Reap from the exploits
Having been born before the whites arrived, Nyondo’s year of birth could only be estimated to have been in the 1840s, although his association with the church brought him close to Rebmann and forever changed his life. He served Rebmann with dedication, especially after the missionary lost his sight owing to a tropical disease.
Church records indicate that in 1872 Nyondo took Rebmann to Germany after the missionary lost his sight. He returned home four years later and was promptly employed by the Church Missionary Society of England as an African Catechist.
As Nyondo grew spiritually, his bond with the Church tightened; he was poised to reap from the exploits of the British naval troops who were combating slavery. The Rabai mission also benefitted for all the rescued slaves captured in the Indian Ocean were handed over to the mission – a development that boosted the number of Christian converts.
This is because the slaves were easier to convert than the Rabai people. Nyondo was attracted to one of the slaves, Polly who had been rescued from Bombay. Their liaison marked the start of a friendship that blossomed to marriage, for the couple was ultimately joined in holy matrimony as man and wife in 1865.
Polly was one of the six slaves who had been sold in India but were rescued and brought to Rabai in 1862. Later Rabai became a beehive of activity as freed slaves found a home in the area, leading to an establishment of a settlement exclusively for the former slaves in the area.
In 1889, a total of 2000 slaves were issued, with freedom papers duly signed by the Sultan of Zanzibar. The papers were issued by William Jones an African, and Archbishop Bins who were at the time in charge of the station.
The papers were to prevent the bearer being recaptured by slave traders or their former master, who had in the past been pursuing any rescued slaves relentlessly. Some of the freed slaves were transferred to other parts, like Mombasa’s Frere Town and Kwale, while in Rabai, they were accommodated in a special section today referred to as Adzomba.
“When Nyondo died in 1881, the school was renamed after him. He was bestowed the honour as he was the second convert to be baptised by the missionaries,” Mrenje adds.
He was also one of the handful of Africans whose remains were interred at the Rabai mission’s cemetery, just next to old Church that was reserved to those who had offered exemplary service to the Church.
At the walls of the Rabai Museum, Nyondo occupies a treasured place, where his black and white picture is prominently displayed. He cuts an impressive image of a polished gentleman in the undated photograph where he is immortalised wearing what looks like a three-piece suit, besides his wife Polly who is equally attired in a sophisticated dress.