LOUIS SEYMOUR BAZETT LEAKEY
Louis was an iconoclast during the colonial era; often referred to as the “black man with a white face” he felt more at ease among Kikuyu than among British. Although raised by missionary parents, he felt strongly that complete elimination of Kikuyu religious and non-religious customs would be devastating to their culture. Louis believed that giving up Kikuyu traditions, customs and beliefs in the name of Christianity would be harmful to the rich Kikuyu culture that he had experienced in his youth. He felt it was imperative that Christianity incorporate the traditional beliefs and moral codes that had governed the Kikuyu for centuries.
Louis wanted to write an ethnography about the Kikuyu for years, but had been engaged in other work. When the opportunity presented itself, he did not have the funds to conduct his fieldwork. Louis wrote to many organizations in order to secure grant money to carry out his fieldwork among the Kikuyu. In 1936, he successfully secured funds from The Rhodes Trust, at which time his work began. The ethnography, The Southern Kikuyu Before 1903, was completed in 1939. Later that year, World War II broke out and Louis found himself conducting Kikuyu radio broadcasts, which included war updates and other world news, local news, weather, Kikuyu folktales and music.