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Out of Africa | Part 2, Chapter 5 : A Shooting Accident on the Farm (A Kikuyu Chief) | Summary

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Summary

Chief Kinanjui lives on a manyatta, or settlement, nine miles from the farm, in the Kikuyu Reserve. He rules over more than 100,000 Kikuyus. His friendship with the narrator was cemented several years before when she violated the law and served him alcohol. Though he passed out as a result, he remains firmly convinced that she had "braved a danger ... to make him happy." She now sends a message asking him for help in the affair involving Kaninu.

A few days later, Kinanjui arrives at high speed in his new scarlet car. Impressively clothed in a blue monkey-skin cloak, he proudly waits for the narrator to come and see him in the car, offer her compliments, and invite him to come out. Then, taking a seat outdoors at the mill-stone table much prized by the narrator, he waits as the Kikuyu gather to see him.

The meeting begins, and the narrator announces that the matter between Kaninu and Wanyangerri's father, Wainaina, has been settled. There will be a transfer of a cow and a female calf, ending the matter once and for all. When the animals are presented, a loud, heated dispute breaks out regarding the age and quality of the cow—she appears old and quite likely to bear no more calves. Wainaina is sure he is being cheated. However, when the chaos at last dies down, he reluctantly consents to the agreement, and he, Kaninu, and Chief Kinanjui place their thumbprint on the document. The narrator adds her signature: Baroness Blixen.

Analysis

In this chapter, the account of the accidental shooting is concluded. With the legal proceedings as a framework, Blixen explores the unique characteristics of various people within her sphere of colonial Africa.

In the character of Chief Kinanjui, Blixen finds the noble qualities of a true aristocrat. These qualities do not depend on a person's race, social status, or state of technological advancement, but on the honorable and generous manner in which the person lives life and relates to others. The noble person remains true to his nature and takes responsibility for words and actions. Chief Kinanjui lives with and governs 100,000 Kikuyus. He is greatly respected by the native people and trusted by the Europeans who placed him in this position. With dignity and skill, he bridges the gap between the changing conditions in Africa and the past, when the Kikuyu people ruled themselves. As Blixen describes it, the British made him chief to replace "the legitimate ruler of the Kikuyu." Her choice of words is a sly stab at the imperious controls exercised by the British colonizers.

Blixen also shares her impressions of the various cultural groups that make up Africa; in particular, the Kikuyu and the Masai. Here again, she sets herself apart from other writers of the time, placing the people of Africa in a favorable light. She distinguishes the Kikuyu as "a peaceful, patient people" with "a great gift for resignation." They do not die in bondage and do not storm against Fate. Yet, they retain their sense of self and self-importance; a quiet pride that gives them strength. This was illustrated earlier in the character of Kamante. In contrast, the Masai, who have never been enslaved, are said to die within three months if imprisoned. This earns them the respect of the immigrant aristocracy, who recognize in the Masai their own fierce dignity and pride. In the previous chapter, these qualities are personified by Kabero, who returns to the farm after living with the Masai. He has acquired their habits and discipline, and has become, in his nature, the ideal of the Masai warrior.

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