Mau Mau

Name ID 2124

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nTZ Feedback
Extract Author: Cynthia O'Keeffe
Page Number: 2007 03 04

Mau-Mau uprising

Just found the ntz info pages after doing some research about Africa, especially early 1900's. -- Great website!

One detail I note with interest; much about the Mau-Mau uprising has been 'glossed over' in the press�and if I check Google to try and locate any reference to the deaths of Grey Leakey and his wife, well, it's almost impossible. I am glad you have some facts here, as those years and the news in Africa at the time are particularly unknown to Americans today. I haven't been to Africa yet, but one never knows! Thank you for bringing so much of the history to life. I have been slowly working through the biographies of many europeans who moved to Kenya around 1900. So it's like reading about 'old friends' when I come across the names over and over again.

Your cross referencing is very well done, and leads me to more reading, and research. What an amazing time that must have been.


Cynthia O'Keeffe,RN

Thanks for the feedback. I try to keep the focus on Northern Tanzania, so don't cover much from Kenya or the Mau Mau.

Whether I have the "facts" of course is open to discussion. I try to keep my extracts accurate to their sources, but there's already a bias in what I choose to copy. And who knows how accurate the original sources are. For example in the quote from Brian Herne (which I think is the one you found) there's an error about Capucine. Let's hope that the rest of what is says is right.

I have a newspaper from when we lived in Arusha, Tanzania in the 1950's and it records the concern which arose when it was reported that some Mau Mau fighters had crossed the border.

There are a few recent books about the Mau Mau and the colonial era which have caused a bit of a stir recently here in the UK. I'm sure you've already read the wikipedia article on the Mau Mau , and seen the comments on Caroline Elkins and her book. There's also a link to the Times review of two of the recent books:

For your Kenyan research you might want to contact Peter Ayre who, as well as selling East African books, is also keeping a database of people who used to live in Kenya.

Extract ID: 5226

external link

See also

Scientific America
Extract Author: Marguerite Holloway
Extract Date: 1994 Oct

Mary Leakey: Unearthing History

This profile of Dr. Leakey, written by former news editor Marguerite Holloway, originally appeared in the October 1994 issue of Scientific American.

Mary Leakey waits for my next question, watching from behind a thin curtain of cigar smoke. Leakey is as famous for her precision, her love of strong tobacco--half coronas, preferably Dutch--and her short answers as she is for some of the most significant archaeological and anthropological finds of this century. The latter would have hardly been excavated without her exactitude and toughness. And in a profession scarred by battles of interpretation and of ego, Leakey's unwillingness to speculate about theories of human evolution is unique.

These characteristics have given Leakey a formidable reputation among journalists and some of her colleagues. So have her pets. In her autobiography, "Disclosing the Past," Leakey mentions a favorite dog who tended to chomp people whom the archaeologist didn't like, "even if I have given no outward sign." So as we talk in her home outside Nairobi, I sit on the edge of a faded sofa, smiling exuberantly at her two dalmatians, Jenny and Sam, waiting for one of them to bite me. I quickly note details-- her father's paintings on the wall, the array of silver trophies from dog shows and a lampshade with cave painting figures on it--in case I have to leave suddenly. But the two dogs and soon a cat and later a puppy sleep or play, and Leakey's answers, while consistently private, seem less terse than simply thoughtful.

Leakey first came to Kenya and Tanzania in 1935 with her husband, the paleontologist Louis Leakey, and except for forays to Europe and the U.S., she has been there ever since. During those many years, she introduced modern archaeological techniques to African fieldwork, using them to unearth stone tools and fossil remains of early humans that have recast the way we view our origins. Her discoveries made the early ape Proconsul, Olduvai Gorge, the skull of Zinjanthropus and the footprints of Laetoli, if not household names, at least terms familiar to many.

Leakey was born in England, raised in large part in France and appears to have been independent, exacting and abhorrent of tradition from her very beginnings. Her father, an artist, took his daughter to see the beautiful cave paintings at such sites as Fond de Gaume and La Mouthe and to view some of the stone and bone tools being studied by French prehistorians. As she has written, these works of art predisposed Leakey toward digging, drawing and early history: "For me it was the sheer instinctive joy of collecting, or indeed one could say treasure hunting: it seemed that this whole area abounded in obje cts of beauty and great intrinsic interest that could be taken from the ground."

