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Mombasa Old Town and Fort Jesus | Coastweek

Coastweek-- Popular Heritage Visit for Schools to the Mombasa Old Town and Fort Jesus. ABOVE: On Mbarak Hinawy Road. TOP RIGHT: Aisha shows the pupae on sticks kept in the ‘hatchery’.  BELOW RIGHT: Guests view the exhibition that is displayed in the veranda of the Museum. PHOTOS: DORIS SCHAULE AND STEVE OKOKO
German Foreign Office Boost Rabai Heritage Hot Spot

Coastweek-- 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 Swahili.

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 years.

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 Educational Hall.

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 conservation.

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 Mombasa.

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 business practise.

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.

Thomas Fowell Victor Buxton | Coastweek


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 Buxtonians.

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.

Coastweek-- Thomas Fowell Victor Buxton (1865-1919) Founded the Buxton School in 1900.   

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 Swallows.

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.

Film: The 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 time!

Please do your best to attend.

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