Home' Travel News : February 2013 Contents 48 travel news February 2013
February 2013 travel news 49
A teacher came out and introduced himself. He told me he was writing a book on the Mau
Mau and could I find him a publisher? His face had been badly scarred and damaged.
A lady with a severe squint joined us, then an elderly man with his leg amputated at the
knee, then hundreds of silent and staring children.
I was somehow cajoled into giving the children a lesson in English there and then in the
barren playing field behind the school. It had probably once been somebody’s garden
or orchard, I thought, as I told the children about being a writer and extolled the virtues
of working hard to learn good English. A couple of kids managed to get close enough
behind me to touch my hair, while one little boy stood before me and fixed me with his
stare, while saying: “I would like to read your book!”
A 1947 RAF survey map marks this area as Colobus Farm, with two houses belonging
to Ori and Vetri. This would have been one of the 2,000-acre farms, downsized from the
original vast estate belonging to Sir John Ramsden, who left in the early 50s.
Giuliana continued telling me her story. Unfortunately, soon after she’d fallen in love with
a new man and country, her mother died, so Giuliana returned to Italy. But a year later
she was heading back, taking a free passage in a banana ship to the Somali port of
Kismayu. She was lowered out in a basket, with her wedding dress in a box and a rose
in a pot, a gift from her father.
The newly-married Giuliana’s new home was Colobus farm, near Kipipiri. She was to
experience a very different life out here, which must have seemed daunting, very remote
from her former life in Italy. At Kipipiri, the bathwater was brown, power only worked if
the generator did, and there was no phone. But she was encountering exciting new
things: When the toto jikoni, the young kitchen apprentice, brought her a chameleon one
day, she was fascinated – especially by its changing colour. She laughed as she told me
that she’d adopted a chameleon lifestyle herself, learning to change colour in order to fit
into life wherever she was, albeit on Colobus farm, or visiting Italy.
Giuliana was thrilled when her husband suggested a shopping trip to Ol Kalou. Imagining
that at last she would sample some culture, she put on her chic designer two-piece for
the occasion. On the way they stopped at a South African neighbour’s house where the
housewife was so drably dressed that Giuliana began to worry she might end up looking
like that if she spent too long on a Kenyan farm. When she saw the barefoot children,
she couldn’t get away fast enough, still hoping as they bumped along the dusty road to
Ol Kalou, that their local shopping town might offer some comfort. It didn’t.
Their first stop was the butchery where an entire carcass swung from the roof, to the delight
of thousands of flies. At the one and only shop, known as the duka, a few other white
farmers were doing their monthly shopping. Giuliana glanced at a nondescript looking
man, but looked again when she noticed that he was wearing tiny, crocodile-skin ladies’
shoes. She was horrified when she realised that this was actually a woman.
In the 1950s Kenya was in a State of Emergency. This was a time when women slept
with guns under their pillows while their men combed the thick forests of the Aberdares
and Kipipiri for elusive freedom fighters. Giuliana was often left alone on the farm with
a gun, which she was supposed to carry all the time. But Giuliana says she lived more
in dread of using the gun than of a Mau Mau invasion. On one occasion she was out
walking without the gun, but with a baby gazelle, which she’d bottle-raised after her
tractor driver had brought the little orphan home one day.
The gazelle wore a bell around its neck so that Giuliana could keep tabs on it. One day
it suddenly ran into the forest, so Giuliana chased after it until her path was blocked by
an African man with wild dreadlocks. He spoke to her in English. Innocently, Giuliana
asked him to speak Swahili as she knew no English.
Colobus Farm today - Malewa Primary School
Guiliana at Colobus Farm
Links Archive December-January 2013 March 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page