Facing Mount Kenya

by Jomo Kenyatta

This book is about the Kikuyu culture. The Kikuyu worshiped a god called Ngai. He was known as the creator. Ngai lived at the top of Mountain Kirinyaga (now known as Mt Kenya). The first man was known as Gikuyu, and the first woman was called Mumbi. The peaks of Mount Kenya were named after Batian (who owned a lot of land during the British stay in Kenya). Batian is the highest peak, followed by Nelion which was named after Batian's brother, and the lowest peak is Lenana which is named after Batian's son. The Kikuyu usually buried their loved ones with their heads facing the mountain, and their front doors in their homes faced the mountain. Due to missionaries, most kikuyus are now Christan, and their beliefs in Ngai are now slowly fading away, as well as their cultures. The Kikuyu speak very similar language to most eastern bantus such as Kambas, Merus, and Embus. The book shows that men were poligamists, and the more the wives they had, the more popular they were around their communities. Girls, and boys become men and women when they underwent circumcision. Elders in the Kikuyu community were highly respected. Communities were usually run by chiefs. There are nine major clans in the Kikuyu tribe. I would recommend this book because it has taught me about the culture of the Kikuyu community before the British colonised Kenya, and how colonization affected the Modern Kenyans today politically, socially and economically.

Angel Mailu

Rating: 5 Recommend



As a student in Kenya, I found learning about Kenyan culture through this anthropological book very essential in understanding the history of the Gikuyu tribe and African studies in general. His late excellency Jomo Kenyatta who is arguably the most important person in Kenyan history, provides us with a plain-spoken dissertation on his people. This piece shows Kenyatta’s nationalism although he is mostly portrayed as a detached academic. Facing Mount Kenya is not characterized by patriotism but instead it is fairly obvious that you are reading something that was written by the first president of independent Kenya. Some passages are considered graphic or disturbing such as those which involve female genital mutilation, however, Jomo Kenyatta makes it perfectly clear that these practices are absolutely essential to Gikuyu life. There is no justification to the people wandering “why?” but it was a tradition and that’s considered justification enough. Kenyatta also spends as much time talking about other important events such as the British practice of Kipande. This was a very important topic as the British attempts to ban clitoridectomy was considered the last straw in the fight for independence along with suppression of religion. Reading about this harsh reality was not easy but as a student of African culture its something I needed to understand and learn.

Dev Gardi

Rating: 3 Worth reading



Facing Mt.Kenya is a book based on the Kikuyu culture, which is a culture in Kenya. They are Bantus meaning they speak a similar language to Meru. Kamba and Mbeere. The Kikuyu believed in a god called Ngai and was said to be living at Mt Kenya (was known as Mt Kirinyaga). According to their culture elders were highly respected. As a belief of the Kikuyu community, their loved ones are buried with their heads facing the mountain and also their doors. As time passed, missionaries colonized Kenya and the belief in Ngai slowly started to fade away and adapt to the new religion (Christianity). I recommend this book to other readers because it has taught me about the Kikuyu culture and I have learned so much language from the book. To me, this book is really helpful because I am from a different culture and makes the reader understand better about Kikuyu. Also, I have learned about living in the Kikuyu land before the British colonized Kenya and how it affected Kenya's life today socially, politically, and economically.

Nakae Nagayni

Rating: 5 Recommended



This manuscript written by the first President of Kenya as an independent nation, provides an in-depth pragmatic perspective of the origins and anthropology of Kenya, her people, as well as their ideals, culture and beliefs that are still upheld to date. I use the term pragmatic to describe this narrative, as I feel as though he gives a very candid view of all the history and teachings that had been bestowed upon him from a young age, to eloquently detail the beginnings, governance and practices of the Gikuyu tribe that has sustained them to remain as the most densely populated, and hence most respected tribe in Kenya to this day which predicates the notion that the Gikuyu tribe were the ‘Founders of The Nation’. He spoke of the initial division of the main clans that we have today, whose names originated from powerful the matriarchal figures who maintained rule over their families as the head of the household but were eventually overthrown by a patriarchal administration. He also highlights the transition into more modern forms of trade for ownership particularly with regard which was previously owned through obtaining first hunting and clearing rights or through familial inheritance, but in latter years it became possible to acquire land by purchase which was first exemplified by the transaction of land when the Gikuyu tribe who were eager to expand their terranean empire purchased forest land from the Ndorobo hunters. This interestingly depicts the first transaction of land owned in Kenya which has become one of the most precious commodities sold and purchased within the nations, which once was only between families but provided a stepping stone for the widespread transactions of land across the country today. President Kenyatta then goes on to write about the birth of the Kenyan economy through agricultural activity which is still the nation’s largest and most lucrative economic export. He brings to light the, although antiquated, quite intriguing educational system for the children that equipped them with very practical skills and tools to not only survive but to also thrive in the great outdoors. They prioritised more practical learning such as hunting techniques as the children grew older, but also nurtured the creativity of the children through tribal songs and dances which were also used to teach them of their history. The rituals and customs that must be executed in the long intricate ceremony of marriage where there must be an exchange if gifts and cattle between families among other things. He goes on to convey the system of governance that was implemented prior to the European advent and its transition from autocracy to democracy where important decisions regarding rules and regulations was made by a council consisting of representatives from the different villages. All in all, I would highly recommend anyone who is intrigued by the history and origins of the Kenyan culture, particularly the Kenyan youth like myself as it teaches valuable lessons and provides astute rationale behind the reason we as a people conduct ourselves the way we do today and follow certain customs that are integral to our culture. This book particularly resonated with me as I have been in British system education my entire life and had never gotten the opportunity to properly learn about and appreciate my country’s rich culture. The manuscript also elegantly portrayed the importance of tradition and the beliefs that an individual holds are, and how a great leader must cater to these beliefs in order to rally a community and take that community with them on the journey that they wish to embark on to achieve their goals. Finally, it also showed me that a good leader is not a temporary title or position it is a not just a present impact but a legacy that enriches those being led with knowledge and values that should be carried on for as long as possible beyond just the leader’s term in power but for generations to come. 

Ryan Mbai

Rating: 5 Recommended