Mpoki Bukuku: Of lifelong playfulness and untimely death

24Dec 2016
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Mpoki Bukuku: Of lifelong playfulness and untimely death

STAFF at The Guardian Limited have a pre-Christmas shock in the death of senior photographer Mpoki Bukuku, who was seriously injured in a roadside accident near Mwenge bus stop, quite a distance away from his office premises, while seeking transport to his Tabata residence.

Mpoki Bukuku

The late photo-journalist had put in a year and half precisely in his station of employment, when he interacted with a supreme instance of fate slightly after 11 pm on Thursday, after an evening out with friends, the way he had been doing for most of his professional years, typical of many a journalist.

Thinking of a person’s lifetime, especially when that lifetime is only a portion of another person’s experience, brings to memory a contested line from icon William Shakespeare, that ‘the evil that men do lives after them; the good is often interred within their bones. Shakespeare underlines man as a mostly ungrateful lot, that hard to please, retaining bad memories above the good.

The proper author of that sentence, Julius Caesar’s close friend Mark Anthony who was bent on avenging his fallen friend, said so for the opposite effect. Most of our memories are positive, human, pained.

When one departs in a shocking way like the late senior photographer, it is not this or that dispute that might surface but the composite person that one meets from day to day, underlined in religious tradition as marked by wishing well for one another.

Most social interactions are positive, while conflicts occur at some given moments for some reason, in this case, that life for Mpoki was usually happy, working the whole day and meeting with friends at a nearby pub. It is the most of common professional routines one can put up, and then one meets death right on.

Coming back to professional life as he lived it, those who are familiar with French legendary novelist and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre who refused the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964, will agree that the late Bukuku fits the frame of a noted poem of the French author. He once wrote a poem, “Je suis un petit garcon qui ne veut pas grandir,” that is “I am a small boy who doesn’t want to grow up,” that is, abandon playfulness in life for a businesslike posture most of the time.

Mpoki was one of those who refused to grow out of playfulness, enjoying his adolescence, for keeps.

American writer D. H. Lawrence once wrote that before puberty, a person, that is a child, has playmates, but after puberty such a person has friends and enemies. Most of us aren’t likely to be having mental lists of friends and enemies in our places of work but we differ in the number of friends we have. Mpoki sort of excelled.

As to personal memory, the late senior photographer for a good number of years hosted a document from this writer that was penned at the start of 2008, cautioning on the culture of agitation and spewing of scandals, at media and parliamentary level, that this carries risks of upsetting multiparty democracy.

The tract had a frosty reaction at JamiiForums, and in these days where the powers that be seem to be curbing not perhaps excesses but the substance of that platform, the worry raised around nine years ago becomes sort of relevant.

In his death, and especially if that blogspot of his and documentation is still around, it becomes a testimonial.

The late Mpoki made headlines in 2007 in a case involving another muscled police interaction with the media, where photographers are their bête noire, as they carry an event more poignantly than their professional kith and kin, the scribes.

Mpoki was often doing both but on that day it was the photograph of Prisons officers manhandling minibus drivers and conductors who had put on uniforms whose colours paralleled those of the Prisons Department staff.

Hell broke loose at Ukonga with the officers wanting all nuisance photographers out of the way. They sought to confiscate Mpoki’s camera and tear out the film but he held firm, upon which they started raining him with blows. It was a chilling moment on his part but looking at it from playfulness, the police overplayed their hand in a colour game.