Stories of Workers on a White Farm

Stories of Workers on a White Farm

Stories of Workers on a White Farm   Elspeth Huxley recorded some stories of the workers on the farm of her mother, Nellie Grant, which give a fascinating insight into the history of Kenya. The Grants’ first farm was near Thika and then they moved to a farm at Njoro.   Njombo Came from Gethumbwini, Thika. At the time of the first famine his mother went to Ukambani to get food, but never came back. His father died (when Njombo was 12 or 13), then his brother, then his twin brother and his sister. They had no food and no one to look after them and there were two small children, so Njombo took them to an uncle who sheltered them. He then went to Nairobi to work at road making and dug building stone from a quarry. Thereafter he went to Thika to work as a driver, having been taught by a Dutchman. His job was to drive the wagon from Thika to Nairobi. He saw his first Europeans in 1912. He was sent to Blue Posts Hotel to fetch Elspeth, Mrs Grant’s daughter. His clan rejected him because he thought his father had been killed, so he ran away to Kiambu and went for one term to the Africa Inland Mission school at Kabete, and then to the Roman Catholic school. He returned to his village to avenge the poisoning (he thought) of his brothers and his daughter. He heard Mrs Grant was going to Njoro and was looking for people to follow her. He walked to Njoro and Mrs Grant promised them all gardens, saying they...
Where Antelope Roam – A book review

Where Antelope Roam – A book review

Where Antelope Roam Reviewed by Rachel Woodworth   A book review ought to start, more than likely, with the book. But my review can’t begin there. It begins with the man. The man who wrote the book, who gathered days and moments, adventures and seasons, who recalled and reminisced and turned memories to words, to pages, to chapters, to book: a collection of short stories bound in Where Antelope Roam. I cannot separate the book from the man; but then, I don’t need to. This is autobiography—what makes the book worth reading is the man who lives a life worth reading. I vouch for the value of both.   I begin, however, with the author. An author I first knew as a professor.   With an energy and eagerness (either endearing or embarrassing) of my college freshman self, I sat in his Cultural Anthropology classroom. Before the end of his two hour class, I remember clearly thinking, “I want to do what he does.” Now this, I’m coming to learn, has less to do with the specifics of doing—with mimicking job or education or, not to give too much away, the handling of horned vipers—but the being. And this is harder to articulate and harder to enact.   What I sensed in that classroom, and what I sense in the pages of this book, is this fullness of life. A character and a being, a posturing, that is wonderful—that is, really, full of wonder. It is this unwavering joy in life—a firm confidence in the value of here: this place, this person, this landscape and moment before me. It...
Where Antelope Roam: by Jon Arensen

Where Antelope Roam: by Jon Arensen

New From Old Africa books!  Where Antelope Roam: And Other Stories Out of Africa by Jon Arensen The short stories in this book are all connected to Jon Arensen’s experiences in East Africa. They are deeply personal and are narrated in the first person. As in any good anthology, there are diverse topics with different conclusions – clever, sad, funny, surprising, cultural, educational and spiritual. The author’s reputation as a storyteller is well known. Here are some of his favorite stories. buy now at...
Sneak Preview: Horse Racing in Kenya

Sneak Preview: Horse Racing in Kenya

Old Africa has been working for over two years on a project covering over 100 years of horse racing in Kenya. We’ve just completed the rough edit of the full book and are moving into the stage for final editing and photo selection. I think we can use about 300 of the over 900 photos collected so far. Here’s a sneak preview of one race in Nanyuki that didn’t go as well as it should have. Gentleman Rider Rowland Minns wrote the piece, which will be included in the book. Rowland Minns riding Beaujolais in an Open Hurdle race in Limuru in 1969. This was NOT the horse mentioned in the story that follows. A BAD RIDE IN NANYUKI Another incident at Nanyuki was on a horse owned by another farmer, which had been ‘warned off the course’  for being uncontrollable (the horse not the farmer). This meant the horse couldn’t ride in official races organized by the Jockey Club of Kenya, but no one seemed to care if the horses ran in the gymkhana events upcountry.  I asked the farmer what it was like and all he said was that ‘it could go a bit’ but tended to throw its head around. It appeared in the paddock led by no less than two syces, who appeared to have great difficulty in controlling it. When the word came to mount, I took a flying vault into the saddle as it was far from stationary at the time and then told both syces to let go of it thinking this might help. The race was right round the course and the...
Home Guards Killed While Returning Escaped Prisoners

Home Guards Killed While Returning Escaped Prisoners

Solomon Njihia was the head chef for the Rift Valley Academy kitchen when I was a student there in the 1970s. I just heard he has passed away. Another link to Kenya’s past has gone. About eight years ago I interviewed Solomon and he told me a story of how he and a group of home guards captured some escaped prisoners after the Naivasha Prison attack during the early years of the Emergency. The story appeared in issue 11 of Old Africa and we thought it would be good to share it again.  Home Guards Killed While Returning Escaped Prisoners Told by Solomon Njihia Kairu   1953 We noticed a group of people walking up the road in a line at about 11 p.m. near the Kiambogo School above the AIM Kijabe mission station. We went out and stopped them by shouting, “Halt!” We asked who they were. They replied, “We are the ones who were released from the Naivasha prison by the Mau Mau.” They explained they just wanted to find their way home. Many of our people worked at the mission or had gone to school there. A number of us had been recruited to serve as home guards. Some of our home guards started slapping the escaped prisoners with their hands. Others said to stop because we didn’t know if these people were bad or not. They had been in prison, but that didn’t mean they were Mau Mau. We decided to tie them up and return them to the police. We found ropes and tied the escaped prisoners two by two. We borrowed a Mercedes lorry...