SKINROADS BY DULA

"My name is Abdulrahman Amana and people know me as “Dula” because my name is very long. I am born and raised in Shella, on Lamu Island, where 85 to 90% of the people are Muslim. I am a sailor, but I sometimes depend on fishing tuna when there are no tourists.

My tribe they’re called Swahili, you know real Swahili. Like for me, I remain an Island boy, our clan is Kenyan Arab - so everyone here has their own origin, like for me, I’m from Oman. An Oman clan that settled where the Takwa ruins are located.

I need to earn money in order to support my family, also, it makes me happy to be a captain, you know sailing is like meditation — can pass the evening time, can make you busy. 

I enjoy my work. First of all, my work is training. It keeps me physically fit. Because I can pull an anchor, I can roll a sail, I can pull a sail. Those things keep my body active. Diet has an impact too. Our source of protein is fish. Fish and salad are our main food. 

I have five siblings and I am number two. I am 28 years old. I want to be a captain and an environmentalist. My father inspired me a lot about fishing, the person who taught me how to sail, to know how to swim first – you can’t be a sailor if you don’t know how to swim. 

I studied environmental science at university because I want to preserve oceans as a coastal marine. We depend on mangroves to build houses, so we need to protect them for other generations to build their houses. 

We have less than we used to have in the old days, when I was young, because people use unsustainable ways of fishing, like ring nets. But for us, we depend on hand line fishing boats, so we can choose the fish. Ring nets take everything, the small fish, the larvae.

I want to continue sailing the dhow and be in a position where I can preserve the environment. To lead people in conserving mangroves, corals, fishing, and also educate the fishermen. A lot of fishermen are not educated about how to preserve the environment. Many of them throw rubbish in the sea because they believe that the ocean cannot get dirty. But it gets dirty! A lot of plastic reaches the shores and beaches.

 

The sea has other creatures. There are fish, but there are other creatures — like genies, they live in the ocean, that’s why it’s not that good to swim in the ocean late at night, you can swim around 7PM, but not late night they are waking up.

If we’re traveling at night when there is a full moon, first of all, we pray, in case any bad thing comes we are protected. Especially in the open sea, there are a lot of spirits, because it is their home. It’s like in the forest, in every baobab tree there is a spirit but, they cannot harm you unless you harm it. You can harm it by urinating on the tree, you are not supposed to urinate on the tree — you also, don’t just cut a baobab tree because it is the home of someone. But, don’t be afraid of the spirits, they feed off fear. There are no bad creatures in this world as human beings.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, you know. First of all, you must believe that you’re beautiful yourself. For example, I believe I am handsome. If you believe yourself to be beautiful, you’re beautiful.

But you cannot make everyone see you’re beautiful. In our religion to become beautiful means to become clean inside and outside. To clean yourself, to take showers, to wear nice clothes, not too expensive, just simple.

I don’t need to go to the hair salon, I just apply coconut oil, and sometimes I comb my hair. To coconut oil you can add flowers, rose, or jasmine to add scent. That’s why on the island we grow a lot of rose and jasmine and basil. You just have to leave it in oil for about a week. I myself have a farm of coconut trees. They are babies, they are growing.

I want to stay in Lamu forever, that is why I am building on a plot here, we have put windows and doors now - I have already put the ceiling, so I can make a home. No Nairobi, I can visit, work and visit friends, but to live and have a family in Nairobi, no."

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