Photos From The Old Africa Album


After I had posted the Kenya diary excerpt yesterday (see previous post), I found I could do passable scans from one of our old albums. So here are the photos of ‘A Day At The Nairobi Races’  – two 6WordSaturday titles for one then.

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Members of the Police Anti-Stock Theft Unit from Kenya’s Northern District – completing the race that never was.


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The real racing begins which reminds of an even more historical account of the Nairobi races.

In 1931 Evelyn Waugh arrived in Kenya during Race Week which was by then a colonial institution. I gather it took place between Christmas and New Year when the smart-set settlers left their upcountry farms and headed for town. Every night was party night at the Muthaiga Club. Here are some excerpts from Waugh’s day out at the races from Remote People:

I found myself involved in a luncheon party. We went on together to the Races. Someone gave me a cardboard disc to wear in my button-hole; someone else, called Raymond, introduced me to a bookie and told me which horses to back. None of them won…

Someone took me to a marquee where we drank champagne. When I wanted to pay for a round the barman gave me a little piece of paper to sign and a cigar.

We went back to Muthaiga and drank champagne out of a silver cup which someone had won.

Someone said, ‘You mustn’t think Kenya is always like this.’

And some sixty years on to 1994 when these photos were taken…


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The Steward’s Enclosure. The colours of the day were red and white, and the lady in the red and white hat won ‘best outfit’.

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The Chief Steward




But when it comes to the old colonial residue, one key thing has  obviously changed. In 1963 Kenya won independence from Britain. But here’s the catch. As colonial private interest dwindled, so came the invasion of the multi-nationals. The American corporation Del Monte was one of the first. They took over Kenya Canners and the Thika pineapple plant. Another big investor was the Anglo-African giant Lonrho, here sponsoring the races.  This entity started out in 1909 as the London and Rhodesian Mining Company. During the ‘60s Lonrho bought up British firms throughout Kenya including the Standard newspaper, farms, distributors, wattle estates, and a large vehicle importer*. During the ‘90s Lonrho also owned some of the country’s most prestigious tourist hotels including The Ark, the Norfolk Hotel and the Mount Kenya Safari Club. There’s a postscript to this later.

Now back to the album:

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The Kenya Air Force Band waiting for their next stint between the races


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The main grandstand


And for the children – donkey cart rides, face painting and Mr. Magic


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Postscript: from the Standard newspaper 15 May 2005

John Kamau reports:

Nairobi — The once politically-connected Lonrho Plc has finally called it a day in Kenya after selling its last five prime properties to Saudi-billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

In what may be one of the largest take-overs in Kenya in recent history, Kingdom Hotel Investments, owned by Alwaleed, on Wednesday took over the historic Norfolk Hotel, Mount Kenya Safari Club, Aberdare Country Club, The Ark and Mara Safari Club. Alwaleed also owns the famous London Savoy.

All of which prompts me to ask who actually does own Kenya these days?

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

Six Word Saturday  Please pop over to Debbie’s at Travel With Intent. She has posted some fabulous shots of the Forth Bridge – another example of how historical constructs can long endure, some far more useful than others.


*Charles Hornsby 2013 Kenya: A History Since Independence

31 thoughts on “Photos From The Old Africa Album

  1. I don’t know who owns Kenya but electioneering by helicopter must mean there’s lots of money being made by some people. I have just finished Remote People. Found it fascinating particularly the section on Yemen. Money or not, I hope the elections are conducted peacefully.

  2. the Waugh quotes went so well with your retrospectives despite the age gaps. Colonialism by the back door – even more despicable. p.s. did not know face painting was a la mode even then!

    1. Right with you on the despicable. Worse still is outsider governments buying up of best farmland to grow produce for themselves and so excluding locals from their own resources. Happening all over Africa.

  3. I started reading this about an hour ago, Tish, but have since been nattering on the phone to an old friend (who lived in Zimbabwe for a lot of years) and my son, so I’m a bit discombobulated. Nothing new in that department 🙂 🙂 Your scanned photos have come out really well, and are full of atmosphere.

  4. Good morning – I really enjoyed this post, especially the quote from Everlyn Waugh circa 1931. I have a feeling that days like that were quite the norm then 🙂 As for who owns Kenya…I think the same question can be asked about the UK and most of the rest of the world today. The individual and corporate fat cats, do seem to run the show…..and look what a mess they have made of everything ! I hope that you are enjoying a glorious day in your garden. I am off to listen to some jazz with good friends – Janet

  5. Interesting Tish, When I saw the lady in red & white, that won best outfit, it reminded me of something you may have seen Princess Diana dressed in, no wonder she won! decades before Diana! Stylish looking outfit.!

    1. I think you’re right about the Diana red and white outfit. And in fact the photo might be roughly contemporary with Diana’s version – it was taken in 1994.

  6. Fascinating! And I love the photos, so atmospheric, 1994/1964 could almost be the same looking at these. I’m afraid I have given up trying to work out who owns whom. Either the Saudis or the Chinese will rule the world eventually… 😦

  7. I’m slow. I kept wondering why a different face was responding as Tish – and then realised you’d change image! As always you’ve raised global issue – and hackles – and offered a meaty critique of ongoing colonisation.

    (I’ve just sent off your account of the Royal Ballet to two balletomane friends for their pleasure.)

    1. Thank you for sharing me, Meg. Actually I’m not recognising my own gravatar, so no bad marks for slowness. As to colonial residue, i.e. in the repercussions of colonial policy, it looks like it’s alive and well and ruling the roost in Kenya if the current election results are anything to go by. The Kenyatta Dynasty continues…

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