Journalistic Career In Reverse

I reflected on my journalistic career recently and found out that I have been going backwards. My first assignment in Kenya in 1981 was to Kesho Publications in Kijabe. Kesho means tomorrow and was founded by my father and John Ndeti Somba and others in 1960 to produce a new magazine called Afrika ya Kesho. The Africa of tomorrow. It was meant to give a Christian perspective on the future as East Africa moved from British rule to independent nations. Afrika ya Kesho appeared monthly with Swahili articles and covered news stories, church events and more. By 1967 after President Jomo Kenyatta made English the language for schools, Kesho Publications saw a need for a second magazine aimed at the educated youth who wanted to read English. A sister magazine called Today in Africa was born. I edited Today in Africa throughout the 1980s, training Kenyan writers and editors. I worked under John Ndeti Somba, the editor ofAfrika ya Kesho and a wonderful mentor. Swahili readership was steadily eroding for the flagship magazine and Afrika ya Kesho died soon after Somba retired about 1990. By 1994 Today in Africa had grown and was a vibrant youth magazine with the tagline “Meeting today’s problems head-on.” The magazine recorded many first person stories about Christians living out their faith in changing times. I left Today in Africa in 1994 to focus on a project with the Okiek (often called the Dorobo) people of Kenya. But I missed publishing, so in 2005 I partnered with Mike Adkins to start up Old Africa, a history magazine that would capture some of East Africa’s best stories and photos before they were lost. We set our time frame as 40...
Growing Up In Kenya

Growing Up In Kenya

A propos of my book A Kenya Childhood I have been reading two interesting books recently – An African Childhood by Janet Lewison andMishkid: a Kenyan Childhood by David Webster. Janet Lewison is the daughter of Charles Granston Richards, whom many will remember from the East African Literature Bureau and the Kenya Mountain Club. He went to Kenya in 1935 with the Church Missionary Society, with the responsibility of encouraging literacy among Kenya’s indigenous peoples. He wrote a report which resulted in the founding of the East Africa Literature Bureau, of which he was the Director for fifteen years. The Bureau published newspapers and books in local languages, and was profoundly influential in extending literacy. A good and scholarly man, Charles was very kind to me when as a schoolgirl I visited the Richards house at the bottom of the hill leading up to the Kenya High School at Kileleshwa. Former girls from the school will remember his wife, Mrs Richards, a remarkably beautiful teacher at the KHS. David Webster is the son of Eric Webster, of the Bible Churchmen’s Missionary Society, a missionary in Marsabit for many years. It was then a remote place and there is a particularly poignant passage in David’s book: ‘Just inside the forest edge was a small enclosure surrounded by a high kei apple hedge.  Within the enclosure was a gravestone.  This is where Wesley Haylett’s wife had been laid to rest, a symbol of the ultimate sacrifice that a missionary could make.  The hedge was to protect the grave from wild animals.  It had grown wild and the grave was uncared for, forgotten.  This made me sad. ...

Safari Rally Part 2

Two generations have passed since 1953 when the East African Coronation Safari Rally was born. That first race was named for the coronation of the beautiful young Princess who went to sleep in Treetops one night and woke up a Queen. All that seemed necessary for this delightfully casual motor rally was for competitors to get a Nairobi official to sign when they left Nairobi. Then they had to get the signatures of the Mayor of Kampala and the Mayor of Dar es Salaam to prove they’d been there and the one who did it in the shortest time would be the winner. Nobody won the first race as they all took a longer time than was allowed. That first Rally grew to be the East African Safari Rally. Fifty years ago the Safari Rally was at the height of its popularity. In those days a whole generation of schoolboys from the far distant locations of the new Republic of Kenya became avid rally spectators. Of the 16 public holidays in the new constitution, the Easter holiday was by far the favourite because that’s when the Safari Rally was run. The eager onlookers would awake early and troop towards a nearby hilltop to cheer for the Safari Rally cars as they passed. The more popular the competitor, the louder the cheers. Despite the international competition, the leaders were always local Kenyans. For three days the names of the leading drivers would feature in banner headlines on the front of the broadsheet East African Standard and the new tabloid publication The Daily Nation. My holiday safari company was commissioned over the years to...
Tammu or Jook

Tammu or Jook

Translation of the Scriptures into another language is an intriguing exercise. The translator is challenged to find terms in the receptor language for such key Biblical concepts as Holy Spirit, cross, Satan, evil spirits, savior, prayer and God. If these key terms do not carry an accurate meaning, then the ultimate translation will not be of much use. The finding of key terms is even more challenging when the receptor culture and language are far removed from that of the Bible The Murle people of South Sudan are a pastoral people who live on the flood plains near the Ethiopian border. My wife Barb and I moved there in 1975 to begin the process of learning their language and translating the Scriptures. We eventually trained a translation team of Murle men and began looking for key terms. I soon discovered that the traditional religion of the Murle focused on the worship of the high God. They referred to this God as Tammu. This word had several other meanings such as rain and sky, but linguistic suffixes helped make it clear that Tammu referred to a God with anthropomorphized characteristics. There were a number of factors that made this term attractive. Tammu was the original creator of the world and of the Murle people. The term Tammu referred to the supreme God only – not to a lower pantheon of spirits. Murle people prayed directly to Tammu in time of need such as drought or famine. The people honored Tammu, but at the same time they feared Him in a respectful way. The term Tammu was their term for God....
East African Safari Rally part 1

East African Safari Rally part 1

If you ask any male from the developed world or Kenya over the age of eighteen, “Can you drive?” he will probably be irritated with what he considers a totally unnecessary question and will reply that of course he can and he will think to himself, and better than most. This presupposes that both the questioner and the questioned will automatically assume driving ability is a macho necessity and all drivers, even those who have just paid a bribe for their driving license, are amongst the best drivers in the world.  I believed I really was amongst the best drivers in the world! I had been driving since I was thirteen years old, when I helped park up my father’s fleet of five-ton tipper trucks every evening after the drivers had clocked off. At eighteen years of age I was driving tank transport across the British Zone in Germany on the one and only motorway in Europe at that time which was the one autobahn Hitler managed to construct before his war. Before I was twenty-one I had raced vintage cars at Silverstone and motorcycles in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. I had driven from Nairobi to Capetown return on three occasions, and also from East Coast to West Coast of the United States on two occasions. I thought it was time I show these local drivers a thing or two so I found myself a co-driver for The East African Safari Rally and entered the 1964 Safari Rally to prove my ability.             My boastfulness and confidence were suitably shattered and deflated before I was halfway round...