Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Mutability of Value

Early this year, I lost my yellow kikoi with the flowers.

I could hardly believe it. That kikoi was soft, it featured at least one hole and it was precious. I carried it everywhere, to be slung over my shoulders, wrapped around my waist, or folded in my handbag. I’ve worn it hundreds of times in Kenya, and sometimes in Northern Ireland to brighten a grey day or mood.

It’s bright yellow, weaver-bird-yellow. It’s the only thing I own in that shade of yellow. It smells of suncream and salt, of heat and cicada-song and malaria. Mum gave it to me nearly ten years ago. So I was pretty upset to find it gone.

spot the yellow kikoi on its travels

I searched the dark cupboards, the house, the smelly Lost and Found at school, but it was nowhere. My yellow kikoi. I found myself feeling ridiculously upset. It’s worth nothing, not a penny. It’s a tatty, faded square of fabric. But I wanted it back desperately.

It got me thinking about what we value, and why. I value my computer, my Kindle and my car massively, and so I should, because they are expensive and objectively valuable. Still, they are replaceable. I could buy a new one and like it just as much.

But I wear two rings, one diamond, one tanzanite, one from Dad and one from Mum, and I cherish them as much for their familiar shape and their meaning as their metal or stones.

There’s a crippled glass unicorn – he has lost horn and limbs since he was given to me from my Granny’s display cabinet, after her death.

 A carved circle of mother-of-pearl from Jerusalem.

My bear.

An Australian boulder opal on a leather cord, with streaks of breathtaking blue.

A suede pencil case from Germany.

yellow kikoi safely home
Photo albums and home videos that return us to childhood.

An indigo scarf.

My silver Africa pendant.

A chunk of white coral from Mombasa.

A shelf of five ink-sodden, ornate diaries.

My yellow kikoi.

Imagine my surprise when I saw my kikoi around the neck of one of the parents at the school play about a month ago. I must have left it at her house when we visited at the beginning of the year. Normally, I would never dare approach someone about a thing like that – how embarrassing!

But I did. That lovely lady made sure I got my kikoi back today, a bundle of autumn-sunshine-yellow. I won’t lose it again.This length of cloth is precious. It’s Kenyan, it’s mine, it’s from Mum. It matters for all those reasons, and more. It matters a lot.

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