After liberation in 1945, my father, his mother and siblings returned to Tanganyika where they were reunited with his father at the family farm at Chombo on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. The drawings below are of some members of the large Greek community in Tanganyika (Tanzania) at that time.
Oil painting on canvas board - The journey by paddle steamer from Cairo as far as possible up the Nile was very monotonous. “Miles and miles of nothing, just overgrown banks and sluggish green waters”. Also on the steamer was the young but not beautiful daughter of a prominent and wealthy Greek (Sir George Arnaoutoglou) from a first marriage. She fell in love with my father but he was not impressed would have nothing to do with her.
Pencil on paper - My father's first cousin whose mother was my grandmother Irini’s sister Elisavet. He was Costaki Kalliambetso’s classmate at the Greek school in Kibosho. George eventually moved to and lived in the US where he worked on a government project that had something to do with atomic energy. He passed away at a relatively young age.
Pen and ink on paper - He was from the island of Tenedos and owned Mawenzi Garage or as some called it, the Shenzi Garage (the Bastard Garage) because he wasn’t a good mechanic. Cars he repaired frequently boiled over so Thanos Papadopoulos named it "Synergion Vrastiron o Sokratis" (Socrate’s Boiler Workshop). Outside the garage was a low cement wall where the tunny boys (helpers) liked to sit during their break because it was shaded. Theodoros was quite racist so during Uhuru (Independence Day) he poured used motor oil over it. He was reported to TANU (Tanganyika African National Union) who wanted to deport him. My father was President of the Greek Community at that time and with Jimmy Mitropoulos, who knew the TANU boss, successfully interceded on Theodoro’s behalf paying a 2,000 shilling bribe. Theodoros finally abandoned his garage and moved to the US. In his absence Hristos Yarinakis found a buyer for it and asked Theodoros for Power of Attorney to handle the sale. But Theodoros was mistrustful and refused, and soon after that the Absentee Landlord Act was passed and the garage was nationalized and Theodoros lost everything. He liked me and called me Grigorellis, the "-ellis" ending being a linguistic idiom from the northern Aegean.
Pencil on paper - My father's younger brother (my Uncle Dimitri) and his father (my grandfather Gregory) sketched from life at the Emmanuel family home at Chombo.
Pencil on Chombo stationery - My father knew Andonis as an older student at the Athens College. Andonis worked in the sisal industry in Tanga but was not too successful. He married Klio Markandonatou with whom he would sometime quarrel and she would leave him and go to the Planter’s Hotel. To make up, during the night he would serenade her from the street. Andonis loved to dance the chachacha. He was not allowed into any of the English clubs because of his very dark complexion. My father made this sketch from life in Tanga, drawing Andoni’s head and upper body. Mitsos Yamalis, another Greek who also sketched, saw it and completed the drawing by adding the legs. Mitsos did a sketch of my my mother's father, my grandfather Vassili, that is now displayed at our house in Athens. Nikos Mantheakis admired the finished sketch of Andonis so much that he photocopied it and sent it to many people in the Greek community and inevitably Andonis saw it. Fortunately he was quite impressed with it and took no offence.
Pen, ink, and water color on paper - Mastro Nikolas came from the Dodecanese, perhaps from Kalymnos. He had a small maize shamba (farm) between Moshi and Lyamungu at Kindi, and drove a box-body Ford Model A. He was reclusive and lived isolated from the Greek community with a black woman and their half-caste children. He was an accomplished builder and had built stone bridges in different parts of Tanganyika. "I had helped him out a number of times, so as a wedding present Mastro Nikolas leveled the new cement floor in the Lambo house master bedroom, free of charge. Around 1960 Mastro Nikolas decided to return to Greece so he sold his farm for about £5,000. But a short while before his departure thieves broke into the house thinking the money from the sale was hidden inside and murdered him. At that time I was president of the Greek Community so the police called me to identify the body. Some arrests were made eventually but the murderer was never found."
