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Visions of the African Press in Colonial Kenya: What the Nationalists Imagined
Unformatted Document Text:  11 "imagined community." 27 The newspapers gave Africans a chance to come together and work cooperatively within a single ethnic group, then later with other ethnic groups and races, to eventually articulate a sense of nationalism that fueled their independence movement. This coming together no longer had to be done in person; ideas could be shared and spread via these new publications. The press helped set new boundaries that might no longer divide Africans from each other, but instead, Africans from the colonialists. For instance, when Bildad Kaggia was arrested for printing stories the government did not like, he instructed his assistant to read the other African newspapers for guidance on what stories to run on the publication’s front page. In addition, the very distribution of the papers laid the outlines for a new community, pulling diverse people together. African-owned shops and cafes sold the newspapers while other copies were hawked in the markets and the even the streets. A newspaper such as Habari ("News") had agents throughout Kenya, selling it in the Central Province, the Rift Valley, Nyanza and even in Uganda and Tanganyika. Those who bought the periodicals were urged to share the publication with nonreaders. The editor of Habari told his audience: " ’These newspapers which are wholly African controlled, manned and operated, should be read by every African who can read and preach the message . . . to his immediate neighbors who cannot read for themselves." 28 In fact, literate Africans would often read these publications aloud - children to their parents, one literate villager to dozens of his illiterate neighbors, thereby greatly multiplying their audience. 29 Uniting a single ethnic group. Newspapers first brought together single ethnic groups as their audiences. Publications such as Muigwithania allowed a new generation 27 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, (New York:Verso, 1983/1991). 28 Gadsden 525. 29 Scotton 32. Carter 250.

Authors: Wall, Melissa.
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background image
11
"imagined community."
27
The newspapers gave Africans a chance to come together and
work cooperatively within a single ethnic group, then later with other ethnic groups and
races, to eventually articulate a sense of nationalism that fueled their independence
movement. This coming together no longer had to be done in person; ideas could be
shared and spread via these new publications. The press helped set new boundaries that
might no longer divide Africans from each other, but instead, Africans from the
colonialists. For instance, when Bildad Kaggia was arrested for printing stories the
government did not like, he instructed his assistant to read the other African newspapers
for guidance on what stories to run on the publication’s front page.
In addition, the very distribution of the papers laid the outlines for a new
community, pulling diverse people together. African-owned shops and cafes sold the
newspapers while other copies were hawked in the markets and the even the streets. A
newspaper such as Habari ("News") had agents throughout Kenya, selling it in the
Central Province, the Rift Valley, Nyanza and even in Uganda and Tanganyika. Those
who bought the periodicals were urged to share the publication with nonreaders. The
editor of Habari told his audience: " ’These newspapers which are wholly African
controlled, manned and operated, should be read by every African who can read and
preach the message . . . to his immediate neighbors who cannot read for themselves."
28
In fact, literate Africans would often read these publications aloud - children to their
parents, one literate villager to dozens of his illiterate neighbors, thereby greatly
multiplying their audience.
29
Uniting a single ethnic group. Newspapers first brought together single ethnic
groups as their audiences. Publications such as Muigwithania allowed a new generation
27
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of
Nationalism, (New York:Verso, 1983/1991).
28
Gadsden 525.
29
Scotton 32. Carter 250.


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