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Background of this Site
by Marshall Burns
Njoro and another drummer at the Youth Camp of the World Social Forum, Nairobi, Kenya, January 22, 2007
On my second night at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya in January 2007, I visited the Youth Camp, where I found a campfire with people drumming and singing. A charming young man there introduced himself as Njoro and told me all the drums were made by a group he belonged to, the Zingaro Percussion Self-Help Group. I was intrigued and talked about possibly going to visit them, although I did not quite understand what he was telling me about how to find their place.
Dedan Kimathi statue erected in Nairobi, February 2007
I had been in Kenya about a week at that time, and I was just beginning to learn about the sad history of the continent I was on. I had not yet heard of the Mau Mau, but someone that night pointed to a T-shirt with a picture of Dedan Kimathi and told me that was their Martin Luther King. Kimathi was one of the leaders of the Mau Mau uprising and was hanged by the British in 1957 for insurrection. In a wonderful coincidence of politics and public relations, it happened that during my brief stay in Kenya a statue was erected of Kimathi to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his assassination.
Gitu Wa Kahengeri of the Mau Mau War Veterans Association
About a month after the forum, I had an opportunity to meet one of the surviving members of the Mau Mau. Gitu Wa Kahengeris business card presents him as the spokesman for the Mau Mau War Veterans Association. I was pleased to learn that this group had recently filed a grievance with the British government seeking a formal apology and restitution for atrocities committed by the colonial government against them.
Boys rehearsing dance at Zingaro
It so happened that the place Id arranged to meet Kahengeri was not far from Zingaro, so afterwards I met up with Njoro again and he took me there. And it turned out that this was in a place Id been to once before, the vast Mathare slums, a region of institutionalized poverty in the heart of Nairobi. After seeing the workshop where they make their drums and watching some boys rehearse a dance number, I was introduced to Ngugi Mwangi, one of the men who co-founded the organization about ten years before.
In a fascinating conversation with Mwangi about African politics and culture, he got out a couple of books about Kenya history. White Highlands No More had a poignant photograph on the cover of a black man carrying a neatly-dressed white across a river. The title refers to the region of prime farmland where most of the early British settlers staked their claims and either evicted or enslaved the native residents. This is the area where the Cholmondeley (pronounced CHUM-lee) family still operates its 100,000-acre (400 km2 or 150 mi2) dairy farm and where the Craig family entertains Britains Prince William on their 45,000-acre ranch.
Another book, The Last Mau Mau, told the story of the Mau Mau uprising with information that was excluded from the official account published in school textbooks. Like the book about Ogiek land disputes that Id seen at the Social Forum, I thought about the possibility of putting this important information online. Since Mwangi wasnt the author, I knew he wouldnt have the text available in electronic form, but at 52 pages, this book was small enough that it was practical to scan in whole and put the page images on the Internet.
And thats where this website came from.
Covers of two books about Kenya history seen at the Zingaro office
Left: Posted on the wall in the Zingaro office: Card for StopThinkResist.org protesting proposed, benign-sounding, Economic Partnership Agreements between Africa and the European Union (See back of card.)
Right: Ngugi Mwangi, co-founder of Zingaro Percussion Self-Help Group, with son (right) and another boy in the group
|||2007 03 31 S: Site posted|
|||2007 04 02 M: Fixed spelling on this page, added these version notes|
|||2009 06 12 F: Moved site from GeoCities to another free Web hosting service, Tripod, since GeoCities service is shutting down.|
Other Sites on my Kenya Trip
This is one of several sites created during my two and a half months in Kenya, Africa in early 2007. The others are:
|||Disillusion and Hope on the Dark Continent|
|||Who Owns Kenya? What is the Queen Doing in Parliament?|
|||Ogiek Land Cases and Historical Injustices 1902 – 2004 by Towett Kimaiyo|
|||Mathare Youth Talent Organization a site I created for them, currently maintained by MYTO themselves|
|||How to Make a Website for Free Simple instructions for beginning activists|
The first item is a page within my personal website. The others have been set up in Tripod, instead of in my site, in order to give examples of what can be done with a low-tech site that can be created for free, as explained in the last site listed.
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