Karen Blixen out of a storybook on Africa

Symbol of Danish hope in Kenya growing coffee I put away wild birds one day and they returned to me as a cuckoo clock. There was the morning the sun fell, and my marriage failed, and they turned my book into a film starring Meryl Streep and I became a wrinkle in time hoping that it would wash away all my sins. Along comes both joy and suffering and they fill my mouth like a starling. The weather is hot. The day is warm, and the moths grow comfortable and fat and so do the mosquitoes. It is that time of year. A time for reflecting and introspection. Foot soles barely make a sound on the wooden floors. There is the grit of the beloved stars shining for all that they are worth through all the moonlight found in the universe. There are some nights I have my doubts and fears and tears for company for misery loves the company of her erstwhile shadows. Ripples exalt through me as I ride horseback through this country untouched by the hands of man, woman and child. Oh, there are times when I feel vulnerable and don’t show it to any man, to any man. The women here are made of stone and shadow. Their hair in waves and whorls. The leaves fall with their math hypothetical and exponential punching the air. Head sounding the alarm. All powerful and searching for water.

Oh, my soul, how to understand anthropology and theology in primitive Africa without understanding the nuances of a woman raised and born in Denmark, into wealth and privileged Europe? There is no Bali. No Thailand. No India. Only Africa. Once I had a farm. I had a farm.  Words and storytelling come easy to me but not love. No, love is not familiar to me. It barely makes it out of me alive. The farm is alive. The workers on it most certainly are and the children in my school that the missionary teaches. I have a kind of animal soul. It is my nature to make this farm hum intuitively. It is a sign of my human nature. I throw everything into the air with the movement of my hands. I smoke. I drink. I know what a cloth of green is. The texture of the branches. How there is a unique and complicated system to life here. Here in Africa even the boughs whistle as the train does. All glory is not gone yet. I can see it in the phantom threads that call to me, sing to me every so often of mother and I walking on the pale sand of that beach from my childhood, or my bedroom in Denmark. Nothing is bleak in Africa. I remember how shocking the snow was in winter. Going hunting. The women and the men in their stiff coats drinking and talking. Drinking and laughing. It was another world and I think to myself there was no mistake to call Africa home once.

She took the philosophies of the nature and knowledge of oral storytelling in Africa in the climate of liberation, freedom, emancipation when they were not just important words, deeds, thoughts and actions that generations of writers and poets have embraced but with a key understanding and embrace that they have been rivals for infinity in a time and place where the message has always been that in Africa, or the continent of Africa all writing and poetry seems to ask of us is to have a lust for life and to learn not to fail or discriminate but to create.

Karen Blixen’s story was a story about a feminist thinker, a woman ahead of her time, undergoing trial, crisis, issues of faith and identity in Africa, always marked as an outsider because of her gender and nationality. Her story is also a book of triumph, of overcoming adversity against the odds and a book of pilgrimage. She wasn’t meek. She didn’t stand down or back whenever she believed in something. Whether she was afraid at times, as I am certain we all are I don’t know. What I do know is that she had a kind of fearless personality. That she could take on anything. Fear was never an option for her. The topic was always to live brave. Fear is a human emotion. So, she made her way from Europe to the Kikuyu and adopted them as her own. The lessons we can note from her life is this. Struggle is itself a pilgrimage. There is honor and nobility in telling a story. There are galaxies and constellations beyond the frontiers of the territories of the pen. A woman has an atlas inside her mind’s eye. She, being the female gender is powerful beyond measure. This goes against the morality of gender bias. Inequality amongst the males and females is a school of thought, a philosophy founded upon enablism and intersectionality. Class, gender, race, faith, atheism is superimposed and based on imperialist formulas.

In the patriarchal system that subjugated women to certain minor roles in society where they had no voice but perhaps money and that was their power and the currency that they dealt in. That give them ownership and a kind of partnership with men. An equal standing in the relationships that they had with the men that they choose to acquaint themselves with or marry or have relationships with. I am talking about the women and their existence in Africa from Europe or European descent in Africa around the time that Karen Blixen made her home here. Matriarchy has its stand in both submission and as a powerful stakeholder in nurturing and caregiving while the male figure is dominant as caretaker and breadwinner although sometimes the roles are reversed in many cases in modern day Africa. We must ensure that the female voices in the canon of African literature from whatever part of world that they hail, past, present and future from are not lost forever in the world’s materialistic gain pertaining to imperialist formulas. What matters is the subject (Africa) and the intellectualism of her people wherever they find themselves in the world today. In the engineering of music, in songwriting, in poetry, in novels, in rap, in hip hop, in the curriculum, in textbooks and so forth and so forth.

Abigail George
Abigail George
Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated shortlisted and longlisted poet Abigail George is a recipient of four writing grants from the National Arts Council, the Centre for Book and ECPACC. She briefly studied film, writes for The Poet, is an editor at MMAP and Contributing Writer at African Writer. She is a blogger, essayist, writer of several short stories, novellas and has ventured out to write for film with two projects in development . She was recently interviewed for Sentinel, and the BBC.