Bror Blixen

Name ID 1425

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See also

Arusha Times
Extract Author: Thomas Ratsim
Page Number: 472

Babati:Real destination for pop-culture tourism ~ ‘The loveliest that I had ever seen in Africa

According to Wikipedia encyclopedia, pop-culture tourism is defined as the act of traveling to locations featured in literature, film, music, or any other form of popular entertainment.

Babati District in Manyara region is prolific in crops and natural resources; the area has also much to offer in the reminiscences of literature, films and other leisure.

Babati District is taps benefits from the famous Tarangire National Park and the newly authorized Community-based, Burunge Wildlife Management. Since the mid of the twentieth century, Babati area emerged to be the destination for hunting tourists and had a magnificent reputation as such it attracted many tourists and dignitaries at that time.

David Read, who has lived in the northern part of Tanzania and also participated in the cattle culling exercise around Babati in those days, in his book, Beating About the Bush, Tales from Tanganyika published in 2000, wrote: “Babati was known in those days……. Several wealthy and, in some cases titled European men, out in Africa on hunting safaris, saw, tried and liked the area and its people and bought farms in the vicinity. They built good houses, laid out colourful gardens and spent the winter months there, sometimes bringing with them their girlfriends from Europe and sometimes befriending the local Wafiomi girls.”

The scenery and photography in the Out of Africa movie released in early 1986 are stunning and add to Pollack’s sense of time and place. The pictures covered biographies of both Karen and her Swedish husband, Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke, who was the model for the character Robert Wilson in Ernest Hemingway’s fictional The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

Those who had watched the film, which covers Karen Blixen’s book, Out of Africa (1937), have dreamed of an African safari ever since, where Bror remained a fabulous character even today. The role of Bror von Blixen-Finecke was played by Austrian actor in the Oscar-winning film, (1985), which was based on Karen Blixen's memoir of the same name.

Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke was a baron, writer, and African big-game hunter. For many years Blixen ran a firm of guides, and among his clients was Edward, Prince of Wales. "Hunting with Blix was a magnificent experience," said one client. "With his quiet, almost lyrical narrative of what happened around us he got nature to live” (quote taken from the biography of Blixen).

In January 1925 the divorce between Karen and Bror was pronounced and the latter resolved to settle in Babati, now Sigino Village.

In 1927 Bror established a hunting firm, Tanganyika Guides Limited.

In the same year, Bror organized a three-month hunting and filming for his first customer British Oil millionaire, Colonel to the Ngorongoro Crater, and later he acquired a piece of land in Babati and decided to establish the Singu Farm.

Colonel Cooper maintained friendships with several contemporary celebrities including Hemingway, David Niven and Baron von Blixen.

Jane Kendall Mason, who was model for the character of Margot Macomber in Hemingway’s fictional “The short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” was friend of Pauline and Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), had visited Babati.

Many readers still believe that characters of Macomber and Margot were based on Colonel and Mrs. Dick Cooper who lived in Laramie, Wyoming before and after the Word War II and were the author’s friends while Baron Blixen in the text was Robert Wilson, the white hunter.

Jane had introduced Ernest Hemingway to Cooper, and Cooper advised Ernest then, which guns were appropriate for latter’s planned hunting expedition in East Africa. While around Babati, Hemingway stayed at the Cooper’s residence in Babati, evidently the house of the absent friend which he mentioned in his book, Green Hills of Africa. Bror and Philip Percival were then among the hunting crew.

In his book, The Man Who Women Loved” published in 1987, Ulf Aschan renders Baron Bror Blixen as a celebrated character in East Africa: coffee planter, white hunter, trailblazer, explorer, and philanderer -- "a merry cheerful man who was always in a good mood." He also had inner steel: he doesn't shoot a charging elephant at ten feet, because he knows it's a mock charge.

"Bror was the toughest, most durable white hunter ever to snicker at the fanfare of safari or to shoot a charging buffalo between the eyes while debating whether his sundowner drink would be gin or whisky …The mold has been broken."

Judith Thurman, in her book Isak Dinesen – The Life of Story of a Storyteller, besides biography of Baronness Karen Blixen, she also recounts how Bror participated in His Royal Highness Prince of Wale’s hunting safari around Babati.

