Sometimes dreams can become nightmares. Such is the case of Kuki Gallman, best selling author of I Dreamed of Africa. This, her first book and autobiography became a feature film starring Kim Basinger.
Kuki was born on June 1, 1943, the daughter of Italian climber and writer Cino Boccazzi. She, her husband and son moved to Kenya in 1972. They acquired a 98,000 acre cattle ranch named Ol ari Nyiro in Western Laikipia in Kenya's Great Rift Valley. Both her husband, Paolo, and son, Emanuele, died in accidents within a few years. Afterwards, deciding to stay in Kenya, Kuki founded the Gallman Memorial Foundation (GMF) in memory of her husband and son. GMF promotes the environmental education of Kenyan students and the peaceful coexistence of African people and wildlife. She dedicated Ol ari Nyiro to this ideal, converting it into Laikipia Nature Conservancy, a biodiversity oasis and the only pristine forest in the area. The area, including the Mukutan Gorge, is home to endangered animals such as the elephant, cheetah and 470 species of birds. Not only is the Conservancy an area of outstanding natural beauty, but also, as a result of the protection that has benefited for over forty years under Kuki's guardianship, the natural springs were preserved and Ol Ari Nyiro now serves as the Water Tower for the Great Rift Valley Lakes.
In 2006 Kuki founded the Great Rift Valley Trust with her daughter Sveva. The Trust's main objective was to bring attention to environmental topics through art. The Trust in 2008 also co-produced the Laikipia Highland Games, an effort to promote peace through sports among previously warring tribes. "Prayers for the Earth" was founded in 2010, an effort to join tribal elders and youth with their environment and traditional worship. In 2011, she and her daughter acquired and donated 300 acres for "Land of Hope", to benefit impoverished communities. This project provided a vocational center for women and youth, a nursery school and feeding program, a dispensary and an athletic training center.
However, in 2017, peace would be disrupted when police shot and killed 100 cattle of encroaching cattle herders. In retaliation, a group of Pokot bandits, in March of 2017, looted and burned Kuki's Mukutan Retreat (shown before and after above). Kuki would be shot by Pokot militia in April of that same year while patrolling the Conservancy.
After the event took place, Kuki wrote of her Mukutan Retreat,
"It is a sacred place like the beginning of a journey - a place to dream and pray.
You hear the sound of water,
do not quite see the waterfalls
it stirs your urge to explore.
I spent time there in silence.
After much soul searching
driven by inspiration
Like a pilgrimage
Humble respectful focused
caring for the smallest detail-
I built a place.
I called it The Mukutan Retreat.
They burnt it down to ashes..."