THE VANISHING PEOPLE
OF THE RED OCHRE
The ground is called laterite and is a clay which has been enriched with Iron and aluminium that has been developed over long periods of time by the heavy rainfalls and the intense heat. Sometimes the material is rock hard but when scuffed by vehicle wheels it becomes a choking red dust. The iron is the origin of the redness is a rusty colour. – Jack Hill.
FOR a long time, I have been writing and talking about our East African DNA. Most Europeans will tell you of their love for their Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania history’s past is “in the blood.” I have always interpreted that the critical element in the DNA is red dust which we breathed in, swallowed it with the raging wind or soaked our bodies with it helped along by those gorgeous rains. I have always loved that red dust from as long as I can remember growing up, first in the city of Nairobi and then in semi-rural (to start with) Eastleigh and its neighbouring environs. We walked mostly barefoot and if had the tennis shoes on then was probably a hole in each sole and the cardboard pieces had moved. I can still taste that dust on my lips and in my hair.
I there are distinctly four types of non-African people and I will focus mainly on Kenya. 1. Those who chose to stay and have flourished. 2. Those who left begrudgingly but will never forget. Many return to Kenya regularly for a holiday or for a refill of familiar natural beauty, of life in miniature of days that used to be and being shrouded by the scents and aromas of familiar things and familiar places. They visit their former homes, rural properties and catch up with eternal friends who are also on the lists of the vanishing. They miss Kenya every day. They shout the loudest when they watch a Kenyan runner winning on TV. Why not? They will always by the white tribe of Kenya. 3. There are those who left and will never forgive the African for claiming back his country and making exiles of so many who had invested so much of their lives though first, second and third generations. 4. There are those who have cut the umbilical cord and have erased Kenya from all of their memory but bear no ill feelings towards anyone.
I am a child of the War years, WWII, that is. Already I have lost too many friends of my age group. In 20 years, I doubt if there will be anyone left who was born in the 1920s, unless they make it to 100. Along with them, we will lose some of those born in the 1930s and 1940s unless COVID takes them sooner.
In 40 years, there may not be anyone left who lived with us, grew up with us, worked with us, hunted and fished and picnicked and loved Kenya the way we did. It was always going to be the case of a broken-hearted melody.
Aha! I would hand over the collective works of our Kenya lives to the young adults (children of ex-Kenyan migrants of all colours) who live in Canada and have some idea about what their parents and grandparents’ lives were like in that distant poetic land. A few live in the UK and yet others are strewn all over the world, especially southern Africa. A few live in Kenya; once were children, now grandparents and basking in the twilight of their lives.
While I still have my marbles, I dedicate my next book: The Vanishing people of the Red Ochre to anyone who was born there lived there or even visited there and has never forgotten my Mother Country.
In the meanwhile, I will sing her song, dance her beat, drink her juices, tea and coffee, and sup on feasts that often seem only faint distant memories when we were once free with wind in our hair, gentle breezes (kindly ghosts of Kenyans who died long ago) caressing my cheeks and TV screen in my brain is alight with those awesome memories of the children of the red ochre growing up shrouded by my mother Kenya.
Tell me quickly, why you miss Kenya. My book will be published in a couple of months. God Bless.