Besides her hard work in Babati, Cockie, second wife of Bror, operated the Fig Tree Club, built by Lord Lovelace for his friends and neighbours, „Fig Tree Club “, which was supported by an American friend. This club, which was overlooking Lake Babati, consisted however not only of a bar, but also had an restaurant, three small houses, a shop and a post office. The club also served as the social centre of the area.

In August 1932, when Cockie flew to England, due to her mother’s illness, the rally driver Eva Dickson, who was the first woman driver across the Sahara in a normal car, had to drive her own car all the way from Dar es Salaam to Babati, about 780 kilometres so as to become Blixen’s third wife.

In his narrative story book, Green Hills of Africa, published in 1935 by Scribner, the great American author Ernest Hemingway wrote: “We stopped in Babati at the little hotel overlooking the lake and bought some more Pan-Yan pickles and had some cold beer. Then we started south on the Cape to Cairo road……..’’

“From Babati we had driven through the hills to edge of a plain, wooded in a long stretch of glade beyond a small village where there was a mission station at the foot of a mountain. Here we had made a camp to hunt kudu which were supposed to be in the wooded hills and in the forest on the flats stretched out to the edge of the open plain.’’

Hemingway, the 1954 Nobel Laureate for his mastery of the the narrative art, mostly shown in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on writing, supposedly, when he mentions mission station, he was referring to the present Gallapo village, the name derived from camel’s foot trees (piliostigma thonningii), whichi are dorminant in the area stretched out to the current Tarangire National Park.

Prior to the publication of The Green Hills of Africa, Hemingway also sent the manuscript of his book to Bror, who later wrote his book, Nyama “(Kiswahili for: Meat)

Sir Christopher Ondaatje (knighted by the Queen 2003), who tracked Hemingway’s footsteps, in Chapter 3 of his book Hemingway in Africa, published in 1992, he wrote, “We were still headed for Babati and Hemingway’s green hills. It is in an area populated by the Mang’ati tribe. “There’s something you should know about the Mang’ati,“

Apparently, as there are various ethnic groups, a visit to the Babati area, would definitely provide insight culture of Tanzania. Due to the vast plains, the village for so long has been an agro-pastoral area, where several ethnic groups have settled, notably the Mbugwe, Tatoga, Gorowa and Iraqw.

The area is, in fact, linguistically and culturally diverse and complex. It is one of the places in the country where the three major African language families - Bantu, Nilotic, and Cushitic - occur together.

Driving further south of Babati, Hemingway in Green Hills of Africa, acclaimed, “Then the plain was behind us and ahead there were big trees and were entering a country, the loveliest that I had seen in Africa.”

However, in order to reap the rewards of tourism, the Babati District authorities have the obligation to identify and maintain an inventory of the respective memoirs for the literary interests as well as historical values.

Extract ID: 5853

See also

Herne, Brian White Hunters: The golden age of African Safaris
Page Number: 122a footnote
Extract Date: 1927

Tanganyika Guides

Philip Percival and Bror Blixen were for a time in a partnership. Blixen's branch of the firm was Tanganyika Guides; Percival's, African Guides, based in Kenya. The partnership was managed by J. M. Manley.

Extract ID: 3810

See also

Herne, Brian White Hunters: The golden age of African Safaris
Page Number: 122b
Extract Date: 1927

Hunting near the Crater

In 1927 Dick Cooper engaged Blixen for a three-month safari. Blixen was on hand to meet his client on the docks at Mombasa, and the safari was soon making its journey inland.

. . . . .

Blixen subsequently took Cooper into Tanganyika to hunt in the area surrounding Ngorongoro crater. In 1927 there were still no roads in the region, which teemed with an assortment of wildlife. Bror had engaged porters at Nganika Springs, northeast of the crater, and the safari had trekked up the steep slopes to the forested rim at eight thousand feet, then down the other side to the floor of the crater at six thousand feet.

Blixen had obtained permission to camp in the crater so that Cooper could obtain exotic wildlife films. Before the war two German brothers named Siedentopf had lived on the crater floor and killed thousands of wildebeest in order to can the tongues, which were carted out on the backs of porters all the way to Arusha.

