Forbidden Love That Changed Kenya's View of Black and White Marriage

  • Kimuyu and Holloway after their wedding in 1957. Their marriage caused an uproar all the way to England, but it led to the normalization of interracial relationships. File
  • Life in Kenya was hard in the 1950s, with the Britons being on a rampage to quash the Mau Mau rebels.

    White men are reported to have been bitter with the locals. Britain's grip on Africa was beginning to loosen, as Africans traversed the world to wrench the continent out of the hands of colonialists. 

    Taking advantage of the last gasps of a dying Kingdom was John Kimuyu Kalendo.

    The newspaper cut from The Guardian newspaper in the UK, written in January 1957 detailing the interracial relationship between Kimuyu and Holloway.
    The newspaper cut from The Guardian newspaper in the UK, written in January 1957 detailing the interracial relationship between Kimuyu and Holloway.

    Aged 26, John was smitten by a 35-year-old teacher from England by the name Ruth Holloway, whom he had known for 2 years.

    Holloway met John in 1955 when working at Salvation Army School for The Blind in Thika, where she taught him how to read braille.

    Their romance brewed when Holloway took to teaching Kimuyu braille, while he taught her how to speak African languages, which he was well-versed in.

    The Guardian reported on January 7, 1957, that Kimuyu became blind after catching malaria at the age of 2, but that did not stop them from falling in love.

    A few days to their wedding, the newspaper reported that there were attempts to dissuade Holloway from marrying her lover, with friends telling her that he barely had enough money to take care of her.

    "I'll work for both of us if necessary. I am used to living rough in Britain's slums and I am not afraid," she was quoted responding to her friends. 

    Owing to the social environment then, the wedding is reported to have been conducted in deep secrecy at the district commissioner's office, to avoid disruption by Europeans in Kenya who did not take kindly to the arrangement.

    Even though there were no flowers during the wedding, it was reported that then DC, Wilkinson, borrowed 2 vases of flowers intended for a European's wedding to brighten their day.

    The ceremony caused so much of a stir that even The Guardian published the story.

    Holloway died in 1996, but Kimuyu is still alive, with most of his grandchildren living in the UK.

    Here is a video of the wedding ceremony.