If you’re going to write about a place you’ve never been and people you’re not familiar with, if you want to bring truth to the tales you tell, it might be a good idea to listen to the voices of those who know and what they have to say.
This is the first book I encountered in my African studies written by a man of Africa. There’s a rich literary history most of us are quite unaware of, that is really not that hard to find. The problem is not enough of us are really looking and our schools are not going out of their way to expose our children to Afrocentric literature.
Facing Mount Kenya was something I stumbled on in a used book store in the 1980s. It was the author who caught my eye. Jomo Kenyatta, for all you younglings out there, is not just any Panafricanist; he’s like the father of his country, Kenya. I’m not going into his history at this time. It’s the book we’re concerned with here, which speaks of his pride of home and of his culture.
Published in 1938, this was essentially an anthropological study, from the inside, of Kenyatta’s Gikuyu people. It imparts their values and traditions, perhaps giving away more than he was really supposed to, and mayhaps that was the point, to explain his home and people to the Western world. And perhaps open some minds to the fact that they are more than the mindless savages all Africans are portrayed as in Tarzan novels, as well as too many adventure movies to come.
It may have also been too British in tone, a reflection of Kenyatta’s love for his Anglo home away from home. This is where my true African re-education began. Possibly some of my male characters in my writing are scewed to the lessons I learned from this book, and if so, well here’s where it began.