This title was recommended to me by several friends, all ex-Kenyans like myself. I’d love it, they said.
I resisted. Why? Because I won’t read or watch anything involving animal suffering, and all too often memoirs set in the African bush contain graphic and distressing descriptions of nature red in tooth and claw, or man’s insane drive to kill anything that moves, the bigger the better.
Growing up in Kenya I saw nature at its bloodiest. Seeing a kill in a game park was regarded as the highlight of any trip. I know how it happens and accept that it is part of nature and the need for survival. I just don’t want to see or read it about any more.
After a friend finally convinced me, promising there was nothing unpleasant in this memoir, I read it from beginning to end in one evening.
Brian Connell waves farewell to his engineering consultancy to follow a dream combining his two passions, photography and African wildlife. He buys a derelict bush camp in southern Africa to develop and use to run photographic wildlife workshops.
Hardly has he set foot on the land when an elderly African gentleman arrives and virtually takes over. Brian doesn’t even need to think what he is going to call the camp, because Msomi decides that for him. “Nokuthula,” meaning ‘place of peace.’
With Msomi’s help – or perhaps more accurately under his direction – the camp takes shape and soon becomes a flourishing business, welcoming a diversity of clients including a successful rock band.
The book is a collection of anecdotes about life at Nokuthula over seven years, about the staff, the guests, the wildlife, the country, and most of all, about Msomi with his outspoken views and African wisdom. The author’s love of everything African flows from the pages. I found myself with an almost permanent smile on my face as he shares the often cantankerous attitude of his self-appointed guru, the beauty of the landscape and the magic and majesty of the animals – especially Khankhanya, the rescued cheetah.
Khankhanya, the rescued cheetah with a sense of humour. © Brian Connell
My friends were right. I LOVED this book. While there is no animal suffering, there is human tragedy on a monumental scale. Perhaps there’s something wrong with me that I can read about that.
The writing is beautiful, the photographs delightful, it’s a story to warm your heart and crack it too. Unhesitatingly five stars.
Brian Connell campaigns passionately on behalf of African wildlife.
You can find him on Facebook and Twitter and on his website.
Msomi and Me is currently on offer during February at £1.42 as a Kindle download.