There is a need to record information on cemeteries and burials as soon as possible, East Africa is a huge region that I cannot cover alone and deterioration is occurring much faster than most people realise.
Nairobi South Cemetery was established when Nairobi was in its infancy and was used until it became full around 1920. Amongst others it contains the graves of Charles Henry Ryall, and Peter Cameron Scott, founder of the Africa Inland Mission.
In September 2004 I visited this cemetery to take photographs of some of the headstones that had been recorded by hand 2 years previously. Then in June 2006 I went back a third time to make a photographic record of every headstone. Of the stones I had photographed in 2004 at least 8 had been smashed or flattened. Three stones that had only been recorded by hand could not be located at all.
The situation in Nairobi South Cemetery is undoubtably the worst I have found so far but it is not unique. Realistically there may be little that can be done to stop the vandalism which is why it is important to record as much as possible without delay.
You can help if you can do any of the following
- PHOTOGRAPH YOUR LOCAL CEMETERY: If you have a digital camera and some spare time would you be prepared to photograph your local cemetery?
- LOCATE CEMETERIES: Do you know the location of old disused cemeteries? I have located Imani Cemetery at Thika and visited it with permission of the current land owner. There must be others!
- LOCATE BURIAL RECORDS: Do you know where there are burial records? Many of the smaller disused cemeteries have no registers. Typically, the small cemetery by Fort Smith in Kabete is reported to have up to 5 graves. Only 2 have stones so the others will remain anonymous forever if we cannot find out who is buried there!
- INDIVIDUAL GRAVES: Do you know the location of individual graves. Some people elected to be buried on their own property or elsewhere. The more famous, such as Sir Northrup McMillan on Donyo Sabuk and Russel Bowker on Mount Margaret are known. Lesser mortals may be lost forever.
- PERSONAL PHOTOGRAPHS: Do you have photographs you are willing to share of headstones that may already have disappeared? Many graves originaly had markers that have long since gone and it makes a record much more interesting if there is a photograph. There is little point in including a photograph of a plain grass plot and an old photograph would help complete a record..
If you can help in any way, particularly if you live in East Africa, please contact me on email
Bob Barnes, Nairobi.