The Writers House at Gibb’s Farm


All I wanted to do now was get back to Africa.  We had not left it, yet, but when I would wake in the night I would lie, listening, homesick for it already.

Now, looking out the tunnel of trees over the ravine at the sky with white clouds moving across in the wind, I loved the country so that I was happy as you are after you have been with a woman that you really love, when, empty, you feel it welling up again and there it is and you can never have it all and yet what there is, now, you can have, and you want more and more, to have, and be, and live in, to possess now again for always, for that long, sudden-ended always, making time stand still, sometime so very still that afterwards you wait to hear it move, and, it is slow in starting.  But you are not alone, because if you have ever really loved her happy and untragic, she loves you always, no matter whom she loves nor where she goes she loves you more.  So if you have loved some woman and some country you are very fortunate and, if you die afterwards, it makes no difference.  Now, being in Africa, I was hungry for more of it, the changes of the seasons, the rains with no need to travel, the discomforts that you paid to make it real, the names of the trees, of the small animals, and all the birds, to know the language and have time to be in it and to move slowly.

Green Hills of Africa, Ernest Hemingway

Historically, safaris and adventures in East Africa have been a favorite subject of novels.  Take for example the excerpt above from Ernest Hemingway’s book documenting the safari he and his wife took in Eastern Africa.  One can imagine that the countryside here offers many exciting, beautiful, and interesting topics to discuss in such a novel.  The Writer’s House celebrates these traditions of penning the great East African novel and commemorates those that have documented their experiences of this area. 

One popular subject involves those that grew up in Africa and the stories of their childhood.  These novels and memoirs are often illuminating because events seen in the eyes of a child reveal a different view of various encounters.  In his book, ‘Barefoot over the Serengeti’, David Reid describes his experiences as an English child living in Loliondo on the border of what is today Serengeti National Park.  Read grew up playing with Maasai children and his book not only documents his adventures, but also gives insight into the Maasai culture. 

Elispeth Huxley, in her book ‘The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood’, reflects on her experiences of traveling to and living in Kenya:

We set off in an open cart drawn by four whip-scarred little oxen and piled high with equipment and provisions.  No medieval knight could have more closely armoured than were Tilly and I, against the rays of the sun.  A mushroom-brimmed hat, built of two thicknesses of heavy felt and lined with red flannel, protected her creamy complexion, a long-sleeved white blouse clasped her by the neck, and a heavy skirt of khaki drill fell to her booted ankles.

I sat beside my mother, only a little less fortified in a pith helmet and a starched cotton dress.  The oxen looked very thin and small for such a task but moved off with resignation, if not with speed, from the Norfolk hotel.  Everything was dusty; one’s feet descended with little plops into a soft, warm, red carpet, a red plume followed every wagon down the street, the dust had filmed over each brittle eucalyptus leaf and stained the seats and backs of rickshaws waiting under the trees.

We were going to Thika, a name on a map where two rivers joined.  Thika in those days – the year was 1913 – was a favourite camp for big-game hunters and beyond it there was only bush and plain.  If you went on a long enough you would come to mountains and forests no one had mapped and tribes whose languages no one could understand.  We were not going as far as that, only two days’ journey in the ox-cart to a bit of El Dorado my father had been fortunate enough to buy in the bar of the Norfolk hotel from a man wearing an Old Etonian tie.

The Flame Trees of Thika: Memories of an African Childhood, Elspeth Huxley  

As the title suggests, Huxley makes references to the Flame Trees that are characterized by their bright red flowers such as the Nandi Flame (1). This watercolor painting is by Riziki Kateya,, a botanical artist and a SANAA artist-in-residence.  Scientific illustrations such as these require great attention to detail and artistic ability as the slightest error can prohibit the plant from being correctly identified.  The bright red flowers of this tree are a sight to behold and it is no stretch of the imagination that they have inspired and been incorporated into novels by writers such as Huxley.

Many travelers are also inspired to document their own memoirs from their African journey;. whether it be in the form of a journal, photographs, or keepsakes that they have acquired.  Perhaps they are inspired to write down their thoughts and encounters with the much documented Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Gibb’s Farm.  Many East African novels begin with an adventure and many adventures begin with a dream.  Similar to those who travel to Tanzania, they may have dreamed of this adventure for much of their life and being able to live their dream is an inspiring experience. 

Lawi Moshi’s (2) captures this dream-like state in his sculpture, ‘Dreaming’.  Those with the ability to document their dreams and experiences in a captivating manner have great talent which we celebrate and encourage within the environment of the Writers House.

The Writers House desk was made by the one of the lead Farm carpenters, Christomi, who has been a carpenter at Gibb’s Farm since 2005.  It represents inspiration the Tanzanian experience offers. 

Rush Nyakundi’s Mothers Milk (3) oil painting of a women milking her cow as its offspring looks on represents the Iraqw habitation experience just along the southern perimeter of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area just in view across the coffee valley from the veranda of this cottage.


(2) Lawi Moshi, Dreaming,

Mpingo wood carving

(1) Riziki Kateya, Nandi Flame, off-set lithography from water color original in the Sanaa Gallery collection.  A Commissioned Sanaa work.

(3) Mother’s Milk, Rush Nyakundi, oil on canvas

Sanaa Art Gallery Collection installed in each cottage.  Select works have been commissioned to carry the theme and lesson of the house.