I enjoyed literature in High School, my favourite book; the late Margaret Ogola’s , The River and the Source. That was the first Kenyan authored book I found myself relating to.
The great story of four generations of women from one amazing Matriarch blew my mind. I could relate to it because I also had a phenomenal matriarch in my blood line, I too am the fourth generation from Rosebella Odhek, my great grandmother. My mother always told me stories of Rosebella’s feistiness, diligence, great humour, perfectionism and forthrightness. You couldn’t mess with Rosebella, she loved her grandchildren. Rosebella only had one child, for someone living in the early 1900s that was an abomination, and as you guessed, to bring forth more children and keep the blood line flowing my Great Grand dad got himself another baby making machine. A lazy woman who provided my Great grandfather with all the sons he needed.
Rosebella fed her co-wife and treated her with the utmost respect but wasn’t one to shy away from pointing out wrong. My mum recalls happily running errands for her. My mother tells me, like Akoko the matriarch in the book, Rosebella too sought education at a British Missionary school. She learnt the three ‘R’s; Read, Write, Arithemtic (the ‘R’’s are in the pronunciation).
She did rub it in her husband’s face and wasn’t pretty kind about it when she called him illiterate and backward. She got her butt whooped for it, like men in that time did. But with time he saw his wife’s point and just like Rosebella, my Great Grandfather went to get an education. And like that my maternal grandmother who may not be in Rosebella’s bloodline, but had her spirit, married an equally educated man.
My mother always shared some stories that sounded stranger than fiction. She tells me that in the time of my Great grandfather people were very husky, herculean even, and fearless. My mum told me of a time a leopard attacked my great grandfather’s favourite dog. I forget the name of the dog, but thank goodness it wasn’t Simba. My great grand dad had just arrived from wherever he had gone when it had just happened. He followed the blood trail to the thick forest. I forget how he finally met face to face with the leopard and his now almost dead dog. He threw a spear at the leopard it dropped the dog from his jaw to the ground. My Grand dad took him on mano a mano. He wrestled him to the ground and snapped the leopard’s neck. Go! Great Grand dad go!
I know it sounds ridiculous, but the way the imagery is playing in my head and when you meet your maternal uncles at 6 foot 5 and 7 and husky build. My friends, you too will believe it is possible. I have to share another one. This one, I have my doubts in, but I honestly believe it could be possible. So in the early 1900s my grandfather worked, I think as a porter, during the construction of the Lunatic express. And I guess many of you have heard of the man eating lions of Tsavo that were merciless during that section of railway construction in the Tsavo area in coastal Kenya.
Well, it happened that Great grand dad happened one day to see one of the lions in distress. It had a slight shaft of wood driven through the lions mouth not all the way through. The lion was groaning in agony. My great grand pappy, fearless and empathetic, approached the lion stealthily, looking away as it approached the lion, negotiating with it with occasional eye contact and gesturing that it wanted to help. The lion eventually stood still and my grandfather pulled out the shaft. The lion ran away after that. That same evening when my Great grand dad was in his sleeping quarters, he felt scratching at his door. The lion was at the door, it had an impala carcass in its mouth. When Great grand dad opened the door hesitantly, the lion roared and paced backward. My Great grand dad took the carcass and said thank you. Not like the lion understood. But they were even.
Believe it or not, at times fiction stories aren’t all that made up. Our imagination at times is as real as my Great grand dad’s escapades and my Great grandmother’s exploits!
First published on http://blog.storymojafestival.com