These leanings ultimately induced Leakey at the age of about 17 to begin working on archaeological expeditions in the U.K. She also attended lectures on archaeology, prehistory and geology at the London Museum and at University College London. Leakey says she never had the patience for formal education and never attended university; she never attended her governesses either. (At the same time, she is delighted with her many honorary degrees: "Well, I have worked for them by digging in the sun.")

A dinner party following a lecture one evening led her, in turn, to Louis Leakey. In 1934 the renowned researcher asked Mary, already recognized for her artistic talents, to do the illustrations for a book. The two were soon off to East Africa. They made an extraordinary team. "The thing about my mother is that she is very low profile and very hard working," notes Richard E. Leakey, former director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, an iconoclast known for his efforts to ban ivory trading and a distinguished paleontologist. "Her commitment to detail and perfection made my father's career. He would not have been famous without her. She was much more organized and structured and much more of a technician. He was much more excitable, a magician."

What the master and the magician found in their years of brushing away the past did not come easily. From 1935 until 1959 the two worked at various sites throughout Kenya and Tanzania, searching for the elusive remains of early humans. They encountered all kinds of obstacles, including harsh conditions in the bush and sparse funding. Success too was sparse--until 1948. In that year Mary found the first perfectly preserved skull and facial bones of a hominoid, Proconsul, which was about 16 million years old. This tiny Miocene ape, found on Rusinga Island in Lake Victoria, provided anthropologists with their first cranium from what was thought to be the missing link--a tree-dwelling monkey boasting a bigger brain than its contemporaries.

Proconsul was a stupendous find, but it did not improve the flow of funds. The Leakeys remained short of financial support until 1959. The big break came one morning in Olduvai Gorge, an area of Tanzania near the Great Rift Valley that slices East Africa from north to south. Again it was Mary who made the discovery. Louis was sick, and Mary went out to hunt around. Protruding slightly from one of the exposed sections was a roughly 1.8-million-year-old hominid skull, soon dubbed Zinjanthropus. Zinj became the first of a new group--Australopithecus boisei--and the first such skull to be found in East Africa.

"For some reason, that skull caught the imagination," Leakey recalls, pausing now and then to relight her slowly savored cigar or to chastise a dalmatian for being too forward. "But what it also did, and that was very important for our point of view, it caught the imagination of the National Geographic Society, and as a result they funded us for years. That was exciting."

How Zinj fits into the family tree is not something Leakey will speculate about. "I never felt interpretation was my job. What I came to do was to dig things up and take them out as well as I could," she describes. "There is so much we do not know, and the more we do know, the more we realize that early interpretations were completely wrong. It is good mental exercise, but people get so hot and nasty about it, which I think is ridiculous."

I try to press her on another bone of contention: Did we Homo sapiens emerge in Africa, or did we spring up all over the world from different ancestors, a theory referred to as the multiregional hypothesis? Leakey starts to laugh. "You'll get no fun out of me over these things. If I were Richard, I would talk to you for hours about it, but I just don't think it is worth it." She pauses. "I really like to feel that I am on solid ground, and that is never solid ground."

In the field, Leakey was clearly on terra firma. Her sites were carefully plotted and dated, and their stratigraphy--that is, the geologic levels needed to establish the age of finds--was rigorously maintained. In addition to the hominid remains found and catalogued at Olduvai, Leakey discovered tools as old as two million years: Oldowan stone tools. She also recorded how the artifacts changed over time, establishing a second form, Developed Oldowan, that was in use until some 500,000 years ago.

"The archaeological world should be grateful that she was in charge at Olduvai," notes Rick Potts, a physical anthropologist from the Smithsonian Institution who is studying Olorgesailie, a site about an hour south of Nairobi where the Leakeys found ancient stone axes in 1942. Now, as they did then, the tools litter the White, sandy Maasai savanna. The most beautiful ones have been stolen, and one of Leakey's current joys is that the Smithsonian is restoring the site and its small museum and plans to preserve the area.

Olduvai Gorge has not fared as well. After years of residence and work there, and after the death of Louis in 1972, Mary finally retired in 1984. Since then, she has worked to finish a final volume on the Olduvai discoveries and has also written a book on the rock paintings of Tanzania. "I got too old to live in the bush," she explains. "You really need to be youngish and healthy, so it seemed stupid to keep going." Once she left, however, the site was ignored. "I go once a year to the Serengeti to see the wildebeest migrations because that means a lot to me, but I avoid Olduvai if I can because it is a ruin. It is most depressing." In outraged voice, she snaps out a litany of losses: the abandoned site, the ruined museum, the stolen artifacts, the lost catalogues. "Fortunately, there is so much underground still. It is a vast place, and there is plenty more under the surface for future generations that are better educated."

