The British Empire Library

Old Africa Magazine: Stories from East Africa's Past

Edited by Shel Arensenn

Courtesy of OSPA

By Veronica Bellers
The first issue of Old Africa, published in Kenya, came out in October 2005. Its editorial began: "Our goal at Old Africa magazine is to transport readers to an earlier era by publishing stories, personal memories, and vintage photographs from East Africa’s past." The Editor, Shel Arensen, is keen to encourage all races to participate and the stories are edited with a delicate touch.

The Masai land question and the Mau Mau are among the controversial subjects covered. A Mau Mau leader tells her story and a member of the Kikuyu Guard recounts a friendly fire incident, while Stanley Ngotho’s account ofthe Lari Massacre is heartbreaking. "Chief Luka Mbugua Kahangara summoned his wives. 'I fear I will be murdered, ’ he announced in his characteristic stammer.” His wife, Gacheri, survived the attack badly wounded but her baby slipped from her arms and died instantly.

Photographs also contribute to the way we were. The Nyeri Agricultural Show in the 1930’s shows a crowd of interested, relaxed and prosperous African farmers, while there is a touching photo of an African and two Europeans panning for gold in Kakamega in the 1930’s - a hopeless cause I fear - and railway workers squatting by the line at Voi with their loosely wound turbans c.1898.

In 1912 Alif Din, the "Pioneering Postman" took the train to Kibigori. From there he struggled through driving rain to Nandi where he and his African companions shared a tent with the D.C. He then waded through floodwaters neck deep, was swept downstream and finally tottered triumphantly in to Eldora River to deliver the mail.

Later in 1932 in broiling Turkanaland the new DO, Noel Kennaway, was advised by his Turkana companions to divest himself of his starched khaki to avoid the chafing of delicate parts of his anatomy. "Returning to base he told his District Commissioner, Roland Baker-Beall, how he had solved his chafing problem. Baker-Beall responded gravely. "Well, I am not at all sure what you did was in order. I mean, we can’t have His Majesty’s officers walking around the district naked under nothing more than a helmet. Even if it doesn’t affront the natives, what about the missionaries, eh? What about the missionaries?"

British Empire Book
Shel Arensen
Kifaru Educational and Editorial
PO Box 2338
Kenya 20117


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