ORIE ROGO: LARGER THAN LIFE
Updated: Oct 25, 2021
The falcon cannot bear the falconer- Yeats.
When the sad news of the passing on of the flamboyant Orie Rogo was scuttling all over the world at a breakneck speed, I turned to a 70-year-old lady near me and asked if she knew Orie Rogo. Patti answered in three words. “Larger than Life”.
And it got me thinking. I have always perceived Orie Rogo in a very narrow image from the theme of William Butler Yeats poem of 1919 the Second Coming.
In hind sight realise I have not been correct because Orie Rogo in her life maintained a lot of order. There was a lot of consistency in persistence. If she was liberal, she also maintained a lot of conservative life style, mannerisms, public outlook and the things she delved in. I think larger than life aptly describes Orie Rogo. But Who is Orie Rogo?
Ancient life of Orie Rogo.
In Luo genealogy you have to go back to 600 years ago to meet the real Orie Rogo. Specifically, you have to go to 1562 when ancestor Gem son of Ochielo son of Ramogi III (Ajwang’) son of Ramogi II son of Podho II son of Ramogi I son of Jok II son of Nayo son of Jok I was born. Ancestor Gem begot a daughter who took the place of a son. And this was normal that in several Luo patriarchal family set up, some daughters were settled to live among the sons like in Seme, Kamagambo, just to name a few.
Gem son of Chielo had one of his daughters marry a handy man and hired warrior of Kalenjin extraction by the name Arap Buop. It is from the descendants of this daughter of Gem son of Ochielo and the Kalenjin husband, Arap Buop that a family and later sub clan of the Gem clan of Luo people of Siaya germinated. And to respect their position, the sub clan became known as Kanyibuop to traditionally take the name of the husband as is Luo custom. It is from the Kanyibuop sub clan that Educationist and civic politician, Gordon Rogo was born around 1920 if the backwards maths works right.
Gordon Rogo sired young Mary with his wife Zariah Adhiambo in 1942. This Mary is the one you all know as ambassador Orie Rogo Manduli alias rally driver Mary Ondiek of the East African Safari Rally alias super model Mary Rogo the beauty pageant. It is all one person.
And there is one other significant trait. Mary Rogo’ s grand mother is from the Siranga sub Clan of the Luo people of Ugenya. Ladies of Siranga have a reputation of being cantankerous among the homely Ugenya wife material ladies. They are fondly known as Orango ramiero (loosely translated as the cantankerous Siranga ladies).
So the late Ambassador Orie Rogo was a cocktail of the boisterous and proud Gem people, a dash of Kalenjin warriors (lang’o) and a splash of Orango ramiero. Its a mix she enjoyed till the very end. Her household has Kisii, Luhya, Zambian nicely sheltered by the boiling pot of Kitale, TransNzoia.
The Wikipedia like in many characters that endear me is sketchy for such a high profile person. And after her passing on, most of the writing were no more than my own anecdotes on my blog. Young Mary Rogo attended, Ng’iya Girls, Butere Girls then Machakos Girls for a two year stint in Teachers training. Took up teaching at at Nyabururu Girls, Kisii after going through a teaching training school in time to marry at 22 years of age and divorced a Mr Ondieki (a Kisii) man) 3 years later that is why Safari Records only show Silvia Omino/Mary Ondieki as the two lady drivers. In short Marie Orie Rogo was already a free spirit.
The 1974 East African Safari Rally entry was a protest participation as she was not even sponsored and was time barred at the first check point at Athi River (time barred go to ang’owa? fame). That is to say her mission into asserting the women’s participation was launched. Sadly, enough she is remembered for the Safari Rally for the wrong reasons. Her participation was not sports. Never. It was to underscore the arrival of women’s liberation movement in Africa. Few liberated women see this angle of separate but equal in Orie Rogo life. Even when she involved herself with Kenya Ladies Hockey Association, her interest was always women’s issues first not trophies and athletics milestones earned from sweat of punishing the body. No Her interest was equity for the female participants and I will explain later.
She would later rise into politics, business etc. The rest of her popular politics life is all over the internet. One thing is clear she was very good in assertive politics. She was an in-your-face person. Something that was dreaded by armchair feminists who did not appreciate her. And she herself regretted this appeasement by women who should know better.
Orie Rogo the celebrity.
For me the image of Orie Rogo from a distance was very interesting and it may offend some who cannot really be patient to read and understand that beneath all this I am in awe of her resourcefulness and single minded ness once she set her mind on doing something.
It is normal to judge by looks and to want to belong, to want to place a foreign face amongst familiar story line. I always placed Orie Rogo among Hollywood stars because of her presence.
In her headgears Orie Rogo brings memories of celebrity actor Joan Collins in her wide brimmed bright hats or elaborate hairdos. Even in Safari rally days, the signature of her dressing was in her head gear. And in a way, that was Joan Collins even when I saw her in person in 2017 at a charity event- don’t worry I was a nobody just watching from the banks while she joined the boat party. The confidence, the swagger of Joan Collins is every bit Orie Rogo. How about their lower turned lips and dental works? Let me stop there. But I think you can also appreciate the loudness of Joan Collins as very much that of Mary Orie Rogo.
