Jomo Kenyatta's 'going is seeing' moment in London

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta (standing) when he spoke at the opening of the Kenya constitution conference at Lancaster house, London in 1962. [File, Standard]

In Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare describes a scene where Mark Antony, the Roman, is enthralled by an Egyptian port city's grand reception of their Queen, Cleopatra.

"The city cast her people out upon her; and Antony, enthroned in the market place did sit alone, whistling to the air, which, but for vacancy, had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too, and made a gap in nature," he writes.

But it's the description of the moment that kills it. Enorbarbus reports that even the winds were lovesick, pretty-dimpled boys fanned her delicate cheeks, gentlewomen tended to her eyes while a "seeming mermaid" steered the barge.

A similar impression befell young Johnstone Kenyatta when he arrived in London for the first time in 1928. At the time, the city was welcoming the return of King George V to Buckingham Palace after a bout of grave illness.

In a report in Muigwithania, Kenyatta painted the occasion in similar effusive terms, betraying his virgin conception of the terms of British pomp and splendor.

"In the morning at dawn, the people opened their doors at the hour that the partridge calls for its young and went to seek for places to stand so that they might see the King," he wrote.

"The soldiers formed files and lined the road like a line of sorghum.... My word, children of Kikuyu," he emphasized.

So smitten of the parade was Kenyatta that he doubted he would ever see of such a wonder again.

"When I raised my eyes, behold there was the 'centre' that guards the peace of the King. I myself at first felt afraid, for this troop is a wondrous sight, for they wear metal garments of brass that flash like the sun and all of them are on horses and have drawn swords."

"I tell you, children of Kikuyu, going is seeing! For I do not know what I can compare the crowd that was in that place," he signed out of his gushy invocation, comparing the crowds to "a great cloud of locusts."

Kenyatta went on to witness a number of other British spectacles, including the opening of parliament and the thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey which firmed up his love for British ways and customs.