I decided to do this post following a conversation that I had with my book blogging friend, Annie (The Misstery). Annie is from Spain and I am from Kenya. We met in blogosphere and became friends on and offline though we have never met in person. One thing that we talk about a lot, well apart from TV shows and books, is our cultures. I enjoy getting to know more about Barcelona and life over there. In turn, I tell her about Kenya. Over time, she messages me each time she sees a book or a movie set in Kenya. Last weekend, she watched The Constant Gardner and told me about it. That is what inspired me to write this post. I thought it would be a fun way to help me discover movies and books set in my country and also help others get to know them.
Last week, I wrote a few facts about Kenya and Kenyan literature. If you missed my post, you can find it here. In this post, I will share books and movies set in Kenya. Unlike the previous posts, there are by non-Kenyans.
Books that have already been made into movies
Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
I think this is one of the most well known movies set in Kenya. Karen was a Danish woman who moved to Kenya to start a new life. The movie and book detail her experiences in Kenya. Today, there are a number of places named after her and Karen is also the name of one of the most affluent suburbs in Nairobi. It’s still possible to visit her house in Karen and Denys Finch Hatton’s grave on the Ngong Hills.
I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Galmann
Italian Kuki Galmann falls in love with Kenya. However, her life is filled with tragic events after her move to Kenya. I haven’t read this book but I have watched the movie and I just recall how sad it was. Kuki had such a terrible time in Kenya despite having fallen in love with the country.
The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre
This is a thriller about a widower trying to solve his wife’s murder. The story is set against the backdrop of espionage between the British Embassy and the Kenyan authorities. The Constant Gardener won several awards, including an Oscar for best actress.
The White Maasai by Corinne Hoffman
This is based on a true story. It tells the story of Corrine Hoffman(Swiss) who came to Kenya as a tourist but fell in love with a Samburu Moran and decided to stay in the country. She moved to a remote village in Samburu with the moran. I remember watching this movie a few years back. I think Corrinne was in love but above all, she was very brave. I don’t know if I couldn’t do half of the things that she did. The movie is based on a book so you can get both.
Man-eaters of Tsavo by John Henry Patterson
This is one of the most frightening things that I have ever seen. What is even most scary is the fact that it is based on true events. About 130 people died in the early 1900’s during the construction of the Nairobi- Mombasa railway. They were all eaten by lions. This is both a movie and a book. Not one for the faint-hearted.
Born Wild – Tony Fitzjohn (2010) – Biography by George Adamson’s assistant, set in 1980s during their research into lion behavior in a national park ravaged by poaching at that time.
Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barrack Obama
Barack’s journey comes full circle in Kenya, where he finally meets the African side of his family and confronts the bitter truth of his father’s life. Traveling through a country racked by brutal poverty and tribal conflict, but whose people are sustained by a spirit of endurance and hope, Barack discovers that he is inescapably bound to brothers and sisters living an ocean away—and that by embracing their common struggles he can finally reconcile his divided inheritance.
You can read my review here.
Hiding in Plain Sight by Nurrudin Farah
When Bella learns of the murder of her beloved half brother by political extremists in Mogadiscio, she’s in Rome. The two had different fathers but shared a Somali mother, from whom Bella’s inherited her freewheeling ways. An internationally known fashion photographer, dazzling but aloof, she comes and goes as she pleases, juggling three lovers. But with her teenage niece and nephew effectively orphaned – their mother abandoned them years ago—she feels an unfamiliar surge of protective feeling. Putting her life on hold, she journeys to Nairobi, where the two are in boarding school, uncertain whether she can—or must—come to their rescue. When their mother resurfaces, reasserting her maternal rights and bringing with her a gale of chaos and confusion that mirror the deepening political instability in the region, Bella has to decide how far she will go to obey the call of sisterly responsibility.
You can read my review here.
