“You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions.”
~~ Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Blixen), “Out of Africa”
On the outskirts of Nairobi is Karen Blixen’s home, the author of “Out of Africa.”
She lived here from 1917 to 1931. Under pseudonym Isak Dinesen, she later wrote the autobiographical story of her adventures while living and farming in Kenya. Published in 1937, it was later made into an award-winning film.
Now a museum, I visited the house on my way out to the African bush. It is modest, of bungalow architecture, with many verandas and surrounded by gardens.
Here Karen Blixen and her husband owned and managed a 4,500 acre farm, including a 600 acre coffee plantation. After they separated, she ran it on her own. More about Karen Blixen here.
The novel is a series of ongoing true stories about living in the African savanna; learning and adapting to the culture of tribes people; and the ups and downs of running the farm.
More about the book here.
Sparks of her remarkable character show through even a century later. A single white woman (Danish) running a plantation in Kenya, living among people of a completely different culture.
She embraced the local tribes people, encouraged them, set up a school for them and their children. Kenya was under British rule then, and this kind of harmonious spirit of cooperation was not the norm.
A century later her farm is gone, and the house is no longer a lengthy horse ride into town. Instead it is in a suburb of sprawling Nairobi, named Karen, after her.
But as you drive out into the wilderness, finding grazing giraffe and stalking lions, you get an easy sense of her courage and spirit.
“When you have caught the rhythm of Africa” she wrote, “you find out that it is the same in all her music.”
Photo credit: Athena Alexander (unless otherwise noted)