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your window into East Africa’s past.

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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. 

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...

Early Farming Disasters in Kenya

Early Farming Disasters in Kenya When the first white settlers started farming in Kenya in the early twentieth century, their enterprise was far from successful. Potatoes were tried, but they died of blight. At his first farm at Njoro Lord Delamere decided to raise sheep. He ordered Ryeland rams from England; and from New Zealand, Leicester, Lincoln and Romney March rams. The English batch arrived early in 1904 under the care of a shepherd, Sammy McCall. They were joined later that year by 500 pure-bred merino ewes from New Zealand, as well as Hereford cattle from England. The cost of all this was borne by Delamere mortgaging his English estate. Soon the sheep began to sicken and die. Why? The local name for the land Delamere had bought was ‘angata natai emmin’, Maasai for ‘the plain of the female rhino without any milk’. The Maasai had never grazed their flocks in the area Delamere occupied. His merinos got footrot, his Ryelands lung disease and all his sheep had worms and harboured a grub which hatched in sinews. Four-fifths of the merinos died, as well as many of the others. It was not until 1925 that the disease suffered by his livestock was identified, by the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen. It was named ‘Nakuruitis’, and was found to be caused by the land being deficient in minerals, mostly cobalt. Not until then was the disease conquered by giving animals mineral supplements. Meanwhile, at Njoro Delamere turned to cattle. He imported more Herefords, crossing them with native cattle. Unfortunately the native cattle gave the imported ones pleuro-pneumonia, while Redwater fever felled...

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...