Culture,  Personal

Latest obsession: Out of Africa

If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me?

Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?  – Karen Blixen (as Isak Dinesen)

When I was a baby I had trouble sleeping. The pressing heat of a Namibian summer made swathing me in blankets close to impossible, leaving my not-yet-controllable limbs to do as they pleased: mostly flailing energetically to keep me wide awake.

Of course, there was very little my poor mother could do to relieve my discomfort and soothe my infantile insomnia.

So she devised a plan to employ the best remedy she knew would have no nasty side-effects: music. But not just any music. Oh no! She had a single soundtrack on repeat (which in those days, of course, entailed manual turning over of a tape)… the dreamy score of Out of Africa.

Now, I’m no baby psychology expert and don’t really know when memories actually start, but what I do know is that some essential part of that soundtrack got stuck in the fibers of my being.

Until this very day, those are the soothing strains of ‘home.’

But strangely, despite the central place its music has taken in my life, the film has remained largely marginalized… in that I had never actually seen it.

Well, that is, until two nights ago. And let me just tell you… I found myself intensely enchanted. (Fortunately! I can’t imagine how devastated I would have been if it turned out any differently.)

Enchanted by Karen Blixen (played immaculately by Meryl Streep), the brave baroness and master storyteller, Denys Fynch Hatton (played by the swoon-worthy Robert Redford), the tough hunter with his ever-curious mind and marshmallow-soft heart, the long-gone colonial type safari with those luxurious tents, the almost idiosyncratic gramophone, the coffee farm in the Ngong Hills, the sinewy Kikuyu and ethereal Masai.

Enchanted by Africa and her gloriously untameable wildness. Once more. As always. 

Photo: Digital Journalist

Enchanted by incredible scenes like the one where Denys washes Karen’s hair by the river while reciting a poem and the one where all the local children crowd into her home to watch the little coo coo peek out the clock.

And of course the one where they dance to Mozart playing from a gramophone while on safari.

Inevitably, I now find myself fiercely intrigued by Baroness Blixen’s life, because, well, if the film is anything to go by (and I think it is), she was one hell of a woman… the kind of woman I wouldn’t mind being.

And here is why:

Photo: My Imaginary Brooklyn

  • She trekked across African plains entirely unfamiliar to her, to take her husband and his stuck-up British friends a wagon-full of supplies to aid the little colonial war they were waging with Germany.
  • On said journey lions attacked the oxen and, for want of a rifle, she grabbed a whip and literally whipped them right away!
  • She was a storyteller.
  • Her style was immaculate.
  • While she yearned for a life less lonely than she had, she never let being alone get in the way of living out all the extraordinary adventures she dreamed of.
  • She won the heart of a gorgeous man (with an incredible character) by telling him stories.
  • Even though she was quite assertive, she treated everyone she encountered kindly and with grace.
  • With the guidance of Denys, she understood the impact colonialism was having on Africa way before most of their peers.

Can’t wait to get my hands on the Out of Africa, the book she penned under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen and her biography.



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