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Farewell Masharubu, the italian mustache of Malindi

One of the historical "mzungu" died at 80

02-02-2020 by Freddie del Curatolo

Masharubu, the mustache.
This was the nickname that the Kenyans had given to Fernando Vischi, a former Viareggio carouseler born in 1940, who arrived here at the end of the 1980s like so many of us, dreaming of a different, new, better life.
At that time Malindi was wild and all leaves and flowers, plants and foliage as thick as his black snouts. 
Today if there are also villas, swimming pools, hotel rooms and residences, it's also a bit thanks to her.
Fernando Masharubu was a round, jumping little man with eyes as bright as those of a circus artist. His soul as a Tuscan puppeteer made him look like a sort of younger brother and less despotic than the Collodi's Fire Eater.
At the beginning of his African adventure he would make ends meet by creating anything and passing off others as his own creations: lucky charm bracelets, antique lamp covers, probable and improbable knick-knacks and so on.
In the social festivities of the first Italian Malindi his moustache could not miss and when he started to work in carpentry, he was able to sell sofas and armchairs better than anyone else.
In the nineties his business was going well and then he decided to become a Kenyan family and to speak Kiswahili more frequently than Italian.
But his tongue, daughter of Dante and contemporary of Benigni's, never left him, especially when there were evenings to animate or to sing four to some new followers of the Italian community. Maybe wearing only a "kanzu", the Muslim tunic.
His look and sly expression did not go unnoticed in the production of Marco Risi's film "Nel continente nero" (In the Black Continent) which wanted him on the set impersonating nothing else but himself. Memorable second films.
He lived a lucky life, Masharubu.
From a carpenter he became a builder with some far-sighted business and others daring but faced with cynical and ruthless knowledge of the country that had adopted him. The joiner built himself a small empire, had his daughters studied but did not lose the character of a fairground manager.
And the confidence with which I speak of him does not deceive! Masha, like many Italian emigrants, was a tireless worker and he was also very good at making others work, with his gruff air that gave orders in language or in dialect giriama.
His could be defined as the "Kenyan dream", as a jousting carny in Malindi and Mayungu, with resorts by the sea, in the bush, private villas and a shopping centre, in Casuarina, in his carnet.
He also had another dream, Masha, a dream that he had repeatedly revealed to me: he wanted to write a book that was not just his simple biography, but a book of maxims, philosophy, goliardic findings and Pindaric flights.
Hypocondriac, dreamer, maniac, creative and trafficker: he considered himself a full-fledged African and assured you that he lacked very little of Italy, but in the end he was a made and finished Italian, with most of the merits and defects of our countrymen, of us all.
"Come and see me because I've come up with a new idea, you absolutely must hear it - he phoned me from time to time - or: why don't we write a play about Malindi, together?".
Malindi, his home. The one for which, when he saw what we were trying to do in the streets, to redecorate the town, he had spent a few months ago.
"If I can be of any help, I'll bring you a truck full of earth and stones, tar and compactor."
Said, done. The temporary repair of the waterfront.
"I'm not doing it so they'll say it was Masharubu... I'm doing it for Malindi."
No, he wasn't the classic self-made entrepreneur who loved to talk only about his exploits, about his epic glory, about the money that he sometimes counted and counted and gritted like rosaries that gave him the sense of many African days all the same, between the wood factory and the construction site...
For some time he was tired, tired, he often preferred to leave the driving seat in the car to someone else.
But he didn't miss the joke at the right moment, the whiplash, the leap, the thought left in mid-air.
In that spirit he had lunch with friends on Saturday, drank with pleasure and went home.
Like every day he went to bed for a nap and he and his moustache never woke up again.
Fernando Vischi called Masharubu, one of the Italian historians of a Malindi that no longer exists but whose legacy is something that will remain in the sky, in the dust raised, in the Afrori of the streets of the center, in the scent of the frangipani and the harmonious sound of the Indian Ocean, for a long, long time yet.

TAGS: masharubu kenyaitaliano malindilutto malindi

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