are times and places which keep drawing us back, demanding to be seen,
demanding to be heard, needing to be understood. They are like children
we would leave behind. And each a child who will not let us go except we
Sooner or later we may glimpse, in the manner of demanding and in the quality of craving for understanding, characteristics we must recognize as our own, however much we strive to keep them hidden. But is what draws us back only projection onto a backdrop of personal history of all within us which is unseen, unheard, misunderstood? Or have, rather, these times and places which cling and call always been the mirrors into which we fitted ourselves like chameleons, and by our camouflage learned to identify ourselves? Are we drawn back, ultimately, to recognize the essential autonomy of the mirror, to bless and let go in order to move on and beyond?
For me the time and place which draws so is Kenya during the 1950s: the years of Emergency; the years of 'Mau Mau.' Of these years I remember as little -- yet perhaps know as much -- as any animal newborn in the African veldt and fiercely protected by its mother. Several times now I have begun to explore from within a remembered circle of light and warmth and laughter, and found myself in a darkness of overwhelming terror and horror. I have no evidence to suggest that the images which arise from this darkness are repressed memories of personal experiences, yet I have since discovered them to be images which are described and documented in many different sources,written from many different perspectives, about the years of 'Mau Mau.'
More than ten years ago, while writing what I believed to be fiction about this time and place, I was forced to realize that the imagination I had unleashed was tapping into a level of collective truth beyond my own knowledge, and unleashing collective forces beyond my own control. It had never occurred to me to wonder where imagination comes from; now a ground of reality I believed solid cracked and quaked, and to some extent swallowed me up. I abandoned the writing, withdrew the careful attention to time and place it brought, let it die. Instead I followed the question "Where does the imagination come from?" deep into nether regions of Psyche.
But the years of 'Mau Mau' still call me, still demand my love and attention. In recent months I found, suddenly, I could begin to read the literature of 'Mau Mau,' beginning with the books which have sat unread on my shelves for decades. Instead of unleashing monsters, the books bring light and pattern into the dark. And once again I am able to attend through writing.
I think of this web volume as a living work: companion, commitment, responsibility -- always complete, yet perhaps never finished. It is part memoir, part scholarship, part analysis. Though I strive for historical and factual accuracy, it is an imaginative work which will go where it must; I demand of it only that each new section published in hypertext -- however long or short -- possesses enough intrinsic symmetry to enable it to stand complete in its own right.
Whether you are reading these pages as a friend who has promised to read critically, with editorial eyes and skills, or whether you have discovered these pages through a search engine or a link, we thank you, the work and I, for your eyes, and ears, and willingness to understand as best you may. All comments will be appreciated, and may well be woven (with permission and appropriate acknowledgement) into the content of this work.