One of the brothers, Adolf, wound up dead with a Masai spear through the abdomen. Arusha white hunter George W. Hurst was subsequently granted a 99-year lease on the crater.

When Hurst was later killed by an elephant, the lease passed to an Englishman [sic: he was Scottish] named Sir Charles Ross, manufacturer of the Ross bolt-action rifle, and its advanced .280 Ross cartridge (.280 nitro). Ross had first visited the crater on a foot safari during which numbers of rhino, lion, and other game were shot, but once he acquired a proprietary interest, his attitude changed, and he took measures to reduce hunting and protect the animals, many of which were migratory.

Extract ID: 3811

See also

Herne, Brian White Hunters: The golden age of African Safaris
Page Number: 123
Extract Date: 1928

£800 a year to live on a Tanganyika farm and plant coffee

Following their hunt [in 1927], Dick Cooper obtained an isolated parcel of virgin bushland at Magara, just south of Lake Manyara, where so many expatriates were then eagerly seeking a precarious foothold in Tanganyika. After Bror married his second wife, Cockie Birkbeck, Dick Cooper knew the couple were so broke they had no place to go, even though Bror was certainly among the highest-paid white hunters in Africa. When Dick Cooper offered his congratulations to Bror and Cockie on their marriage, saying to her, "I hope you'll be very happy," her reply had been, "So do I, but it may be difficult without a penny to our names". His response was to offer Blixen and his new wife the handsome sum of £800 a year to live on his Tanganyika farm and plant coffee. Blixen was not ungrateful. Years later he wrote of Dick Cooper, "After nearly ten years of hardships endured together and many bottles of whiskey shared, I dare to affirm that we are the best friends in the world."

Extract ID: 3812

See also

Herne, Brian White Hunters: The golden age of African Safaris
Page Number: 124
Extract Date: 1928

Life at Singu Estates

According to Romulus Kleen, who worked for Blixen at Cooper's Singu Estates, near Magara, "It was a hard life. Before they could begin to farm they had to clear the bush and build a shack in which to live. Their only water supply was from their corrugated tin roof. In the rainy season, though, they had so much water that they were often marooned for weeks at a time. Still, Cockie recalls these years as the happiest of her life.'"" The primitive nature of Singu Estates drew the attention of the Prince of Wales when he hunted with Blixen in 1928. During the safari the prince took Bror aside and said reproachfully, "I say, Blixen, you really oughtn't to let your wife live in a tumbledown place like this."

Bror continued to hunt professionally from time to time while working on Cooper's coffee estate. But storm clouds soon formed over Bror and Cockie's happy marriage with the arrival of a tall, leggy Swedish beauty named Eva Dickson, a blonde with a mannequin's face and figure who mysteriously turned up at Singu Estates in her own car. Eva apparently arrived already fixated on the world-famous hunter. The parting of Cockie and Bror's ways came about soon afterward, and Eva moved in with Bror.

At first it was generally thought Bror Blixen had married his stunning blonde live-in companion. Blix, however, confided to his friend Romulus Kleen at Singu Estates, "If it amuses her to call herself Baroness, let her do so." Unfortunately, Eva, who had been eavesdropping at the door, heard Blix's quiet confidence and came storming into the room accusing Blix of not being able to keep a secret and of breaking his word.

Extract ID: 3813

See also

Mercer, Graham Tarangire
Page Number: a
Extract Date: 1928

A few colourful Europeans

Even as late as German times (1880s – 1916) Tarangire seems to have been largely overlooked, though once again it is likely that a few adventurous hunters visited the area during the dry season.

The British period is hardly any richer in historical information, though there is some interesting social history involved, as a few colourful Europeans once lived in and around Babati, just west of Tarangire.

Among the most notable was the Swedish Baron Bror von Blixen, ex-husband of the author of Out of Africa, Karen Blixen. The likeable but rather feckless Bror had remarried, to a lady called "Cockie" Hoogterp, and settled near Babati around 1928.

Bror and Cockie lived in a tent before building a very simple hut. In November 1928 Edward, Prince of Wales (who later abdicated the British throne) visited East Africa and travelled to Tanganyika to hunt lions, under the guidance of Denys Finch Hatton, Karen Blixen's paramour (Bror Blixen, when married to Karen, would introduce himself and his friend Finch Hatton by announcing "I'm Blixon and this is my wife's lover").

