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Old Africa books

Old Africa books are well-told stories in the same tradition as the shorter pieces

our readers have come to enjoy from the pages of Old Africa magazine.

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Old Africa magazine seeks to tell the story of East Africa’s past through well-written stories and vintage photographs. Founded in October 2005, the first issue featured a story about the Royal Navy’s ill-fated attempt to launch a naval presence on Lake Rudolph (now Lake Turkana) and an account of the Kedong Massacre. Since then the magazine has published stories and photos from Kenya’s diverse ethnic groups – African, Asian and European – to preserve East Africa’s history. 

Peter Aarup, Karen Blixen’s Friend

Karen Blixen’s Friend, Peter Aarup AARUP, Peter M., son of Joergen Madsen Aarup, was born in 1863 in Kolding, Denmark. He went to South Africa, to the diamond mines, and we first hear about him in East Africa in 1900. By 1906, according to an advertisement he placed in the East African Standard, he has set himself up in Mombasa as a  boat builder, boat sailmaker, tent maker (any size), and purveyor of tarpaulin waterproof sheets. He moved his business to Naivasha by 1909, adding taxidermist to his list of accomplishments, and the manufacture of horsewhips made of hippopotamus hide. His boatyard offered boats for hire (Advertiser, 1909). According to Lars Therkelsen, Aarup’s grandson who has written a biography in Danish of his grandfather – Gamle Knudsen, 2018 – he expanded to Lake Victoria, developing novel fishing methods, but he once lost some of his boats in a storm, when everyone drowned except Peter Aarup.   When the First World War began in East Africa, Aarup and his boat crew were taken prisoner by the Germans, who asked him to establish a new sawmill. His sight was so weak that he had to use very strong glasses. One day they broke and the Germans could not help him replace them. Peter Aarup’s ‘captain’, Kazimoto, offered to collect spare glasses from Peter’s home in Kisumu. This was a very dangerous trip of 900 km, through both German and English front lines and country teeming with wild animals. Nonetheless, Kazimoto returned with the glasses. After the battle in Bukoba the English took back Peter Aarup as a prisoner. Eventually he was released....

Nairobi in 1922 – Excerpt from new book Among Whistling Thorns

Nairobi in 1922 by Joan Booth   Old Africa recently published a memoir written by Joan Booth, who came to Kenya in 1922 to help her brother Eric Booth establish a ranch in Rumuruti.  The manuscript had been in the possession of Celia Owles of Naivasha for many years. She approached Old Africa, asking if we’d be interested in publishing her Aunt Joan’s book.  The book, Among Whistling Thorns,  is now available in Kenya from select bookstores in Nairobi or directly from Old Africa (email us at editorial@oldafricamagazine.com) The book is also available on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk   Here is an excerpt from the book, Among Whistling Thorns, where Joan Booth describes her arrival in Nairobi in 1922.   By this time we were travelling down to the Athi River, the last lap to Nairobi. The plain to the right of the line became empty of game, while they still crowded the area to the left. The animals already knew that this side was reserved for them. The other was dangerously near the town and was open to anyone with a licence to shoot. Even so, we soon learnt that leopards would come into the suburbs looking for dogs, considered by them to be a delicacy, and all over the town at night you heard the noise of hyenas overturning rubbish bins, and quarrelling over the contents. We had to do a great deal of scraping before trying to wash the dust off and make ourselves presentable for arrival at the one platform station. Built of stone, it was quite a superior building and fairly seething with Indians, Somalis,...

Mystery of Italian Inscription at Longido Solved

Mystery of Italian Inscription at Longido Solved by Annamaria Alfieri The first step in this quest belongs to Old Africa Magazine.   A few years ago, as a new subscriber delving into back issues, I came across—in Number 12—a photo of a rock wall in Longido Tanzania. Rock wall in Longido with Italian inscription. Local history says the rocks were bunkers for German guns in World War I, which led to some of the misunderstanding of how the Italian words came to be written on the rock. An inscription chiseled into that stone presented an intriguing mystery: why were those words there and who had taken the trouble to turn the wall into a monument?  On the most basic level: what did the words mean? Old Africaoffered a prize to anyone who could decipher the inscription.  The letters were reproduced on the magazine’s page: BENVENUTA ELIA NATO  7.2.1912 PARATICO  BRESCIA  WL ITALIA WRE  Below were some equally unclear numbers:  26 3 43 Closer view of rock inscription in Longido.  But the meaning of the words was plain to anyone who reads Italian.  Or so I thought. “Benvenuta” means “welcome” to a female.  But that did not go with “Elia,” which is a man’s name in Italy.  So the inscription must actually begin “BENVENUTO.”  A close look at the photo confirmed that the Old Africa photo was not exactly clear.  “Nato” means “born” in the masculine.  Paratico is a town in Italy in the Provincia of Brescia.  What looked like a W, in Italian stands for doppio V—double V.  In this context it means “Viva.” Re is Italian for “king.” So I read “Welcome,...