A deep, rumbling and persistent cough crackled the silence in the room.
The forum was a private sector engagement in environment sustainability
roundtable at the Tribe Hotel on August 16, 2017. The man was in a navy-blue three-piece suit, a departure from his casually light fabric suits.
Robert William Collymore sat looking pensively around
the room full of journalists, UN Environment Programme officials Safaricom staff and their PR machinery.
Covering news personalities means interacting with them at events and press conferences. You learn their mannerisms because that’s what photographers do: we watch, lie in wait, constantly looking through our lenses.
Covering Bob Collymore was no different. Greetings, questions, answers, good day wishes, onto the next assignment. On that drab and wet morning in Gigiri, he seemed under the weather. The cough lingered. Many hospital visits and checks later, a press statement was sent to newsrooms that Mr Collymore had taken medical leave.
It was cancer.
Bob demystified this ugly disease by telling his story, in the words of Safaricom chairman “sharing very personal details” to the Kenyan public and world at large. Watching this large personality defy sickness by living in the moment, doing good, cracking jokes, uplifting other even when he needed lifting is inspiring.
Bob loved books. He had time after time sent me titles of books, authors and articles I ought to delve into. He would send me feedback on my book reviews most Fridays in The Business Daily.
As is characteristic of his humour, he’d have a dig at the kinds of books I chose to read and review, words used, o ering recommendations of books I ought to read such as Find Me Unafraid by his friends Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner of Shofco; Give Me My Mountain by Esther Muchemi, and more recently, Educated by Tara Westover.
The Kindle was his constant companion. The talented painter that he was, he would spend time not only listening to jazz, a staple he introduced to the Kenyan social calendar through the Safaricom Jazz Festival, but also painting many a famous jazz musicians. Works that keen art enthusiasts would love to see on display at his wife’s Wambui Kamiru’s gallery The Art Space, or even a gallery in his home city, London, or favourite city, New York.
From a young painter with dreams to become a celebrated painter, to an inspirational global figure nested in Kenya, Bob will be fondly remembered for his contribution to the arts scene, corporate boardwalk, and humanitarian heart he
The world is certainly a better place for having had Robert William Collymore in it.
As Told by Diana Ngila, Photographer