The prince badly wanted to shoot a fine lion, and Finch Hatton had recommended Bror as a good "lion man", so Bror and "Cockie" were invited to join the royal party at the New Arusha Hotel in Arusha.

Next day "Cockie" hurried back to Babati to prepare for the prince's arrival. When he arrived "Cockie" was asleep; Bror had invited the prince's party to lunch without telling her. "Cockie" had nothing to offer the guests except eggs, which Prince Edward happily helped her to scramble. Later he took Bror aside and asked how he could possibly allow his wife to live in such circumstances.

After lunch the party drove to Mount Ufiome (just outside present-day Tarangire) where the prince finally bagged the lion he so badly wanted.

However, the safari was abandoned when the prince received a telegram from London announcing that his father, George V, was seriously ill. He returned to England at once.

Extract ID: 5383

See also

Mercer, Graham Tarangire
Page Number: d
Extract Date: 1928

The Blixen home outside Babati

The Blixen home outside Babati might have been a shambles but the location was superb. There was big game around, including elephants and buffaloes. Bror's nephew later said that the house was "on a site that was quite possibly the most beautiful in Africa". More adventurous visitors to Tarangire nowadays, if they have the means and the time, might wish to drive down to Babati, where such lovely scenery might still be appreciated.

But if the Blixens had found Paradise in Babati they were not to find it in their marriage. Bror, said to be popular with everyone, had a reputation as a "ladies' man". And he was often away, sometimes for as long as 3 months, on hunting safaris.

One day a Swedish lady, Eva Dickson, turned up in Babati with a woman friend, after driving all the way from Dar. Eva had come to meet Bror and soon became a threat to "Cockie", who told Bror "Either she goes or I do". It was "Cockie" who went. Later she said "I have never regretted anything in my life as much as leaving Blix". She also said "He was a wonderful – unfaithful – husband, and the best lover I ever had".

Even Karen Blixen, in her old age, said that if she could have one moment of her life over again, she would choose to be on safari with Bror.

Bror eventually returned to Sweden and, after a relationship with Eva, married another woman, with whom he seemed to find happiness in his last years. "Cockie" also remarried and went to live in South Africa.

The events mentioned above took place a little way outside the present park boundaries, but before the Tarangire area was gazetted as a game reserve, in 1957, it was open to hunting parties and known for its abundant game. Local people also carried out some hunting, honey-gathering and fishing.

Extract ID: 5386

See also

Trzebinski, Errol Silence Will Speak
Extract Author: Bror Blixen
Page Number: 386a
Extract Date: 16 November 1928

Arusha en fete

from African Hunter, by Bror von Blixen-Finecke, pub Cassell, London 1937 p153

On 16 November the party arrived at Arusha. Denys had contacted Bror arranging to meet him there.

It was an unofficial visit but all the town was en fete. The hotel was giving a dance; the Masai had arranged an Ngoma. A battalion of the King's African Rifles was paraded for inspection; a football match had been fixed up, there was as complete a festival atmosphere as the little town at the foot of Mt Meru could achieve. My wife and I had driven our 115 miles into the town like the rest and pitched camp not far from the hotel. I was just shaking a cocktail when a little man came into the tent and said: `I'm the Prince of Wales, and should like to make your acquaintance. '

Extract ID: 4659

See also

Trzebinski, Errol Silence Will Speak
Page Number: 386b
Extract Date: 17 November 1928

Arrangements for dinner

Cockie and Bror had been married just three months and had made alternative arrangements for dinner that night. But Denys cornered Cockie and told her under his breath `You've got to get out of it, Cockie. I want Blix to help me find the Prince a lion.' Of course, they cancelled their arrangements, Bror joined the hunting party and during the evening between dancing and dinner the plans were made to get a lion.

At about 2 A.M. Cockie took the vehicle they had come to Arusha in and drove back to their small homestead at Babati alone, through the night along a terribly rough road. She arrived at 7 A.M. exhausted and took herself straight to bed. Meanwhile the men were out after lion.

