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Visions of the African Press in Colonial Kenya: What the Nationalists Imagined
Unformatted Document Text:  10 Though most printing by nonwhites was done by Asians in Kenya, Odinga notes that they employed only Africans so that they might learn printing techniques and management of the business. Many publications attempted to finance themselves through sales and advertisements, and such endeavors forced new editors to learn sales techniques and the mechanics of setting up and keeping track of a distribution network. Their primary difficulty was the same one faced by nearly every publication in Kenya produced since: generating enough money to stay afloat. While the European settlers dismissed the arrival of these periodicals (as one administrator put it: "They are not of course newspapers at all, they are just broadsheets: they don’t contain any news" 25 ), the African papers proved very popular with their intended audience. They succeeded despite the obvious lack of resources available to produce them. Muigwithania was described as "badly printed" but well-liked by its African readers, while Inooro ria Gikuyu ("The Sharpening Stone of the Kikuyu"), which was published on mimeographed sheets, was not "any less popular" for its appearance. 26 Even Mboya’s newsletter, described as nothing more than a small mimeographed sheet, earned a loyal audience. Editors were aware of the lower physical quality of their publications as compared with those produced by the settlers, yet they proudly noted that their newspapers still appealed more to readers. Despite the higher quality printing of the government-run vernacular papers, they never achieved success. Beginning to build a community African nationalists saw the newspapers as tools to allow Africans to create a community that was not based on face-to-face interaction but on a community that existed across time and space, or what Benedict Anderson (1983/1991) calls an 25 Felice Carter, "The Kenya Government and the Press, 1906-1960," Hadith, 2, 1970, 249. 26 Kaggia 84.

Authors: Wall, Melissa.
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10
Though most printing by nonwhites was done by Asians in Kenya, Odinga notes
that they employed only Africans so that they might learn printing techniques and
management of the business. Many publications attempted to finance themselves through
sales and advertisements, and such endeavors forced new editors to learn sales techniques
and the mechanics of setting up and keeping track of a distribution network. Their
primary difficulty was the same one faced by nearly every publication in Kenya produced
since: generating enough money to stay afloat.
While the European settlers dismissed the arrival of these periodicals (as one
administrator put it: "They are not of course newspapers at all, they are just broadsheets:
they don’t contain any news"
25
), the African papers proved very popular with their
intended audience. They succeeded despite the obvious lack of resources available to
produce them. Muigwithania was described as "badly printed" but well-liked by its
African readers, while Inooro ria Gikuyu ("The Sharpening Stone of the Kikuyu"), which
was published on mimeographed sheets, was not "any less popular" for its appearance.
26
Even Mboya’s newsletter, described as nothing more than a small mimeographed sheet,
earned a loyal audience. Editors were aware of the lower physical quality of their
publications as compared with those produced by the settlers, yet they proudly noted that
their newspapers still appealed more to readers. Despite the higher quality printing of the
government-run vernacular papers, they never achieved success.
Beginning to build a community
African nationalists saw the newspapers as tools to allow Africans to create a
community that was not based on face-to-face interaction but on a community that
existed across time and space, or what Benedict Anderson (1983/1991) calls an
25
Felice Carter, "The Kenya Government and the Press, 1906-1960," Hadith, 2, 1970,
249.
26
Kaggia 84.


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