There is some good news for Rabai, the
cradle of early Christianity in Kenya - a heritage hot spot that has been crying
out for attention and upgrade. An announcement by the German Foreign Office that
Germany will spend Ksh. 5.35 million for a facelift of the various buildings and
sites that make up the heritage landscape is very welcome news,
NEWSLETTER NOTES FROM FRIENDS OF FORT JESUS
It was in Rabai that the first church
in Kenya was built in 1846 by the German missionary Johannes Ludwig Krapf. He
was later joined by another missionary, Johannes Rebmann.
The duo studied local languages and
produced the first Swahili dictionary and translated the New Testament in
The local Mijikenda community provided
the missionaries with land upon which the mission station gradually developed,
first with the church building followed by cottages for Krapf and Rebmann and a
school, named after Isaac Nyondo the first African convert to Christianity.
Given that Rabai plays an important
part of Kenyas history and heritage it has received little attention over the
FFJ have been regular visitors to
Rabai and where possible we have funded some minor improvements.
Ms Fatma Twahir, the Principal Curator
is upbeat about the upgrading that is scheduled to be implemented this year. We
look forward to a speedy completion and another FFJ visit.
• This Easter there were cultural
festivals in Mombasa and Malindi.
The Mombasa fete ran from 14th to 17th
April and was organised under the auspices of Fort Jesus Museum.
There were traditional dance troupes
from different parts of the country performing every day outside the Fort.
In addition there was an educational
programme featuring documentaries and talks in the newly renovated Mazrui
The ‘moat’ around the fort (previously
used as a car park) was the venue for a Traditional Crafts Exhibition featuring
local art and crafts, cultural attires and traditional medicines.
There was also a food bazaar outside
the Fort where visitors could sample some delicious Swahili cuisine.
On 15th April there was a further
special event ‘Let’s Go Green Campaign’ hosted by ‘Eco Ethics Kenya’ where local
schools and community groups had planned activities to raise awareness on
A highlight was an exhibition of Eco
Friendly products made from sustainable sources. All were invited to attend.
I hope our members found time and
participate in some of the events and support the festival.
• Welcome to Swahilipot hub; a unique
project that aims to encourage creative innovation among the youth of
Operating from the renovated old
Governors House located in the grounds of the Swahili Cultural centre, the Hub
has made some impressive gains since its inception in February 2016.
The project targets creative youths
and helps them to make the most of their talents using modern technology and
It provides a platform for upcoming
artists, fashion designers, poets, musicians and web developers for nurturing
their talents with the help of experienced peers who are always on hand to help
and mentor the upstarts.
Free internet access, a serene sea
front working environment, access to the gardens and an amphitheatre for film
shoots and performances are facilities that are available to the youth.
According to Ms.Magdalene Kamau –
Otieno, Swahili Hub has achieved notable success.
They have been the catalysts for
launching a number of successful creative enterprises. A big plus for Mombasa.
For details see:
(Taibali Hamzali, Chairman)
The Buxton Connection: Talk by Carissa Nightingale - Tuesday, 14th March at
7.15pm at the Fort
Carissa Nightingale spoke about the
connection between the area of Mombasa named Buxton and her family.
Her Grandfather, Thomas Buxton,
founded a Christian Secondary School in that area in 1900 which was open to
students from all over East Africa of every race and religion.
The school became famous for the high
standard of education that it offered and for the successful
professionals, who were alumni of the school and who called themselves
Mr Ronald Ngala was head master of the
Buxton School in the 1950s, when Carissa’s father, Clarence Buxton, was
Chairman of the Board of Governors.
Clarence Buxton also provided land for
the founding of what is now St Paul’s University in Limuru.
The inspiration for her Grand father’s
and father’s philanthropic concern, especially for education, in East
Africa came, undoubtedly, from the example of their ancestor Thomas
Fowell Buxton, a nineteenth century Christian philanthropist who
campaigned tirelessly for improvement in people’s education and living
conditions in many parts of the world.
By far his biggest campaign, fought in
the British Parliament and supported by public campaigns of Christian
colleagues outside Parliament was to secure freedom for all 800,000
slaves held in the British Empire at that time.
This was achieved by an Act of
Parliament, passed in 1833, and Thomas Buxton ensured that along with
emancipation, freed slaves were provided with education and training.
Britain became the first country in
the world to pass such a law. After the Emancipation Act, Thomas Buxton
continued to work to eradicate slavery in Africa.
Thomas Fowell Victor Buxton (1865-1919) Founded the Buxton School in
There is no doubt that Thomas Buxton’s
work inspired his Great Grandson, Thomas Buxton, to come to East Africa and to
found the school, which became known as the Buxton School and after which that
area of Mombasa was named.
Carissa’s presentation was very good,
very informative; she spoke very eloquently with excellent illustrations and
with the extra flavour of being family history. (Lars Asker)
Bird Walk on Saturday, 18th March at Shanzu
6 keen members of Friends of Fort
Jesus met as planned and drove in a convoy to our starting point at Shanzu !