Extract ID: 4660

See also

Trzebinski, Errol Silence Will Speak
Extract Author: Bror Blixen
Page Number: 387
Extract Date: 17 November 1928

Lunch with the Prince

from African Hunter, by Bror von Blixen-Finecke, pub Cassell, London 1937 p154

Bror wrote later:

I had the opportunity of discussing and planning a lion hunt with my old friend Finch Hatton, who was already a member of the Prince's party. Unfortunately the Prince had no more than two days to spare ... no one knew that he could not extend his time ... so we had to look ... in the immediate neighbour-hood: . . at the foot of Mount Ufiomi - not far from my farm.

The usual baiting procedure was followed. The first, near the village of Kwakuchinjas, drew the lion who feasted very well then slunk off. `We had to return to Babati with long faces,' recalls Blix, `though the most crestfallen of the party was naturally myself. But I was not merely crestfallen - I was angry, and swore that the Prince should have his lion.'

At about midday of the morning Cockie had arrived home from Arusha her sleep was disturbed by voices and the sound of footsteps outside her bedroom door. She opened her eyes to see Blix standing there announcing that he had brought the Prince for lunch. She protested strongly saying she had nothing suitable to eat in the house and that she was still weary from her drive. `Whereupon the Prince himself appeared at the door, saying, "Surely, Cockie, you can get me something for lunch - you must have some eggs in the house!" Indeed she had to admit this was so and they lunched very well on scrambled eggs in the little mud and wattle dwelling which was the von Blixen's new home.

It was on this occasion that the Prince took Blix aside after eating and said, "I say, Blixen, you really oughtn't to let your wife live in a tumbledown place like this."

"I shall never forget the tone of his voice," Blix later wrote. "Naturally I felt ashamed, though my wife hadn't complained - and inwardly promised to put things right."

Extract ID: 4661

See also

Herne, Brian White Hunters: The golden age of African Safaris
Page Number: 125
Extract Date: 1934

Drowning in Lake Manyara

Dick Cooper, who had become close to Ernest Hemingway in Cuba, was one of Hemingway's hosts during the writer's safari with Philip Percival in 1934. Hemingway joined Blix and his partner, Percival, and their client Alfred Vanderbilt on a billfishing trip to Malindi, a small resort town on the northern Kenya coast. Hemingway caught a sailfish weighing almost one hundred pounds.

Ernest Hemingway's twenty-four-year-old mistress, Jane Mason, wanted to see Africa for herself, and she engaged Bror Blixen for her own safari in Tanganyika. During the trip she bagged a number of trophies, including Blixen's benefactor, the easygoing Colonel Dick Cooper, who was captivated by the tall, blue-eyed blonde. Dick Cooper came to a sorry end after his affair with Jane Mason, and ended up drowning in Lake Manyara, close to his Singu Estates.

Extract ID: 3814

See also

Herne, Brian White Hunters: The golden age of African Safaris
Page Number: 215a
Extract Date: 1950's

Dr. George Six

Dr. George Six, a London physician, was an unlikely member of Tanganyika's hunting community. He had come to Africa not with the intention of practicing medicine, but to purchase a farm. Six and his English wife, Mary (nee Bell), the daughter of a judge, rented a house outside Arusha. George soon made the acquaintance of Jacky Hamman at Arusha's government administration building, known as the boma, where Hamman was purchasing game licenses for one of his safaris.

The suave and sophisticated George Six was Hamman's diametric opposite in every way - in physique, temperament, education, intellect, and background - yet the two became firm friends.

Once settled in Arusha Dr. Six opened a gun shop next door to the Safari Hotel where Lawrence-Brown Safaris, Jacky Hamman's outfit, was located. He then purchased two thousand acres in Tanganyika's densely wooded Kiru Valley, south of Lake Manyara. The farm was virgin bushland and lay close beside the wall of the Great Rift Valley, only a few miles from Magara, where Bror and Cockie von Blixen had once lived at Singu Estates. George's acreage was in Tsetse Fly country and useless for domestic animals because of the deadly tsetse-borne disease, trypanosomiasis. In such regions in Tanzania there is an almost total absence of human settlements due to tsetse flies, but nearly always there is an unusual abundance of wildlife, and the Kiru Valley was no exception. In the 1950s it was chock-full of game, particularly elephant, rhino, and buffalo, and provided plenty of sport for the hunting enthusiast.

Extract ID: 3834