Exploring Nairobi: A Journey Through Time – Part III

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The Karen Blixen Museum was once the centerpiece of a farm at the foot of the Ngong Hills, owned by Danish author Karen Blixen and her Swedish husband, Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke.

Located 10 km from the city center, the museum represents a different period in Kenya’s history and gained international acclaim with the release of the movie ‘Out of Africa,’ an Oscar-winning film based on Karen’s autobiography of the same title.

Built in 1912 by Swedish engineer Ake Sjogren, Karen and her husband bought the house in 1917. It became the farmhouse for their 6,000-acre property, of which 600 acres were used for coffee farming. Their marriage failed after eight years, and in 1921, the Baron left the running of the farm to Karen.

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Karen, also known by her pen name Isak Dinesen, was born in Rungstedlund, Denmark, on April 17, 1885, as the second child of Wilhelm and Ingeborg Dinesen’s five children. She came to Africa in 1914 to marry her half-cousin and practice dairy farming in what was then the British Colony of Kenya.

Her husband, however, changed his mind and decided to farm coffee instead. Her uncle Aage Westenholz financed the farm, and members of both families were shareholders. The coffee farm faced numerous challenges, including a factory fire and continuous bad harvests.

After her divorce, Karen was left to run the financially troubled farm on her own, a daunting task for a woman of that generation.

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“She fell in love with an Englishman, Denis Finch Hatton. His death in Tsavo in 1930, coupled with the failed farming, left Karen with little choice but to return to Denmark.

She turned to writing as a career following her departure from Africa and published works such as Seven Gothic Tales (1934), Out of Africa (1937), and Babette’s Feast (1950). She died on her family estate, Rungsted, in 1962 at the age of 77.

Karen Blixen called the house ‘Bogani’ or ‘Mbogani,’ meaning ‘a house in the woods,’ and occupied it until her return to Denmark in 1931,” I explained as we admired the house’s deep history reflected in the well-preserved furniture.



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