In Summary
  • I still remember how she gave me directions to her flat in Ngara on a landline. I scribbled “Mama George, Cucu Wambui (granny) (and Wambui was a neighbour’s child she was looking after)…, mzungu” as she instructed me on whom to ask for near her

  • place if I got confused. But she insisted, I could not miss her gate as it was very near local semi-permanent vendors’ kiosks.

In many ways I remember Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye. Natural, and a brilliant intellectual whose first poem was published when she was seven years old in the London Mirror in 1935. She told me that during the war she was schooled at home and later went to a secondary school nearby. But Marjorie could learn from all.

She spoke to me about her paternal grandfather whom she admired. “My paternal grandfather was a great storyteller and I’m sure I’ve learnt a lot from him. My own father would reproduce some of those stories and I can still reproduce some of them…”

I knew Marjorie because of her participation in reading forums, including those at the British Council when I was a teacher. She went there as a writer but left with lots of friends and contacts.

She subtly crossed borders of work into friendship. When I thought I got to know her, I met and found Kenya in her. She drew one to her own friends… often with the words: “I would like you to meet so and so…”

That way I got to meet Kamau, who had nothing to eat and said he fought in Mau Mau, people living in shacks near her humble flat in Ngara, Nairobi, authors, and travellers who would come to sit a while with Marjorie

I wondered when she wrote as her sitting room was also her office. The typewriter and piles of neat papers and books told one she was busy. She had time to laugh. Time to search deeply, question things. She wanted the poor to hit the headlines. She was hungry for justice.

Sometimes I found her deeply engrossed in Dholuo conversations with her extended family members who visited her often. I knew that sometimes people got off the bus at Machakos bus stop, ‘Airport,’ and headed ‘home’ to Marjorie’s rather than anywhere else.

I still remember how she gave me directions to her flat in Ngara on a landline. I scribbled “Mama George, Cucu Wambui (granny) (and Wambui was a neighbour’s child she was looking after)…, mzungu” as she instructed me on whom to ask for near her

place if I got confused. But she insisted, I could not miss her gate as it was very near local semi-permanent vendors’ kiosks.

Marjorie told me she would never drive and was not only happy to hop onto matatus when age was not an issue, but also so proud of the way she was normally treated. She walked her talk.

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