Mausoleum to keep Ogot literary dream alive

Friday March 18 2016

Professor Bethwel Ogot at his wife's mausoleum at his home in Gem Yala on March 17, 2016. Prof Ogot says he is the first Kenyan to build a private mausoleum and that he has done so to show the love he has for his late wife Prof. Grace Ogot. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI |

Professor Bethwel Ogot at his wife's mausoleum at his home in Gem Yala on March 17, 2016. Prof Ogot says he is the first Kenyan to build a private mausoleum and that he has done so to show the love he has for his late wife Prof. Grace Ogot. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | 

By MOSES ODHIAMBO
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Prof Bethwel Allan Ogot, 87, will be celebrating the life and times of his late wife, Prof Grace Ogot, with pride.

The historian has built what he calls “a home fit for the Iron Lady” in reference to the renowned author, journalist and politician.

Grace Ogot Mausoleum, which officially opens its doors on Friday at their home in Yala, Siaya County, is a place where Prof Ogot says he will be spending most of his time.

The inscriptions “Nchi Bila Ngurumo”, Kiswahili for land without thunder, the name of Grace Ogot’s famous story, welcome you into the mausoleum.

On top of her grave is the inscription, “Hon Grace Emily Akinyi Ogot...Now living in the Promised Land; Land without Thunder”.

These words mirror the late author’s dream to travel to the land without the troubles that met her daily life as she went against the tide of a male dominated society.

“Even if it means spending a whole day inside this place, I will be glad do so. It is what fulfils the love that we shared with mama,” he says as he guides visitors through the artefacts displayed at the site.

The Maseno University professor emeritus says he believes in life after death and would not want to mourn his wife anymore but to celebrate how she changed his life.

“It will not be easy to find anyone who can substitute her. Even when I sit in the mausoleum, I only see Mama Grace. I will even place a comfortable chair here for myself,” he says.

He decided to build the mausoleum using a small part of half the wealth his wife owned in the family.

SHARED WEALTH

Prof Ogot says the two of them had agreed to share their wealth on a 50:50 basis even in death.

“The 57th year of our marriage was the loneliest one. I felt that Mama was suffering in the rain and required a roof over her head,” Prof Ogot says.

“I am using the time to write some four books concurrently. I am also recording accounts of our memories in a notebook.

"Maybe a book about her will be authored by me one day. I would not mind if someone stumbles on the notes and comes up with a piece as well,” he said.

The professor says his life would be miserable without the writing. “At least they have kept me away from the politics of Kericho and Malindi even when writing about Kenya,” he adds.

At the mausoleum, one is treated to his wife’s history from her education in medical school, marriage, to her debut in politics.

“This is purely a personal reaction to satisfy my obligation to her even in death. I have also put her special bible at the house,” the don says.

Framed photos of the author’s life and times, copies of her books and State awards are some of the things visitors to the site will sample.

“From her experience, I came to learn that when women backed you in politics, you are rest assured to get the seat,” Prof Ogot says.