Study Guide

Out of Africa Part 1, Chapter 2

By Isak Dinesen

Part 1, Chapter 2

A Native Child

  • A little Kikuyu boy named Kamante lives on the farm, sick and alone.
  • The narrator tells him to come see her the next morning to cure him.
  • He does as he's told and shows up at her house.
  • The narrator tries to treat him, and he obeys all her orders.
  • She puts a too-hot poultice on his leg to try to cure it of its sores, and Kamante rebukes her by saying, "Msabu", which is the way the Natives address white women. This makes her think that he must trust her, because he doesn't think she meant to hurt him.
  • Unfortunately Kamante doesn't get better, so the narrator decides to take him to the Scotch Mission.
  • He is terrified when she drops him off, and on another day, when she drives by and he sees her, he runs all along the fence next to the road until she is gone.
  • Three months later, on Easter, Kamante comes home. His legs are covered in old bandages, which he undoes to reveal his cured legs. He also announces that he is now a Christian.
  • He goes to visit his mother, but comes back to work in the narrator's house. He attends the school for people on the farm, and even though he doesn't join in with the other children, he does seem to be learning.
  • Kamante starts out as a "dog-toto" which is not, as you might think, a character straight from the Land of Oz, but rather seems to be the boy in charge of taking care of the dogs. Later he is a medical assistant and, finally, the assistant cook.
  • When the main cook, Esa, is murdered, Kamante becomes the chef. The narrator, who is interested in fine cooking, teaches Kamante European dishes and he turns out to be a genius in the kitchen. Watch out, Emeril Lagasse. Kamante is coming for you. He refuses to use any modern conveniences, like an eggbeater (not even an electric one) and prefers to use gardening tools to whip up his egg whites.
  • Kamante can't read, but memorizes all the fancy recipes. He refuses, stubbornly, to bring things to the table in any order, though, so you might not get your soup first when you dine at the farm. He also doesn't seem interested in eating the white people's food that he makes for them, but sticks the food of his ancestors.
  • The narrator sends Kamante all over town to learn from other kitchens, and he becomes popular with her friends because of his cooking skills. He even cooks for the Prince of Wales, who is impressed with the sauce.
  • One night, during a grass fire, Kamante wakes up the narrator to tell her that it looks like God is coming, which is, for her, a sign that he cares about her.