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