Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Ben Kipkorir’

Storytelling Starters ~ A unique story

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

P1070361In the Africa section of my boxes of stories, I have a file of stories from Benjamin Kipkorir, my Kenyan friend. They’re animal stories in the main, many about clever Rabbit, and they’re the stories Ben and his friends used to tell as children. In the evenings,  gathered round the fire with their elders, they’d rival each other to tell them and – as Ben put it – to tell them well. Ben gave them to me years ago after I’d got involved with storytelling. 

On Thursday morning this week, Paul and I got a message from one of Ben’s twin daughters telling us he’d died the day before, peacefully and surrounded by his family at his home in Nairobi. In the succeeding hours, in the midst of my sadness, I felt another story – the extraordinary story of Ben’s own life and how I’d come to know him – all coming together inside me like a massive part of me that has been there, persisting and enriching, for a very long time.

Short story of a very long friendship

Ben was a member of the Marakwet  people. He grew up a poor boy, walking a long distance to school. When he got into High School, he began to do extremely well. After Makerere University and later Cambridge, where he came to do his PhD, he became a University history teacher. Later, he was appointed Chairman of Kenya Commercial Bank and made a great difference to Kenya’s economy by extending the Bank’s presence to cover the whole country. Then he was made Kenya’s Ambassador to the United States.

I first met Ben when I was 18 and in Kenya doing Voluntary Service Overseas. I met him because one of the unmarried mothers at the convent where I worked arranged for me to meet her friend Lea, the wonderful woman Ben later married who sadly died some years ago. The friendship strengthened when Ben came to Cambridge (I was by then at Girton College) and when Lea came to join him for their wedding. It has survived and grown ever since. It’s very hard to know it has gone – except it hasn’t. Ben’s dear family is still there and my relationship with him and Lea will always live on inside me surrounded by all the awareness of Africa the friendship gave me. 

‘When an old person dies,’ says the African proverb, ‘ a whole library goes up in flames.’ Ben was only in his 70s. But what a huge library his story was. And here’s one of his childhood’s animal tales. (more…)