I called a friend of mine this past weekend and told her I was going to the Beard Festival and she laughed (almost too loudly) and said, “That’s not even funny, Ian.” I asked “What?” and she said, “Well, you going to a Beard Festival.” (She said it with that kind of tone women use when you think they’re complimenting your nice shorts when, really, they’re just taking subtle jabs at your skinny legs.) I asked why that was funny and she said, “Because you don’t have a beard, Ian.” (I do, she was just being jealous because she had no plans and no money for the weekend, hehe). “But…si…I have a beard, you just can’t see it from all the way huko Mukuru Kwa Njenga.” She said, “Right. A man can dream.” So I caught feelings and said “Good evening” and hang up. Then I bought a 20-shilling mutura and chewed with a frown, brushing my right hand through my chin, whispering, “There. There. You’re safe now. The bad lady can’t say mean things about you anymore.”
Because it’s ‘No Shave November’, the good chaps of Royaute had this very brilliant idea to hold a Beard Festival – the first of its kind – at the Arboretum Grounds this past Saturday. The first time I heard about the event I thought to myself, “Now whose idea would this be, Anyang’ Nyong’o?” But I decided to go anyway; partially because it seemed like something different (interesting, even), but mostly because the event posters said Mwalimu Rachel would be Hosting. And that mami has a smile that would have made me vote for Donald Trump too, if she asked.
The theme of the event was ‘Beards Against Cancer’. The main aim of its inception was to encourage guys to gain the courage to go for Cancer Screenings. Because, in as much as we refuse to ever talk about it, Cancer is Real and Deadly. It wasn’t just a social event for showing off bushy beards and twerking and knocking glasses of wine and taking pictures for the ‘gram, it was a sensitization event. Gentlemen, Know Your Cancer Status before it’s too late.
(Okay, enough seriousness for one article.)
We checked in kitu 6 p.m., when the event was just about picking up tempo, grabbed our Media Passes at the entrance and split up (the Photographer to take photos and myself to…uhmm…watch.) There were these heavily-built medium-sized guys with deep voices and beards resembling the Amazon and arms about 90 kilos thick walking around in black t-shirts inscribed, ‘Beard Or Die’ and ‘#BeardsMatter’ that I absolutely wanted to punch in the face because they were in such great shape they reminded me why I stopped going to the gym. I mean, do you know how difficult it is for me to look at another man for more than 5 seconds and then come back here and say “they were in great shape”? That’s almost like tapping a fellow man on the shoulder and saying, “Have I ever told you how bright your eyes glow in the dark?” It’s unsettling.
There was this one guy – went by Sam, whose image had been used on the poster – who was called to the stage sometime and asked what a man’s got to do to get that type of beard and he said, “Know your genes, because different beards come with different genes. Also, apply a mixture of olive oil, castor oil, and glycerin on the beard every day. Oh, and, remember to eat your veggies as well.” And I remember just standing there thinking, “All that for a beard? Well, then, tell me Mr. Amazon, do I have to feed the beard some kale smoothies too? Perhaps a drop of mojito during the weekends? A trip to the massage parlor, perhaps?”
The crappy weather crippled the turnout, but the show went on quite magnificently, no less. The stage setting was unbelievably stunning. DJs Andre, Vin, Shugah, Kace, Sadic, U.V and Crème came through with the music. The chaps from Hennessey came through with the drinks; and they had this sleek MERCEDEZ parked right at the entrance to their tent for absolutely no reason at all (I mean, they’re Hennessey, they did it because they can, it’s no sweat. Also it was VIP, so…). Le Band are an amazing boy group with kick ass vocals and remarkable stage presence (plus, they don’t take their shirts off on stage like some boy band we know). Also, Dr. Mutuma and staff from Zambezi Hospital pitched up tent and carried out free PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) screening for over 40 guys. And when he – Dr. Mutuma – was handed the mic to say a few words on their presence there that evening, he went on a long rant about some health stuff I can’t even remember, but his give-away was simple; Cabbage is Garbage. Kwa hivo nimewacha toka leo. Sitaki tena.
I took a walk around later on and ran into renowned Photographer and almost stopped him to ask, “Who did this to you?” I mean, for the brilliant chap he is, Mutua looked like one of those scruffy folk who stole your food in high school and still beat you up. He had this ridiculous hairstyle (mainly consisting of dreadlocks), a beard that could hide the missing NYS money, and he rocked jeans shorts with stripped socks pulled up to his knees. But, perhaps, the highlight of the night went to this professional barber from the U.S who gave one of the Event Staff a 20 minute haircut live on stage. He also happened to be a Cancer survivor, and when he was asked to address the crowd, the first thing he said was, “I’ve been shaving people’s hair since I was 14…”
Since statements that touch hearts and change lives.