We all know the movie, you know, the one where Meryl gave the performance of a lifetime, and the world fell in love with the opening line: “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills”. I can identify with the film Out of Africa - one of the major love affairs of my life has been with this wild continent, which I call home. Untameable, beautiful, fierce, loving and gentle, Africa can chew you up and spit you out, and every single day I wake up loving her more.
It is no wonder that 30 years ago, the great Sydney Pollack felt compelled to immortalise Karen Blixen’s bittersweet love affair with Africa in his movie masterpiece, Out of Africa. Set in Kenya, the film simply had to be shot on location, and in order to emulate the sweeping drop of the Ngong Hills into the farms which lay at their feet (which were already urbanised by 1985), Pollack’s team had to find the perfect location. Queue the site at Angama Mara.
Two years ago when we were given the green light to build our lovely new lodge, we had such fun drawing inspiration from the many Out of Africa influences surrounding us. It even got to a point where we joked that when guests entered their tent, that heartrending piece by Mozart should start to play – but that was short lived, because what we didn’t want was an Out of Africa themed safari lodge. You will find no memorabilia from the movie at Angama Mara. No framed pictures of Meryl and Robert draped on the walls. And definitely – read regrettably – no Mozart. But what you will find if you look carefully enough are hidden nods to the movie, and gentle and discreet touch points tucked away throughout the lodge.
Of course, the most noticeable landmark in Pollack’s film is the Out of Africa kopje that forms part of some of Angama Mara’s dramatic views. Think of the film’s poster. If you are a lover of the movie I recommend you request to stay in South Camp – you will have the kopje at the foot of your bed. To take matters to a romantic high, the team at Angama Mara loves to spoil our guests with intimate 1920’s picnics for two on the crest of the kopje – it is our ‘Robert and Meryl’ moment if you will.
Another little nod to the film can be found in Angama Mara’s library where a miniature replica of Denys Finch-Hatton’s Gypsy Moth has pride of place. One might also notice that there are no flowers in the lodge, however on entering the library you will see a single red rose in the window. Nicky recently paid a visit to Karen Blixen’s home in Denmark, where she discovered that every day for the last few years of her life an literary admirer sent her a single red rose wherever in the world she was. Our single red rose is a salute to that brave baroness who loved this country so.
It must also be said that Karen Blixen wrote one of the best love-letters to Africa. As she so beautifully describes in her novel Out of Africa, “If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me?” So how could we not include a copy of this love letter, and a copy of Peter Beard’s Kamante’s Tales for that matter, in every tented suite at Angama Mara?
And although we tried to keep the furniture at Angama Mara very clean, classic and contemporary, we could not resist two of the beautiful plantation chairs that Meryl Streep sat in on the deep verandah of Karen Blixen’s house in the film, made then (and now) by Marc van Rampelberg. Every Angama Mara tented suite also boasts a beautiful woven screen between the sitting room and bath which harks back to the room divider screen that Karen Blixen used as inspiration to weave her stories that entertained her dinner guests.
And the last beautiful Out of Africa touch point at Angama Mara is the Moth Tree next to Angama Mara’s Pavilion, under which Denys Finch Hatton’s burial scene takes place, and where during building, we sought shade and a place to brainstorm as to how to thoughtfully and beautifully wrap Angama Mara in this African love story.
And so… although we do not have the farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills, we do have a lodge in Africa on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, and I hope that one day when we are all long gone, Africa and her generations to come will have a song of Angama Mara… I have a feeling it might sound like the children of Emurutoto School near Angama Mara singing in twilight.
Filed under: Inside Angama
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