbing with defiance, it will find the heart of whoever stole my bird. So be it, said Eleshua. The arrow flew several leagues to lodge itself in his mother’s heart. It was his mother who’d innocently cooked her son a special dish with the bird. Ochosili watched it all in live and living colour.

Eleshua doubled the portfolio of a chastened Ochosili: he became, too, the deity of justice, for no one could now know better than he the value of careful consideration.

Listening to Menzies, I couldn’t help but wonder how indigenous literary cultures and technologies might have evolved had colonialism not happened. Would it take Menzies to come put on a storytelling show for us? Or would it be a mundane fact of the literary scene here? Would we have had a Gutenberg moment, evolved some means to trap sound for all time, democratizing creation, viewpoints and access?  This truncation of a potentially autochthonous technological evolution is one legacy of colonialism that we perhaps haven’t interrogated enough. We made, for instance, all manner of “phones”—idio, membrano, chordo, aero; why have our indigenous musical technologies not evolved?