Mathenge Mukundi, 24, gained prominence recently when photos of him being admitted to the bar as an advocate of the High Court of Kenya with his head wrapped up in a turban instead of the barrister wig trended on social media.
Mathenge, who graduated with a Degree in Law from Kenyatta University before joining the Kenya School of Law, says he has been shocked with the reaction as he didn’t expect it.
“I am just a simple person pursuing his dreams. Besides that, I am a Rastafarian by faith and therefore I could not remove my turban and wear the wig when being admitted to the bar. I made this known to the people responsible and they were very supportive,” Mathenge told Nairobi News.
“After we were done with the process, I decided to take just a few photos with my classmates and that was just that. By then, I did not have any personal social media account and I think someone posted the photos and then everything just blew up – I started getting calls and they just kept coming in,” he adds.
But why did he decide to pursue law?
“I am very passionate about fighting and defending basic human rights and to achieve this I knew I had to become a lawyer. I am inspired by people like the late Marcus Garvey who was a political activist,” he says.
But the journey has not been all smooth sailing for Mathenge as he reveals that he had to be creative in order to survive on campus.
“I come from a humble background and while on campus at Kenyatta University I had to learn how to fend for myself – I became a nail artist and would get a few clients during class breaks. This helped sort my food and rent bills.” Mathenge reveals.
But discrimination has been the biggest challenge as he explains.
“Even on campus, some lecturers openly said to me I was eroding the good profession law, just because I am a Rastafarian. This is the narrative I want to change because Rastafarians have been neglected for far too long,” he says.
“Most people think we are not serious people but that is not the case. We should be treated equally and not discriminated against because of our faith and beliefs,” he adds.
After all the attention, Mathenge is eager to get back to his simple lifestyle and start job hunting. Currently, he sells clothes online.
“I am yet to get a job and it is very difficult to job hunt during the coronavirus pandemic but I am hoping things will be better soon. My cousin and I run an Instagram business account that we use to sell second-hand clothes and that is how I get my daily bread,” he reveals.
Hills and Valleys by Buju Banton is Mathenge’s favourite song and as the Jamaican reggae artiste sings in the hit: “Only Rasta can liberate the people,” the young advocate is optimistic he will soon start practising law and help the oppressed in the society.
“I did pupillage at Kenya Law and my work speaks for itself. My hope is that I will not be discriminated against as a lawyer just because of the Rastafarian faith I believe in. I dream of a world where everyone is treated equally and with respect,” he concludes.
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