Mary Orie Rogo reminded me of roles of the first sex symbol of Hollywood Mae West. Mae is short form for Mary but that is not my only reference point. They were both very pretty. They refused to be used by men and were very witty. There is this story told of Mae West having found herself in front of a class of lower grades trying to manually do an addition of a column of numbers on the classroom blackboard. Mae West proceeded to put the answer there as the correct sum. Of course it was wrong answer. One of the smart pupils at the front of the class raised his hands and pointed out that it was the wrong answer. Without breaking her stride in her speech Mae West went on to praise the boy, and told the rest of the class of lower grades that this boy is destined to greater things in life. She then invited the boy to come and do the additions of maths quiz on the black board. She thanked the class for being wonderful and then left. But she left the class in awe of her just like they were when she entered the class room.
That is Orie Rogo in my eyes. She went to beauty pageantry and left something. How many Miss Kenya do you know who have scaled the milestones like her? She always left with something to put her in the next step. Safari Rally entry that failed the first check point, but who do people remember the most? Kenya Ladies Hockey Association, Maendeleo ya Wanawake. Sometimes unorthodox entry but always with style.
You have to look up larger than life to understand why I always found her only comparable to stardom ladies. There is also this lady Zsar Zsar Gabor (I believe), another Hollywood superstar. Zsar Zsar Gabor of the quote, "he taught me housekeeping so I am keeping the house on divorce". Perhaps a good lesson to those who stifle their wives career to turn them into housewives. (Any resemblance to Mary Orie Rogo story is just pure coincidence).
Legend has it that one time Zsar Zsar met this gentleman in a bar and after a few drinks she told this gentleman, “you know what, you look like my 6th husband!”
So the gentleman asks, “Holly Moses, how many times have you been married, Lady?”
Zsar Zsar Gabor calmly answered, “Five times”.
My distinct point is that Orie Rogo even if a liberated woman believed the tradition and institution of marriage. She married at a very young age and like a traditional marriage went to having children without any sort of birth control (I believe Mr Ondieki was a Kebago). From beauty queen direct into a traditional marriage just like my mother who was 50 years her senior except my mother never went to any school. In fact, my mother never even went through school of any kind. She lived generations after my mother. And she kept the Ondieki name until she married the Zambian businessmen, again keeping to traditions. And once again kept the name even when death had made them part. In this cynical world it is not normal to find liberated women who believe that marriage is an institution that has brought us this far and should be kept because there are still a majority of successful marriages. Not made in heaven but successful.
She was liberal alright and asked women to rebel against reckless traditions but at the same time she was consistent in upholding traditional values.
Close Encounters with Orie Rogo
Did I ever meet her in person? Yes, I had three encounters and with telling consequences. It is from these encounters that I can personally say something about her. The first one was at the Kenya Ladies Hockey training ground, a club house and at INGO offices. I will tell you any two at random.
One Saturday Orie Rogo came visiting Intercapitale Ladies Hockey team training session in (1995). In the mid afternoon sun, a mobile tricycle vendor of ice cream also showed up. So she called the vendor over. I was at an earshot also watching my football team train. So she asked the ice cream man to give complimentary ice cream to some of the girls and naturally the man refused. Then she called me over an enquired how much I pay the team to train. Then she told the ice cream man, “Luo Union maintains the team here at Shs 2000 per week. You just come here every Saturday without paying anything to a ready market but never does anything for this two clubs. Please vacate these grounds now”.
That was the first time I learnt that sometimes companies advertise not because they have competition but because of Community Social Responsibility. The concept so widely propagated in the millennium was already known to Mary Orie Rogo decades earlier. This is how much ahead of time she was.
The other incident was when I was working for a top INGO and because Orie Rogo now recognised me and greeted me in flowery boisterous way from the parking lot and I was to speak to her from the second floor. Everybody thought we were related. Of course I milked it by claiming she is my auntie because our mothers are blah blah blah of the uncles. You know those Luo things that bars matrimony. Now the INGO expatriate officer in charge of renting her property was just wasting time while the house was vacant. It was a good deal but she was being made to blead money. So she took a step to make representations to the bank to confirm that her house was in the process of being rented for 20 years by the INGO even if she did not have the contract yet. It was an innocent thing to do as she was being tagged along by this INGO man. When it became known INGO rep was furious and cancelled the arrangements after wasting her time but she got the overdraft to enable her arrange another tenancy. As for me I just sat back in awe that, “oh beneath this beauty she will wheel and deal, and will not give a thought to step on and squash some silly pencil pusher in an INGO who just wants to tag her along in a commercially unrealistic arrangement. That is the assertiveness of Mary Orie Rogo not to allow herself to be had.
If Mary Orie Rogo was a man, we would also say, “What manner of man”. Too bad she was not a man or what is the politically correct "what manner of man"?
Which brings me full circle to William Yeats poem of 1919, The Second Coming. Mary Orie Rogo’s life proves changing of order does not have to cause anarchy as Yeats propounds. Mary Orie Rogo was able to challenge the old order of things without causing anarchy in her life, family, friends and community.
William Yeats' assertion (and novelist Chinua Achebe of Nigeria) that things fall apart when we separate the old and the new does not hold for ambassador Orie Rogo Manduli. Yes, she kept to tradition like nyaKanyibuop making sure that her children attended the same school as the father, keeping the house, respect for the institution of marriage. But she was also in forefront of changing things that were not scientifically relevant. When the Falcon refused to bear the Falconer in Mary Orie Rogo’s case, things did not fall apart as she still held the centre(core traditions)- there was no anarchy. Indeed, Orie Rogo was larger than life.