A City of Thorns by Ben Lawrence
Situated hundreds of miles from any other settlement, deep within the inhospitable desert of northern Kenya where only thorn bushes grow, Dadaab is a city like no other. Its buildings are made from mud, sticks or plastic, its entire economy is grey, and its citizens survive on rations and luck. Over the course of four years, Ben Rawlence became a first-hand witness to a strange and desperate limbo-land, getting to know many of those who have come there seeking sanctuary. Among them are Guled, a former child soldier who lives for football; Nisho, who scrapes an existence by pushing a wheelbarrow and dreaming of riches; Tawane, the indomitable youth leader; and schoolgirl Kheyro, whose future hangs upon her education.
I haven’t yet read the following though they do sound interesting:
Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story by Daphne Shedrick
But this is also a magical and heartbreaking human love story between Daphne and David Sheldrick, the famous Tsavo Park warden. It was their deep and passionate love, David’s extraordinary insight into all aspects of nature, and the tragedy of his early death that inspired Daphne’s vast array of achievements, most notably the founding of the world-renowned David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Orphans’ Nursery in Nairobi National Park, where Daphne continues to live and work to this day.
The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood – Elspeth Huxley
In an open cart Elspeth Huxley set off with her parents to travel to Thika in Kenya. As pioneering settlers, they built a house of grass, ate off a damask cloth spread over packing cases, and discovered—the hard way—the world of the African. With an extraordinary gift for detail and a keen sense of humor, Huxley recalls her childhood on the small farm at a time when Europeans waged their fortunes on a land that was as harsh as it was beautiful. For a young girl, it was a time of adventure and freedom, and Huxley paints an unforgettable portrait of growing up among the Masai and Kikuyu people, discovering both the beauty and the terrors of the jungle, and enduring the rugged realities of the pioneer life.
My Maasai Life: From Suburbia to Savannah by Robin Wiszowaty
Growing up in suburban Illinois, Robin Wiszowaty never pictured herself living with an impoverished Maasai family in rural Kenya. Yet in her early twenties Wiszowaty embarked on an incredible journey that would shake her from complacency, take her to unimaginable locales, and change her life forever. My Maasai Life follows Wiszowaty’s remarkable voyage as she explores some of the most remote areas of East Africa and has her eyes opened to the diverse issues facing the fascinating Maasai people.
Nowehere in Africa – A German Jewish refugee family moves to and adjusts to a farm life in 1930s Kenya.
The First Grader– The story of an 84 year-old Kenyan villager and ex Mau Mau veteran who fights for his right to go to school for the first time to get the education he could never afford.
Nairobi Half Life– A young, aspiring actor from upcountry Kenya dreams of becoming a success in the big city. In pursuit of this and to the chagrin of his brother and parents, he makes his way to Nairobi:the city of opportunity.
Sense 8– A group of people around the world are suddenly linked mentally, and must find a way to survive being hunted by those who see them as a threat to the world’s order.
The Kitchen Toto– I watched this movie when I was a child. It is set in the colonial era in Kenya. I have been trying to get the movie again but it seems like it was only produced in VCR. DVDs are very hard to find. It is one of the most memorable movies that I have ever watched though.
Leopard at The Door by Jennifer McVeigh – This is one of my most anticipated reads this year. I received the ARC from NetGalley and will be reading it in July.
After six years in England, Rachel has returned to Kenya and the farm where she spent her childhood, but the beloved home she’d longed for is much changed. Her father’s new companion—a strange, intolerant woman—has taken over the household. The political climate in the country grows more unsettled by the day and is approaching the boiling point. And looming over them all is the threat of the Mau Mau, a secret society intent on uniting the native Kenyans and overthrowing the whites.
As Rachel struggles to find her place in her home and her country, she initiates a covert relationship, one that will demand from her a gross act of betrayal. One man knows her secret, and he has made it clear how she can buy his silence. But she knows something of her own, something she has never told anyone. And her knowledge brings her power.
So, that is it. If you know any other movies or books set in Kenya then please let me know.