Architectural Treasures to be Featured in History Mystery Contest

Architectural Treasures to be Featured in History Mystery Contest

Janfrans van der Eerden is a Dutch architect with a keen interest in 20th century architecture in Kenya. At present teaching classes at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, he travelled around Kenya for many years, looking for old houses and taking photos. He is trying to collect as much history as he can about these houses – location, old pictures, building drawings, builders and previous owners, as well as other stories.   Old Africa will be using some of his photographs in upcoming issues of the magazine for our History Mystery Contest. Be sure to get your copy of the April-May issue of Old Africa and look at the amazing photos Van der Eerden has provided of a house near Elburgon. You have a chance at winning a gift certificate from Text Book Centre if you can identify the building. In addition we are looking for any photos, drawings and other details abaout the featured house, which Old Africa will pass on to Van der Eerden so they can be preserved for the future.   Unfortunately, many of these old buildings are in poor repair and being demolished. An example is this pink house, pictured below, which van der Eerden photographed a few years ago near Menengai Crater at Maili Sita. The Happy Valley Heritage Trust, of which Van der Eerden is a trustee, is working to find ways to preserve some of the old buildings before they are lost forever. Sadly, the Maili Sita house no longer stands. We suggest you visit the Facebook page for the Happy Valley Heritage Trust by clicking on this link...
Kisettla, a dialect of Kiswahili?

Kisettla, a dialect of Kiswahili?

In 1932 a writer identified only as JW wrote a tongue-in-cheek article about the evolving language of Kisettla, spoken in Kenya by settlers as they attempted to communicate with their African neighbours and staff.  The article first appeared in the East African Standard and was later published as a booklet with illustrations by DSW.   Here are some excerpts.   This text book on a most interesting language was prepared ten years ago, but withheld from publication in order that further research might correct, or vindicate, its tenets. In a decade, more idioms have been registered but only a few exceptions to the grammar…             A superficial scrutiny might lead one to suppose that Kisettla was unformed, varying with the wit, or lackwit, of the speaker. This is erroneous; years of study have proved it to be constant; following definite rules of grammar and syntax, with an idiom peculiarly its own…             I must acknowledge with gratitude the assistance given me in the compilation of this work by many friends who have so readily, and often unconsciously, made valuable contributions. Space, and certain sections of the penal code, alone prevent me from mentioning them by name. History Kisettla, or ‘mimi-kupiga-wewe’ Swahili, is believed to be derived from Kiswahili or ‘watu-wale-wawili-walipokuja’ Swahili… Grammar The Article If any, as in English, e.g. ‘hapana sahau the viazi.’… The Adjective Few in number and invariable in form. Generally mingi, mbaya, mizuri, kubwa, yote and kidogo can be eked out with British profanity. Adverbs Sana, kabisa, polepole, tu. Personal Pronouns Mimi, wewe and (rare) sisi. These are worked to a standstill; the use of...
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...