We were greeted by swallows on the
ground next to a puddle of water (it had rained early in the morning).
A closer look enabled us to identify
them as Ethiopian Swallows, which are now again moving into the area after most
of our winter visitors, the Barn Swallows, have left for the Palearctic regions;
we still spotted a single one later on a wire. Altogether we recorded spotted 4
swallow species including one Mosque Swallow and several Lesser Striped
Along the Mtwapa Creek we found Sooty
Gulls, Lesser Crested Terns and from high up came the call of an African Fish
Eagle ! Other species recorded are the always present House Crow, African Pied
Wagtail, Spectacled Weaver, Collared Sunbird, Red-cheeked Cordon Blue and
Zanzibar Greenbul with its distinct white eye!
All too soon we were back at our
starting point with a bird list containing over 20 species. Join us next time,
when the 3rd Saturday of the month is knocking again! (Doris Schaule)
Heritage Visit for schools - Old Town and Fort Jesus - Saturday, 25th March
from 9.00 am at the Fort
On that day, 38 pupils and teachers
from Tiwi, Waa, Mkumbi and Denyenze Primary Schoolsi, some of whom had never
been to Mombasa before, let alone Fort Jesus or Old Town, walked around the
narrow streets of Old Town taking in the historic past of Mombasa, the original
capital city of Kenya.
We visited the old port to see a lone
dhow sitting high in the water bereft of its cargo.
Maybe it was awaiting to take on board
the Malindi salt which was piled high on the quayside.
We heard that the port used to be a
major trading centre where hundreds of dhows would arrive from Arabia, India,
Asia and Europe during the south winds of the monsoon season and offloading
silks, spices, textiles, porcelain and other goods.
Some traders returned home on the
following north winds but some stayed and settled hence the integration of
architectural styles that Old Town holds.
Many buildings unfortunately have
clearly seen the ravages of time but still tell a story.
The ornate balconies made of teak
brought by traders from India still exist and the craftwork of carving evident.
Alas I did see one house had replaced
a window with new aluminium one which ruined the historic facade.
We saw outside Fort Jesus a piece of
the original track that was used to move cargo from the old port, across Mombasa
island to Makupa, where it was then taken by road to a small town called
Nairobi, effectively a central hub for distribution nationwide.
We walked the many twists and turns of
Old Town and passed the Mandhry mosque, believed to be the first mosque in
Kenya, which had its own well which dispensed fresh water yet only being meters
from the salty Indian Ocean.
Due to the modern technology of
‘internal’ plumbing the well is unfortunately bricked up and obsolete.
The sun was high in the sky and the
water in our bottles depleted so the visit to the shaded Butterfly House,
located between the Fort and the Judicary House, was a welcome respite.
The life cycle of the butterfly was
explained to us and we saw the pupae hanging on sticks in a ‘hatchery’ and then
flying freely within the netted garden area in which we walked.
We admired the beautiful coloured hues
and patterns on their wings.
We felt the tickles of the butterflies
walking on our hands. It was fun.
Lunch back at Fort Jesus was delicious
and plentiful and we rested from the heat under some trees before taking a tour
of Fort Jesus.
A very hot but enjoyable day for
everyone. (Debbie Wanje)
Exhibition Launch: Magic of Sculpture on Tuesday, 4th April
On Tuesday 4th April 2017 the Friends
of Fort Jesus hosted a meeting at the Fort to open the new ‘Magic of Sculpture’
Exhibition at the museum.
A large enthusiastic crowd heard the
opening remarks from Taibali Hamzali the Chairman of the Friends, followed by
Athman Hussein the Assistant Director General of Fort Jesus.
He expressed his pleasure that such a
prestigious collection of sculpture art works was on show. The recently
appointed curator Ms .Fatma Twahir also expressed her pleasure.
On show were the works of Tom Oneya
and Michael Mbai. Martin Nelson introduced the two artists and invited them to
describe their choice of material, to explain their inspiration and their hopes
for the future.
Tom working in clay wanted to depict
the human struggle in Kenya with works like Maternity and Violence.
Michael working in Neem wood (found
tree roots) revealed unexpected and surprising hidden forms and shapes.
All works are for sale.
The exhibition is scheduled to
continue until the end of June. (Martin Nelson)
Bird Walk at Nguuni Nature Sanctuary on Saturday, 14th
The venue for this month’s bird walk
is Nguuni Nature Sanctuary. Meet at the ticket office at 3.00pm sharp. Note
there is an entrance fee of 300/=.
Please carry your FFJ card and ID
documents in case of any security checks en-route.
For further details ring Doris (0722
277752) or check out our Facebook page.
Eagle Odyssey on Tuesday, 28th April
It has been a long time since we
watched a film.
We will be screening a fascinating and
hearting documentary chronicling the successful rehabilitation of endangered
Black Eagles in Scotland.
The film shows how a committed team of
scientists, conservationists and members of the public came together and their
efforts to engender the breeding of this magnificent bird.
The last time we screen a film we had
a record low attendance.
I hope we have a better turnout this
Please do your best to attend.