Jomo Kenyatta was born Kamau wa Muigai (Kamau son of Muigai) around the year 1896. His father Muigai passed away when he was young, and he was inherited by his uncle Ngengi, becoming Kamau wa Ngengi. He was baptised in 1914, becoming Johnstone Kamau wa Ngengi. He had Maasai relatives in Narok who he visited regularly, and it is during these visits that for some reason, he developed a fascination with the beaded Maasai belt “Kinyatta”, so much so, that around the year 1928, he dropped his 2nd & 3rd names, and became Johnstone Kenyatta.
Actually, President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, his two sisters and his brother, may be more Maasai than they are Kikuyu i.e. Jomo Kenyatta, their father, had Maasai blood, and their mother Ngina also has Maasai blood i.e. Ngina’s mother, their maternal grandmother, was known as Nyokabi, a semi-Kikuyu, semi-Maasai name. There was heavy intermarriage between Kikuyus and Maasais from about 1850 to about 1930. For instance, Dr. Jason Likimani, who was the first indigenous Kenyan Medical Doctor by way of the Diploma in Medicine he attained in 1939, was half-Maasai and half-Kikuyu. There are still inter-marriages between the Maasai and Kikuyu, but not as much as in the olden days.
In 1938, while in the United Kingdom and studying Anthropology at the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE), Johnstone Kenyatta was due to present his thesis towards his attainment of a Diploma in Anthropology. Johnstone’s Kenyatta’s supervisor at the London School of Economics was the legendary Prof. Bronislaw Malinowiski, a renowned and respected Anthropologist in those times, sort of like the Bill Gates of Anthropology in those days, and it was under the supervision of Prof. Malinowiski that Johnstone Kenyatta prepared his thesis i.e. the 1938 book “Facing Mt. Kenya” on Kikuyu Customary Law.
However, Johnstone Kenyatta was made aware of the fact that he would appear on the cover of his thesis/book “Facing Mt. Kenya” in Kikuyu Customary Attire which would have been regarded as a mismatch and inauthentic in those days because little was known of Africa and Africans at the time (little still is actually), and the little that was known then was of a people and a continent that was still in rudimentary stages of development, with different lifestyles from Anglo-Saxon lifestyles, meaning therefore, that Johnstone Kenyatta would have needed to present himself and his book/thesis in as raw and as authentic an African manner as possible, by dispensing with the Anglicisation to his names, by further Africanising his names. It is at this point in 1938, that he dropped Johnstone and became Jomo Kenyatta. Some accounts say that it was Johnstone Kenyatta’s brother-in-law, Mbiyu Koinange, who was in London at the time, who advised that that Johnstone Kenyatta further Africanise his name, though it appears more likely that this advise came from Johnstone Kenyatta’s supervisor at the London School of Economics, the legendary Prof. Bronislaw Malinowiski, who was quite a shrewd “marketeer and salesman” apart from being a renowned academic.
Multiple generations of Kenyan primary school pupils, between around the years 1965 and 1982, were taught in primary level school Civics that the name Jomo was a combination of the names Johnstone Kamau wa Ngengi. However, Jomo may not be so much a combination of the names Johnstone Kamau wa Ngengi, as it is one of the names Johnstone Muigai. Why?
Clearly Jomo valued his biological father Muigai, more than he did his stepfather Ngengi i.e. his first son with his first wife Grace Wahu was Peter Muigai Kenyatta (1920 -1979). His son with his British wife Edna Grace Clarke is Peter Magana Kenyatta. Magana was Jomo Kenyatta’s great-grandfather i.e. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s great great grandfather, and one could assume that Jomo Kenyatta gave his son with Edna Grace Clarke the name Magana because Magana was born in Britain in 1943 during Jomo Kenyatta’s 15 year stay in Europe of 1931 to 1946 i.e. Magana was born in a distant land to a White woman, a White woman who was also distant in a symbolic sense i.e. she was White and from another land/continent and Jomo Kenyatta was Black and from another land/continent.
Going by Kikuyu Customary Law, Peter Magana Kenyatta should have been named after his paternal grandfather Muigai or his paternal step-grandfather Ngengi, not after his paternal great great grandfather Magana, hence the assumption that Jomo Kenyatta put the generational distance in naming, owing to the fact that Magana was born in “a distant land” to “a distant woman”. However an authority on Kikuyu Customary Law can clarify why specifically Jomo Kenyatta, in line with Kikuyu Customary Law, chose to name his son with Edna Grace Clarke, Magana.
Jomo Kenyatta did not have a son with his third wife Grace Wanjiku, and with his fourth wife Ngina, his first born son is Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, not Uhuru Ngengi Kenyatta. Jomo’s first son with his first wife Grace Wahu, as mentioned, was Peter Muigai Kenyatta, not Peter Ngengi Kenyatta, and his son with his second wife Edna Grace Clarke, as also mentioned, is Peter Magana Kenyatta, and not either Peter Muigai Kenyatta or Peter Ngengi Kenyatta.
Clearly Jomo Kenyatta, did not quite hold his step-father Ngengi in high regard, because if he did, he would have at least named one of his sons Ngengi, which is why by extension, one could conclude that Jomo is actually a combination of the names Johnstone Muigai, rather than a combination of the names Johnstone Kamau wa Ngengi.
Jomo was also not a church goer, like Kenya’s 2nd, 3rd and 4th Presidents i.e. Jomo only went to Church when he “couldn’t avoid it” e.g. during weddings and funerals, though Jomo Kenyatta must have kept an Anglo-Saxon component to his names (i.e. Jo in Jomo is for Johnstone), as a tribute and appreciation to the missionaries who trained him at the Church Missionaries of Scotland (CMS) mission at Thogoto, Kiambu, around the years 1911 to 1913, training that enabled him become the founding Prime Minister and founding President of Kenya.
And in the same breath, Jomo’s loyalties firmly remained with his biological mother Wambui i.e. his three first born daughters have the name Wambui i.e. Amb. Margaret Wambui Kenyatta (RIP), Jennifer Wambui Kenyatta and Christina Wambui Kenyatta-Pratt. Jomo did not have a daughter with his British wife Edna Grace Clarke, though if he did, it would have been interesting to note what name he would have given her i.e. the name of her paternal grandmother, or the name of her paternal great great grandmother, as in Magana’s case. Join us for more historical facts on Kenya @EaccNet