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Literature Study GuidesOut Of AfricaPart 5 Chapter 5 Summary

Out of Africa | Study Guide

Isak Dinesen

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Out of Africa | Part 5, Chapter 5 : Farewell to the Farm (Farewell) | Summary



The time for the narrator's departure from Africa draws near, and the elders among the Kikuyu men resolve to hold a special Ngoma for her. The Ngomas of the Ancients is rarely danced and is meant as a great honor. On the day of the performance, the old men arrive in their finery and war-paint. Looking at them, the narrator experiences the odd feeling that she is looking on the young dancers of former Ngomas, withering before her eyes as they pass away forever. Before the dance can begin, a messenger arrives from Nairobi with a government letter forbidding the performance. The gathering stands stunned and silent until Kamante begins to distribute the gift of tobacco that was to follow the dance.

One day out walking, the narrator meets an old Kikuyu woman on a path. On her back, the woman carries bundled poles—the building materials for her hut. She has pulled down her house and is leaving the farm. For a moment, the two women stand, gazing at each other. Then the old Kikuyu breaks out weeping. After a few minutes, she stands aside, lets the narrator pass, and walks on down the path.

The narrator moves through her departure day with a sense of disconnection. She feels things happening, but they seem to have no cause or meaning. Many friends come to see her off at the Nairobi train station. From a station platform down the line, where the train stops for water, she looks back at the distant Ngong Hills. The four peaks have been smoothed and leveled out by the hand of distance.


Blixen's dream of Africa continues to recede. The unforeseen canceling of the Ngoma of the Ancients is another bitter blow. It is also a glaring example of the harsh and supreme nature of colonial rule. The Ngomas of the Kikuyu were often arbitrarily forbidden by the government as a means of demonstrating its supreme authority. To maintain this position of power, it was necessary to weaken African cultural autonomy. At the same time, it was vital to maintain distinct boundaries between the colonizer and the colonized. Therefore, a ritual dance held in honor of a European could not be condoned. While in the past, Blixen has hosted many Ngomas on the farm—an act of defiance—she is powerless to fight back this last time. Too many forces already have piled up against her.

In the old Kikuyu woman, the narrator sees herself. She, too, is being forced to leave the place that is her home. The old woman's tears are her tears. Uprooted and dispossessed, both women are victims of circumstances beyond their power to control. In this colonial society based on master and servant, she is subject to the same god-shaped fate as the Kikuyu woman. She can also, like the Kikuyu woman, have the strength of will to persevere. If even an old woman can prepare to set up her new home somewhere, surely she can.

Blixen's last day takes on the qualities of a waking dream. As she looks back on the Ngong Hills, the Africa she loves already is fading from sight. Blixen herself has been transformed by the events. She came to Africa a young bride-to-be, naive, yet eager for the freedom and adventure that Africa promised. She embraced that life, changing Africa and, in turn, being changed. Upon leaving, she is transformed into the author Isak Dinesen. She will write about her farm in Africa, and so pin down the dream. In this way, she can revisit paradise at will, and her loss is not complete.

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