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The other Kenya and the African sickness of Italians

Considerations on the e-mails we receive

11-10-2022 by Freddie del Curatolo

We at continue to receive testimonies from readers (and we have been receiving them for 15 years now, and we store them all in the 'database' in our inbox) who tell us about their 'Africa-sickness' after returning from a holiday in Kenya or after coming back and back again and being caught up in something special (or even someone).
We have talked a lot about this strange syndrome that is not really a nostalgia, like the Brazilian saudade, nor is it a physical lack of sun-sea-nature and a feeling of perpetual healthy abandonment, perhaps contrasted with the hectic western life.
What I had to say about the so-called African Sickness, many of you know, I wrote in this poem-monologue.
Today, however, I take my cue from an email from Federica, a young graduate who treated herself to a holiday in Watamu and told me how from there she decided to change her outlook and think about living in the hinterland and collaborating with a non-governmental organisation. This, she says, because she got to know 'the other Kenya'.
Then I would like to point out two things that in my opinion are equally true: the first, very banal, is that the Kenya that makes so many compatriots fall in love with it and that enraptures the soul cannot be that of Watamu and Malindi.
The second is that many people have discovered 'the other Kenya' precisely because of Watamu, because that is almost always where 'we have to go' when we decide to take a holiday in Africa.
And the other Kenya can only be in Kenya if you go on a holiday, that is the incontrovertible fact. Because if you go to Zanzibar, you can enjoy the arc of a holiday, but you are unlikely to shoot the arrow towards the heart of Africa, the one that ravishes your soul. You almost always stop at the tourist dimension, the resort, the beautiful beach, the shopping trip to Stone Town.
The same thing can happen if you book a stay, maybe just one week, in one of the beautiful beach villages of Watamu and never leave: no safari, no social life and no local culture other than two maasai jumping and selling bracelets or four giriama drums with traditional choreography. That's a bit of a stretch to understand Kenya.
And yet there are those who have made it, those who wanted to go further and after one holiday have immediately thought of another, possibly not in a resort, and then a third... So the 'African sickness' is no longer a need to escape, it becomes the embrace of life that offers you a meaning and it is good to know that there is a young generation that leans towards this embrace.
Also because, more so in Malindi than in Watamu to tell the truth, we are used to those who have been in Kenya for a lifetime and have never put their noses outside of Kilifi County and for whom there is no "other Kenya" where you cannot find half penne rigate, where no one greets you with a "ciao" nor understands Italian, where not everyone is subject and prone when the white man opens his wallet and where the schoolgirls are really schoolgirls. Federica is right: long live the holiday and long live the other Kenya, because together they can instil a complete and, to the extent that it is fair and possible, conscious 'Africa-sickness'.

TAGS: mal d'africaaltro kenyavacanza

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