Leakey's most dramatic discovery, made in 1978, and the one that she considers most important, has also been all but destroyed since she left the field. The footprints of Laetoli, an area near Olduvai, gave the world the first positive evidence of bipedalism. Three hominids (generally identified as Australopithecus afarensis ) had walked over volcanic ash, which fossilized, preserving their tracks. The terrain was found to be about 3.6 million years old. Although there had been suggestions in the leg bones of other hominid fossils, the footprints made the age of bipedalism incontrovertible. "It was not as exciting as some of the other discoveries, because we did not know what we had," she notes. "Of course, when we realized what they were, then it was really exciting."

Today the famous footprints may only be salvaged with the intervention of the Getty Conservation Institute. "Oh, they are in a terrible state," Leakey exclaims. "When I left, I covered them over with a mound of river sand and then some plastic sheeting and then more sand and a lot of boulders on top to keep the animals off and the Maasai off." But acacia trees took root and grew down among the tracks and broke them up.

Although Leakey steers clear of controversy in her answers and her writings, she has not entirely escaped it. She and Donald Johanson, a paleontologist at the Institute of Human Origins in Berkeley, Calif., have feuded about the relation between early humans found in Ethiopia and in Laetoli. (Johanson set up his organization as a philosophical counterweight to the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation.) And some debate erupted about how many prints there were at Laetoli. Tim White of the University of California at Berkeley claimed that there were only two and that Leakey and her crew had made the other track with a tool during excavation. Leakey's response? "It was a nonsense," she laughs, and we are on to the next subject.

A subject Leakey does not like. "'What was it like to be a woman? A mother? A wife?' I mean that is all such nonsense," she declares. Leakey--like many other female scientists of her generation, including Nobel laureates Rita Levi-Montalcini and Gertrude Belle Elion--dislikes questions about being a woman in a man's field. Her sex played no role in her work, she asserts. She just did what she wanted to do. "I was never conscious of it. I am not lying for the sake of anything. I never felt disadvantaged."

Leakey just did her work, surviving bitter professional wars in anthropolog y and political upheavals. In 1952 Louis, who had been made a member of the Kikuyu tribe during his childhood in Africa, was marked for death during the Mau Mau uprising. The four years during the height of the rebellion were terrifying for the country. The brakes on Mary's car were tampered with, and a relative of Louis's was murdered. The house that Leakey lives in today was designed during this time: a low, White square structure with a central courtyard where the dogs can run at night.

These pets are very important to Leakey--a source of companionship and safety out in the bush. She admires the traits in them that others admire in her: independence and initiative. (Any small joy that I have about emerging from her house unbitten fades sadly when I reread the section in her autobiography about her telepathic dalmatian and learn that he died years ago.)

We seem to have covered everything, and so she reviews her discoveries aloud. "But you have not mentioned the fruits," she reminds me. One of Leakey's favorite finds is an assortment of Miocene fossils: intact fruits, seeds, insects--including one entire ant nest--and a lizard with its tongue hanging out. They lay all over the sandy ground of Rusinga Island. "We only found them because we sat down to smoke a cigarette, hot and tired, and just saw all these fruits lying on the ground next to us. Before that we had been walking all over them all over the place." She stops. "You know, you only find what you are looking for, really, if the truth be known."

Extract ID: 3304

external link

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Independent / Independent on Sunday
Extract Author: Mary Lean
Extract Date: 26 January 2007

Agnes Hofmeyr: Worker for reconciliation in Africa


Agnes Leakey, worker for reconciliation: born Limuru, Kenya 8 May 1917; married 1946 Bremer Hofmeyr (died 1993; one son, and one son deceased); died Johannesburg 1 December 2006.

Twenty years after her father was buried alive during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, Agnes Hofmeyr and her husband were having dinner with a Kenyan colleague, Stanley Kinga. He told them that he had been part of the Mau Mau committee that had selected her father as a human sacrifice. Staggered, she asked him to repeat what he had said. "Thank God we have both learned the secret of forgiveness," she said finally.

Agnes Leakey was born in Limuru, Kenya, in 1917, the youngest child of Gray Leakey, cousin of the anthropologist Louis Leakey, and his first wife, Elizabeth. Her early childhood was spent on a succession of farms: stalking lion barefoot with her brothers; moving home in two wagons, each drawn by 16 oxen; wearing clothes made from a bolt of cloth Elizabeth had brought out to Kenya on her marriage, together with a trunk of toys for children of different ages.

