- 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
Another story has it that the name has its origin in the Kamba
word for what we now
. 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 independent Kenya.
Even today many rural members of the 56 different Nations which
were packed into the colonial boundaries do only understand the
" 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.