Barbara Kimenye; author whose works remain fresh a year after his death


Fans of one of the most popular children’s authors, Barbara Kimenye, congregated in various places last Monday to mark the first anniversary since the death of the scribe, whose books sold more than a million copies throughout East Africa.

Kimenye, who is best remembered for her Moses Series, which are about naughty students at an approved school (boarding facility for troublesome boys). Moses possesses all the good, bad and curious qualities of a teenager. Those, who enjoyed the series would remember his classmates and best friend at Mukibi’s Educational Institute for the Sons of African Gentlemen, King Kong, who was too big for his age and whose only dream was to marry South African songstress Miriam Makeba.

Kimenye wrote a column for the East African Standard in 1973 titled ‘Mainly for Women’ in which she discussed social issues dear to the fairer sex. On August 15, 1973, her piece titled ‘Staying Young Painfully’ brought forth her raw literary prowess.

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“Why grow old?” was the intro of her piece. “Why, indeed, grow old when by practising a few routine exercises and following our beauty care programme you can retain a vital, attractive appearance?”


The vintage Kimenye was describing her experience at a salon where according to her piece, she got so engrossed reading a magazine that she never noticed she was in the process receiving a hairstyle she refers to as ‘short back and sides’ instead of a mere wash and set.

“But by way of reparation, the hairdresser kindly allowed me to take the magazine home,” wrote Kimenye who died last year on August 12.

They say to be a good writer, one must also read and this was a testimony that Kimenye loved to read.

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This culture inspired the creation of other colourful characters in her books like Rukia, whose love of law and order never allowed him to keep out of anyone else’s business.

Another character in the Moses Series, Matagubya had a cunny source of banana beer, but perhaps the most colourful of the characters in Dorm Three was Itchy Fingers, the repentant thief who was always very good at giving back peoples’ belongings.

The celebrated author, who was British, married Bill Kimenye, son of a chief from Bukoba in what was then Tanganyika in the early 1950s.

They moved to his hometown in the mid-1950s.

After the marriage broke up, she moved with a toddler and another baby on the way across Lake Victoria to Uganda, where she had friends.

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In Kampala, she was reacquainted with many friends that she had met in Britain. In her article, she explained how she tried her best to keep young. One of her exercises involved a lot of strenuous movements.

Moses Series Barbara Kimenye East Africa Miriam Makeba East African Standard ‘Mainly for Women’ ‘Staying Young Painfully’ Bill Kimenye Tanganyika