Charcoal on paper - My father sketched his subjects either from memory or live, when they were unaware – he never posed them. Over the years he gave many of his sketches away, usually to the person in the drawing. These are some Greek farmers and their relatives from the Moshi and Tanga areas.
Mihalis Kalliambetsos, from Egio in the Peloponnese. He came to Tanganyika and became one of the first Greeks to settle in the Moshi area following an invitation by his uncle and established a successful coffee estate at Lyamungu. Bwana Mihalis was Costaki’s father, who was my father's best friend. He would roast the traditional Greek Easter lamb on a spit even if we were on safari camped out in the bush. The roasted lamb would be carved open on banana leaves that he brought with him. Bwana Mihali owned a custom hand built British shotgun with a curved stock to compensate for his bad right eye. He held the gun right handed, but the stock curved sharply from his right shoulder towards the left so he could aim it with his good left eye.
Mitsos Stragalis was an ex-Greek Army veteran wounded in the 1922 Asia Minor campaign was from the island of Hios. His sister, Mrs Kleanthi Papadopoulou (she is shown next) invited him to Tanganyika. The Stragali’s lived at Kibosho near Chombo and had a small coffee estate which was eventually nationalized. Many years after we left Tanzania his youngest son emailed me and I sent him a digital copy of this sketch; he never communicated with me again.
Mrs. Kleanthi Papadopoulou came from the island of Hios and was Mitsos Stragali’s sister. She married Kleanthis Papadopoulos and was Thanos and George Papadopulos’s aunt. She was the first of the Stragali’s to come to Tanganyika and later she invited Mitsos and later Costas, who was Pandelis and Mitsaki’s father. These two were mine and Elli’s classmates at the St. Constantine’s Hellenic School in Arusha and are now living in Greece.
Ioannis (Yannis) Varveris was Mimi Varveri’s father. He came to Tanganyika from the Peloponnese sometime after WW I and owned a coffee estate in Kibosho. Yannis was extremely stubborn and his wife was notoriously nasty to black people. One time she had an argument with her cook and tried to stuff his head into the oven.
Adamantios Dimitsas was a jovial character with a deep, booming laugh. He came from the Peloponnese sometime before WW I and tried his hand at importing Greek products like cigarettes and olive oil, but without success. Eventually he bought a maize farm at Kibosho where he lived in sin with Mrs. Makris, a huge woman. My grandmother Irini, who was very pious, was offended by this cohabitation and frequently lectured Adamandios, trying to get them married. Adamandios became General Manager of Kuafungu Sisal Estate in Tanga. Unfortunately an escaped convict from Tanga prison, Alois Sali, shot and killed him with a stolen gun during an attempted robbery. Sali was eventually caught and executed. Adamandios was the uncle of Dimitrakis Dimitsas who worked for my father at Lewa Sisal Estate in Tanga.
Pencil on the back of a box of Greek cigarettes - Mrs. Kouvarakis was a Polish woman who married a Greek in Kigoma. She knew only some broken Greek and used to say “Andras mou harise sta gennitika mou, dahtylidi”, which translated, means “My husband gave my genitals a ring as a present”. But of course what she actually meant to say was that when she was married, her husband gave her a ring. On the other side of this drawing is the next sketch, an unknown woman also from Kigoma.
Pencil on the back of a box of Greek cigarettes - On the reverse side is the previous sketch of Mrs. Kouvarakis.
Ball point pen on cardboard - The Patriarch, Christopher II, visited the Moshi area in 1952 and was feasted at grandfather's farm at Chombo because he was then the President of the Greek Community. All the Greek women helped to prepare a huge, sumptuous meal. My father sketched him live sometime during this visit.
Water color on water color paper - Painted from life during one of our many trips to our favorite campsite in South Maasailand. We called it Twin Trees because of the two Acacias that marked the spot and provided perfect shade. Tree hyrax lived in the trees and at night they often woke us up with their loud, hair raising screams. Sometimes in the morning we would find the spoor of jackals or a hyena that had crossed through the camp during the night looking for food and once we saw a huge black maned lion lying down by the fire across from the tent we slept in.