BRYANT - AFRICAN WOMAN
WHO REALLY MADE A DIFFERENCE
as Chairman of
Y.W.C.A. Coast Branch
she travelled throughout the world
Mary Bryant, one of the most prominent and
pioneering of African women in Coast province, died in Mombasa
Mary came to Mombasa in 1959 as one of the
first women to marry across racial barriers before
While in Canada, the
late M. Adam played very crucial roles in bringing Multi-party
Democracy in our beloved country of Kenya.
She and her husband educationist Philip
Oliver Bryant chose Mombasa as the ideal place in Kenya to
bring up and raise a family.
Mombasa with its multi-cultural and
multi-ethnic background has always been a welcoming home from the
harsh racial dichotomies found in other parts of the world.
Mary was born in Kitui on May 5th, 1936,
to a headmaster, farmer and pastor, and was thus among the first
van-guards of educated Kamba women.
She was a student of prominent theologist
and author Professor John S. Mbiti, attended Kangundo Teacher's
Training College and later taught at Mutonguni Intermediate and
Kakeani Primary Schools.
graph of the late
Bryant, proprietor of Mbingi
Farm, Utange, Bamburi.
Being the eldest in a family of eight,
Mary raised, nurtured and educated her siblings, showering them with
love, care and encouragement to be the achievers they are today.
Having bridged the cross-racial barriers,
Mary was eager to share her newfound experience with others.
In Mombasa her first job was as a
demonstrator for Kenya Power, then she took up social volunteerings
positions in NCCK, YWCA, Family Planning and others.
She was the first African Branch secretary
Later, as Chairman of YWCA Coast Branch,
she travelled extensively throughout the world, with memorable
experiences of dancing with among others, Emperor Haile Selassie,
walking the streets with Archibishop Makarios in Greece, and having
dialogues with Orthodox Church Prelates in Moscow.
She was instrumental as a committee member
of NCCK of setting up Tototo Cottage Industries.
She also introduced the first
rehabilitation project of Mombasa prostitutes, encouraging them to
attend the YWCA secretarial college in Likoni which she also set up.
She was on the Board of Governors of
several schools including Shimo La tewa.
Among her early friends were Mrs. Aase
Sondhi of Reef Hotel, Elvina Mutua, Yolanda Firth, Maggie Gona,
the late Mrs Mary Paul, Margaret Kaduda, Pam Patrick, the
Okanga's, the Browns, the Fishers, the Lamkeys, and the
She achieved a certain notoriety for being
the first African women to drive a motor vehicle in Mombasa, a
skill she later honed to open up Mbingi Car Hire Service, a
fleet of vehicles in which she herself frequently drove
tourists to the best spots in the game parks.
She also ran a small boutique in town
called 'Elvinama' which she owned jointly with Mrs. Elvina
Together with her husband Philip Oliver
Bryant, himself a Headmaster, pastor and agricultural
specialist, they bought and managed a 280 acre farm in Utange,
where they had Beef and Dairy cows, chicken, rabbits, turkeys,
mangoes and various vegetables.
She was responsible for sales and
deliveries to the Coast hotels where Mbingi Farm was
especially famous for its delicious dairy Cream.
The farm had
an open door policy, and on the weekends, friends of many
races and religions would come to the farm for picnics,
barbecues, a swim in the pool and camping.
Likewise the couple were always ready to
lend a helping hand to friends in need, several times bringing
children to join their extended family.
One of those was Sheila Madoka nee Okumu,
who became a third daughter to the Bryant family.
Through many sacrifices, careful planning,
hard work and financial acumen, Mary and her husband were able to send
their children to universities in the United States.
After her husband's death in 1984 she
married Major General ES Mbilu, Commander of the Kenya Navy, where she
took up the role of organizing all the social functions at Bibby
They had no children and separated in
For the last ten years she has continued
farming, making real estate investments and visiting her children and
Mary was always a very gracious and
generous friend, and in her Mkomani home would dole out advice and
other concrete support to those in need.
Her wisdom, intellect and high sense of
humour were legendary, and she was always smiling with mischievously
She taught her children particularly to be
independent, strong, generous, selfless and socially responsible.
Mary went into Mombasa Hospital in January
for surgery, where she developed complications and fought a long and
spirited battle in ICU.
On Thursday evening with her children by her
side she slipped away to eternal peace and happiness.
She will be lovingly remembered by her
children Wendy Bryant-Nyamweya (Teacher, USA), Advocate Timothy Bryant
(lnamdar/ lnamdar), Leah Bryant (Account Manager Spedag), and
grandchildren Buffy, Moige, Sasha, llya, Nicole, Reena and Tatyana.
The funeral service was held at Mbingi Farm in Utange, where she
was laid to rest while her friends paid their