• Recollections of a Childhood in Kenya 1951-1955

    Helen May (see profile)
    Biography--Study and teaching, Africa, East, Race, Ethnicity, Families
    Item Type:
    childhood, Travel Writing, School Experience, Biography Studies, Anglophone postcolonial writing, East Africa, Race/ethnicity, Family
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    My writing about these few years in Kenya is for my children and grandchildren, but it is also a story of childhood; situated both on the edges and in the midst of British colonial conquests and experiments. There are differences and similarities in the consequences of Africa’s colonial stories and that of New Zealand’s. My own forbears were buffeted across the world from England, Ireland and Scotland, as part of what historian, James Belich, describes as the nineteenth-century white ‘settler revolution and the rise of the Anglo World. This was one kind colonial experiment, but in the mid-twentieth century, my family became small players during our time in Kenya in a different experiment: at the tail end of British colonial rule. . In 1999, I returned to Kisii with my father, aged eighty two, and my daughter Sarah aged twenty two. I was delighted to find that the smells, tastes, sounds and sights were not false memories. I had long been cognisant that my childhood experiences and perceptions had been shaped by colonial politics that had taken my father to Kenya. We were living in Kenya during the worst of the European-termed ‘Mau Mau Emergency’ or ‘Troubles’; although there were uprisings, slaughter, repressions, and incarcerations, they were mainly distant from the Kisii district and its Gusii. My childhood understandings of these times were limited and selective.
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