This idyll was shattered in 1926, when Elizabeth died of a perforated appendix, and Agnes was sent to boarding school in England. It was there that she encountered the Oxford Group (later MRA) and became involved in its work of reconciliation. She married a South African colleague, Bremer Hofmeyr, in 1946.

The Hofmeyrs were in the United States in October 1954 when they heard that 60 Mau Mau fighters had attacked her father's farm, killed her stepmother and abducted her father. Later the news reached her that he had been buried alive, in a shallow grave on Mount Kenya. He had been chosen to propitiate the gods because he was known to be a good man. His Kikuyu name was "Morungaru": "tall and straight".

In a memoir, Beyond Violence (1990), Hofmeyr describes the grief and rage that overwhelmed her, and her journey towards forgiving. A committed Christian, she turned, with a struggle, to her regular practice of silent listening prayer. The result was an "impossible" thought: to reject hatred and bitterness and "fight harder than ever to bring a change of heart to black and white alike".

Some months before, the Hofmeyrs had visited her father in Kenya in an attempt to persuade him to move to safety in South Africa. They had also visited the Athi River detention camp, where some of the prisoners told them about the injustices and discrimination that had drawn them into Mau Mau. "I was very shaken by all I heard," wrote Agnes,

but inwardly I walled myself off from any personal sense of guilt, saying to myself that it was other whites, not I, who had done these things. We were not all bad, and look at the many good things we had brought to Africa.

Now, she found herself rethinking.

The next year, the Hofmeyrs were back in Kenya, with a large international group from MRA. In spite of a ban on meetings in Kikuyu country, the authorities sanctioned a mass gathering at Kiambu, north of Nairobi. Crowds poured in, some climbing trees to get a better view.

When the chair announced that the next speaker would be the daughter of Morungaru, there was a gasp. "I apologised for the arrogance and selfishness of so many of us whites that had helped to create the bitterness and hatred in their hearts," she wrote. When she spoke of her determination to work for change, there was a ripple of understanding. Many came up to her afterwards to express their sorrow and support. "All traces of bitterness that lingered in my heart were washed away."

The Hofmeyrs settled in Johannesburg, where, to the disgust of Hendrik Verwoerd and the Broederbond, their home became a meeting place for all races long before the first cracks in the walls of apartheid appeared.

Hofmeyr experienced great sorrow in her life. In addition to the early death of her mother and her father's killing, she lost her eldest brother, Nigel Leakey, in 1941 at Colito, where he won the Victoria Cross. Three years after Bremer's death, in 1993, their elder son, Murray, was killed in a car accident in Johannesburg.

A message she wrote to her grandchildren was typical: "Don't ever give up hope, you have fighting genes."

Extract ID: 5224

See also

Herne, Brian White Hunters: The golden age of African Safaris
Page Number: 314
Extract Date: 1960 Nov 1

Hatari Tragedy

After Lionel's [Hartley] death, Diana took her two young children and stayed for a while with Carr Hartley's family at Rumuruti. There she met one of Carr's employees, an Austrian named Heini Demmer. Diana promptly went into an animal-trapping partnership with Demmer - to supply zoos - in direct competition with Carr Hartley, Diana's brother-in-law. Later still, Diana Hartley married Eddie Knodi, a chef at Nairobi's Norfolk Hotel.

Violence continued to stalk the family. Diana's own mother, Mary, was hacked to death with machetes by Mau Mau thugs who attacked the family's Nyeri farmhouse during the Mau Mau Emergency. Diana's seventy-year-old stepfather, G. A. Leakey, who was a blood brother of the Kikuyu tribe, was dragged off by the same gang and buried alive in October 1954. Gray and Mary Leakey are now in the same grave at Nyeri cemetery.

Diana (Hartley) Knodi also died tragically. She was killed by a "tame" lion while working on the Hollywood epic about professional animal catchers, Hatari. On November 1, 1960, Diana Knodi entered the lion's cage and it sprang on her. It bit her three times, on the chin, throat, and chest, then mauled her to death. White hunter Bill Ryan, who was on the film set nearby with stars John Wayne, Hardy Kruger, Red Buttons, and the actress Capucine, commented, "Diana should never have got into the cage with that lion. She didn't have a chance."

