Sight from Sound
by Abeni Chopra
Jumapili Mwangi was blessed with optimism and resilience. The two characteristics she needed to survive and then thrive, because she was born blind in the slums of Kibera. Orphaned at the age of seven, Jumapili was one of the chokora (street children) of Nairobi under the care of her twelve-year-old brother.
While begging on the streets, but with the gifts of a harmonica and a penny whistle, this remarkable child taught herself to play music by listening to the radios being played around her. However, it was the purity of her singing voice which most captivated any audience.
As she grew up, Jumapili developed another rare skill – echolocation. By clicking her tongue and listening to the returning echo, she was able to create an image in her brain of the world around her. This gave her a freedom rarely found by blind people.
Triumphing over personal loss, Jumapili discovered her purpose in life: to build a successful career in the music industry in the hope that it would lead her to the precious gift she had lost. This burning ambition, driven by discipline and focus, took her to some of the world’s top concert halls allowing her to establish a school in Kenya teaching echolocation to young blind children.
This wonderful, if harrowing, story is a joy to read. It is the epitome of hope and courage overcoming adversity. You will find it hard to put down.