The Southern Kikuyu Before 1903
Volumes I, II and III
Reprinted by Richard Leakey, 2008
Louis Leakey, the 20th century’s most distinguished paleo-anthropologist was also a superb ethnographer of the Kikuyu people of Kenya with whom he was raised. In addition to speaking the language, Leakey was also initiated into their traditional “age grades” as he moved through life with his Kikuyu companions
The three resulting volumes deriving from this insider’s experience and detailed discussions with elders between 1937-1939, depict the Kikuyu people as they remembered and imagined themselves to be at the end of the 19th century. The original texts were published posthumously in 1977.
Volume I covers economy, environment and history, II the life cycle and attending ceremonies and III religion, ritual and cosmology. The author admits to an intentional lack of analysis in order to allow the fascinating material to speak for itself. This labor of respectful concern and appreciation for the people themselves is a testimony to another time, place, and form of scholarship. The results have already stood the test of time and will continue to be of immense value to future students of African culture and history.