Diana's only son, also named Lionel, began his professional hunting apprenticeship in 1970 with myself [Brian Herne] and Nick Swan. He was in the hunting business for seven years, until March 1977.

Note 1: (from MEABOOKS Inc. African book Catalogue)

BEYOND VIOLENCE (Hofmeyr, Agnes Leakey.)

91pp, PB, 1990,

"Gray Leakey was buried alive on Mount Kenya as a human sacrifice to the gods of Mau Mau. This story is written by his daughter, now living in South Africa" The Mau Mau revolution led to a double tragedy in her family. The book describes the author's inner battle battle to come to terms with disaster and the extraodrinary events that brought her and the very man who had planned her father's death together in the search for a new kind of world�",

Note 2: (from Internet Movie Database)

Capucine did not appear in Hatari. But she did feature in a 1962 film set in Kenya call The Lion. (

Extract ID: 3840

See also

Time Magazine Online
Extract Date: 1 Nov 1954

Blood Brother

The Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya was two years old last week. In that bloody stretch of time the Mau Mau have killed or wounded 2,000 loyal Kikuyu natives, 900 African or European soldiers and 27 innocent European civilians. The expensive war against them (present cost: $2,800,000 a month) has resulted in the slaying of 6,741 Mau Mau and the capture of 12,000.

Through the two years of terror, probably no Englishman in Kenya was more sympathetic to the problems and irritations besetting the Kikuyu than sixtyish Arundel Gray Leakey, a resident of Kenya for close to half a century. Like his better-known cousin, L.S.B. Leakey, the world's topmost authority on Kikuyu manners and morals and official interpreter at the trial of Mau Mau Chieftain Jomo Kenyatta, Gray Leakey had been accepted into the Kikuyu tribe as a "blood brother" and spoke the native language as readily as he did English. Refusing to believe that Mau Mau would harm either himself or his family, he never carried a gun as he made the rounds of his lonely farm 100 miles north of Nairobi.

One night a month ago, Gray Leakey was challenged by prowling armed terrorists. In their own dialect, he told them that he was unarmed, turned his back and strolled away. True to his expectations, they let him go unharmed. One evening last fortnight, however, as Leakey, his wife and his stepdaughter Diana Hartley were having supper at the farm, a band of 30 Mau Mau swarmed out of the woods. Mrs. Leakey rushed to the bathroom with her daughter and helped her escape through a trap door into an attic above. Mrs. Leakey herself was too weak to follow. When Diana emerged an hour later, her mother was lying dead on the lawn, cruelly slashed with Mau Mau knives. Gray Leakey was nowhere to be found.

For days after, native and European police by the hundreds combed the jungle searching for Gray Leakey, a diabetic who could scarcely survive four days anywhere without proper medical care. Last week the search was given up. Cousin Leakey took to the air to warn other Kenya whites against such kindness and complacency as that of Arundel Gray Leakey.

Extract ID: 5225

See also

nTZ Feedback
Extract Author: Tim McCarty
Page Number: 2007 06 20
Extract Date: 1970'S

Mau Mau Book

Many years ago, possibly as long as the early 1970'S(???) I read a book that I feel was one of the most interesting I have ever read.

The book began with two young men, one white and the other African who were best of friends. The first 1/3 of the book was purely becoming acquainted with the characters and the enviroment.

The final 2/3 of the book was about the Mau Mau rising and how the two friends were now on opposing sides, the African man becoming a very powerful chief of the Mau Mau.

I cannot recall the books name or author and have searched extensively, trying to 'stumble' across it. For years I thought the name of the book was something like 'The Lion in Winter'...but from what I can tell, that is another book altogether.

The book was about 600 pages in length.

Does this description sound familiar to anyone? I can recall specific sections of the book and can probably share those if anyone would like to see if it sounds familiar.

Thanks so much for any assistance....

Best Regards,


Extract ID: 5414

See also

nTZ Feedback
Extract Author: Hazel Redgrave (nee Miller)
Page Number: 2007 10 08

Mau Mau

Jambo - have just discovered your ntz pages and have spent hours happily reading. I was a Kongwa School girl in 1949 as a day scholar, then 1952-4 as a boarder, but recognise some names.

However, the book that Tim McCarty is looking for about the Mau Mau is: 'Something of Value' by Robert Ruark.

It came out in 1955 (publisher: Hamish Hamilton). I agree, it's a superb book, so is 'Uhuru' by the same author. Both of these books can usually be found on eBay - I got a smashing hardback of each book there for pesa kidogo sana.

Extract ID: 5481