I discovered Kuki Gallman when browsing in the airport bookstore for something to read on the long flight to London. This was way back in 1996.
Kuki Gallman is an Italian writer and poet. Born in Treviso, Veneto, she moved to Kenya in 1972 with her second husband and son (from her first marriage) and is now a Kenyan citizen.
The book I discovered was “I Dreamed of Africa“ and this book was made into a film in 2000 starring Kim Basinger. In this her first book, Kuki Gallman tells of her ongoing fascination with Africa. She tells of being given an essay to write when she was 12 years old. The theme was what she wanted to do and be in 20 years’ time. The teacher dismissed her essay with the words “Why did you have to write about Africa?” Her response (copied verbatim from the book) “But I do want to live in Africa. I do not want to stay here all my life. One day I shall go to Africa. I shall send you a postcard from there, signora in twenty years’ time.
Twenty years later, I did”.
Her book tells her story of travelling to Africa with her second husband, her son, Emanuele and the two daughters he had with his late wife. The two girls were sent home but Kuki, Paulo and Emanuele loved Africa and stayed.
The book follows their travels to find the perfect place to live and the dangers and thrills of setting up life in a totally different country, where they neither spoke the language or knew the local customs.
“Between 1972 and 1980 they acquired Ol Ari Nyiro, a 100,000 acre (400 km²) cattle ranch, on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, in Northern Kenya where they created the first ever anti-poaching squad to protect the largest population of Black Rhino in Africa and large populations of elephants, buffalo and leopards. Kuki became deeply involved with conservation.” ( Wikipedia).
Kiki had a daughter in 1980. Paolo, her husband had been killed in an automobile accident shortly before the child was born. He had decided to have a crib made for the new child and while bringing it home for their unborn baby was killed when a lorry crossed into his lane. This was the first death.
Her son Emanuele was fascinated by and loved snakes. Three years later (at only 17) he died of a snake bite while trying to extract viper venom for antiserum.
Kuki founded the Gallmann Memorial Foundation in honour of Paolo and Emanuele and has dedicated her life to saving the environment and wildlife of Kenya. She still lives in Kenya with her daughter, Sveva Makena Gallman, who is also involved in conservation and helping African children preserve their heritage.
The second book, “A Night of Lions” I discovered a few months later. This an illustrated collection of stories about the African land and people. In reading this book you get the feel of her total love of the land and its people.
I strongly recommend both these books to you. In particular, I loved “I Dreamed of Africa”. It captured me from the outset and I hope it will capture you too.