- what is that ?
got it's name from
's original name is Kirinyaga in the predominant Kikuyu language spoken along
the slopes. The Europeans, however, approached the mountain from the side
where the Meru community lived and lives, who could not pronounce the name
Kirinyaga properly. They said Kiinya, the result with the Whites was "
Kirinyaga is a Kikuyu term that roughly means "that which has spots".
They called the mountain - "kirinyaga" because of the white spots (snow)
they saw on top of it. Consequently, they called their god "Mwenenyaga"
meaning, the owner of the white spots on top of the mountain. This rendered
the mountain it's huge significance to them and to those who associated with
them in terms of barter, covenants and other traditional interactions.
Another story has it that the name has its origin in the Kamba word for what
. On December 3 1849, Rev. Krapf while on a visit of Kitui, sighted a
snow-capped mountain. Asking for its name, the trader chief Kivoi ( actually
not a real chief, traditionally Kambas had no aristocracy) told him it was 'kiima
ki-nyaa'. Nyaa is Kamba language for ostrich. The name therefore, roughly
translated to 'mountain of the ostrich', possibly was named so for its
resemblance to the white longer plumage of this bird. Kenia is likely to be
the European evangelist's corruption of ki-nyaa.
The Kamba couldn't have known the difference between "nyaga" the
ostrich, and "nyaga" the spots since this was deep Kikuyu. Even
today the term "nyaga" in reference to spots is hardly used.
Poor Krapf's report of his 'discovery' of a snow-capped mountain which he had
named Mt. Kenya, was met with skepticism and outright ridicule by western
scholars, till ....,to cut a long story short, in 1920 the British East
African Protectorate was renamed the 'Kenya' colony, the precursor to
Even today many rural members of the 56 different Nations which were packed
into the colonial boundaries do only understand the term "
" as the land around the mountain, while they have very distinct names
for their own states and homelands.
And who was in
a thousand years ago?
Most tribes one would easily recognize trooped into this area in waves during
most of the last millennia. They displaced, assimilated and to some extend
annihilated some bushmanoid tribes. Examples of these hunter/gatherer
communities were the Gumba (extinct), Athi (most likely extinct), Yaaku (nearly
extinct)and are the suviving Watha (often called also Sanye by the Swahili
speakers or Waliangulu by the Kamba), the Ogiek and the Aweer (called even by
Kenyan officials with the derogatory term Boni), which all often falsely are
referred to as Ndorobo (i.e. “poor folk without cattle” in the Maa
language of the Maasai).
It is surprising that some groups like the Maasai have taken the mantle of
'indigenous' to describe their status in
, and therefore claim their right of needing special rights. The Maasai are
relatively new in
, and their status alike the invading Nilots and Bantu speaking people for the
last 500 odd years was akin to that of colonizers.