Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Nostalgia for the Mau Mau

My introductory Post might lead some to believe that I co-authored the King James version of the Bible. While I admit to occasional eruptions of Calvinist sensibilities most people who know me would say that I was rather too loosely as opposed to too tightly wrapped. In all future posts I will attempt a more conversational and measured tone. Seeing the word "Kikuyu" on the front of the NY Times again has caused a wave of nostalgia to wash over me.As a child I was enchanted with all things African. I enjoyed imagining my eventual arrival in some jungle village deep in the interior,sometimes as a beloved Maryknoll priest and sometimes as a fearsome Mercenary {and sometimes as Tarzan}. The proscription on sex for Catholic priests was a hurdle I knew I couldn't jump and no intellectual dodges around it came readily to mind. Mercenaries in the Congo were too frequently photographed surrounded by human skulls and body parts raising doubts about their suitability as wholesome chums. Other role options came to mind. Kennedy was starting that Peace Corps but I was a city kid and couldn't plant a goddamn thing. That fantasy always ended with me becoming a pathetic burden on my adoptive village and needing to be wrapped in mosquito netting and carried by litter to the coast where I would narrowly survive the malaria and Dengue by being flushed several times with quinine. But back to the Kikuyu. One of the authors irresponsibly fueling "dark continent" fantasies at the time was Robert Ruark.He too exhibited elements of a split personality.{*note to psychiatric community-you fuckers claim that Split- personality is a rare disorder. My own interpersonal relationships suggest that you cant swing a dead cat without hitting a genuine "Multiple"}. Mr. Ruark divided {split} his writing time between stories about dirty little wars and saccharine tales about a boy and his grandpa that evoked a world-view shared by no-one except his doppelganger in the visual arts: Norman Rockwell. Ruark had started spending time in Kenya after WW2 and wrote a mesmerizing account of The Mau Mau uprising entitled Something of Value. I was a barely passing student at Immaculate Conception Grade School at the time but it wasn't so much that I was stupid as I preferred to write my own Syllabus,{less math, more Mau Mau} and Something of Value dominated my own required reading list. I was extremely tickled to discover that as of just a couple of years ago Kenya's official website featured a scathing indictment of Ruark's book claiming it gave the "British" perspective of their "Independence " struggle. They're still pissed off 50 years after publication of a now forgotten book. Even stranger is the fact that it was deeply sympathetic to the Kikuyu, the tribe from which the Mau Mau membership arose. The British were so pissed off at it's publication that they barred Ruark from British East Africa {Kenya,Tanganyika} all together. Since Kenyan independence in 64 the Kikuyu have politically and economically kept their boot on the necks of their Luo minority. Thanks to Mwai Kibaki whose latest antics triggered this trip down memory lane. It also hints at the genesis of the Mau Mau painting seen on my site.

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