How ‘Kisima cha Giningi’ set me on a career path

Posted In Education - By admin on Saturday, February 15th, 2014 With No Comments »
Children at a library. Kisima Cha Giningi by Mohamed Said Abdullah was the novel that ignited my passion for Kiswahili

Children at a library. Kisima Cha Giningi by Mohamed Said Abdullah was the novel that ignited my passion for Kiswahili

My sister deserves credit for giving to me Kisima Cha Giningi by Mohamed Said Abdullah, the novel that ignited my passion for Kiswahili while I was in upper primary school. The book was at the time a set book in secondary schools. It was a murder investigation story in which a private detective, Bwana Msa, displayed his unparalleled investigative prowess.

A house belonging to Mwana wa Giningi, an affluent woman by virtue of inheriting her late father’s estate, is broken into and some valuables stolen. The woman suspects her husband, Vuai, with whom she had some differences.

Police inspector Seif orders him arrested, but Bwana Msa, upon assessing a cigarette butt left on the table, a book with wet finger marks, the position of the shelf from which the valuables were stolen and wet foot prints on the table, concludes that the culprit must have been shorter than Vuai, had sweating palms and feet and had big lips. As investigations were underway in the house, Bwana Msa saw somebody peep through the window and then disappear into thicket.

Some days later, Mwana Wa Giningi’s body is found in the well bearing a knife wound in the chest. She was last seen going to the well to fetch water accompanied by Vuai, who was peeling sugar cane with a knife. The woman was visibly livid. She had no kind word for her husband who implored her to cool down so that they could iron out their differences amicably, at home. The inspector ordered the arrest of Vuai on basis of this account from sugarcane sellers. Even with this seemingly incontrovertible evidence, Bwana Msa produced leads which absolved Vuai, to the chagrin of the inspector.

While the two were conducting the probe on the scene of crime in the well, they heard footsteps of people running through the tunnel that connected it to the ocean. They pursued hotly, but the inspector’s pursuit is cut short when he trips and sustains an injury to the leg.

Ten days later while Bwana Msa was visiting the inspector who was recuperating when they heard from a radio bulletin that bodies of men who had disappeared 10 days before when their boat capsized had been discovered on the shore.


One of the dead men was Ali Makame, Mwana wa Giningi’s paternal uncle who believed it was his right to inherit his brother Makame wa Makame’s estate. He had feigned friendship with the woman and fanned differences between her and her husband so that when he eliminated her to pave way for his inheritance of the estate, the husband was the obvious suspect. Death denied Mwana wa Giningi and his uncle a chance to inherit the property and thus the inspector concluded that “the offender and the offended have the same fate.”

After reading the book, I narrated the story to my father, who enjoyed it and encouraged me to read some more books. I read Kiswahili books like Kusadikika, Mashetani and Masaibu ya Ndugu Jero. He invariably bought me the Taifa Leo newspaper. In school, I wrote good compositions, some of which had sleuths of Bwana Msa’s stature as characters. My teacher was impressed.

When I read Kisima cha Giningi in primary school, I was inadvertently preparing for my KCSE Kiswahili Paper Three. It was the same book I sat as a set book. Analysing it was a walk in the park for me. I would not like to be immodest, but I must state that my performance in Kiswahili was above par. When I joined university, I specialised in Kiswahili hoping to compose books like Mohamed Said Abdallah and other gallant writers in Kiswahili.

I also started writing articles and poems in the Taifa Leo. I have composed poems which have featured in the same newspaper and others have been presented by my students in music festivals. I hope to publish an anthology of Kiswahili poems some day. I have penned several short story manuscripts, among them Penzi Chungu, Kinyume cha Mambo, Siku ya Ahadi and Maji na Mafuta, which I have submitted to a publisher.

The writer teaches Kiswahili at Allan Mjomba Secondary School, Voi


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