Film ID:
YFA 1896



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This is a film made by Audrey Lewis during her time working as a missionary and, "under great difficulty at a time in Kenya in the 1950s when the country was going through a time of change and pressure with the active Mau Mau terrorist movement." The film was made on a shoestring budget between 1953 and 1958. Lewis drafted the commentary which was finalised and published by the Methodist Missionary Society, London. A well-known BBC commentator, Alvar Lidell, was engaged to read the commentary for the film. The background of African music was recorded by Lewis using a tape recorder run from the battery of a Land Rover. It was filmed at different times and under great difficulties in travelling during this period because of the Mau Mau terrorist movement sweeping through Northern Kenya. Some of the scenes from the coastal area were uniquely filmed in the 'Kaya', the place of African ancestral worship in the forest.

Title: 'African Eden' Photography: 'Audrey Lewis'

The film opens with some African drumming and dancing and moves onto show some of the grass huts and people of a village. A woman uses a large wooden mortar and pestle. The commentary states that the villagers perform their duties, "with, never against, time." There are children down by the river, a hunter with a bow and arrow, and a woman with some gourds. Men sit in a circle talking and smoking a pipe. These men are described by the commentary as, "the living custodians of the traditions of the people." Next to them stand wooden effigies, with cloth 'scarves', which are erected when a person dies. Mourners feed the departed with oil which is placed in a coconut shell at the base of the effigy. A priest bangs on a drum outside the secret house, forbidden to women, carrying out sacred rites. Another performs a dance.

The local landscape is featured, and the commentary remarks on its beauty. A Land Rover drives along a muddy path, and giraffes roam in a game reserve along with bison and deer. A naturalist inspects a large termite mound. Workers load goods and unload barrels from boats on a river. In a town, traders push carts along the streets and women carry baskets. A group of children wave at the camera. There are mosques, with one having a sign declaring, 'Welcome to our Hazar Imam'. A large number of people are at a fair on various rides. Hindu pilgrims visit local shrines in a city. Fort Jesus, in Mombasa, is shown. A ship arrives at the "English harbour and port" in Mombasa, and at a building site there is a sign for Berkeley Electrical Engineering Co. Ltd.. Some of the docks and main streets are shown, including the elephant tusk Gateway to Mombasa Archway, located over Moi Avenue.

There are more city scenes before returning to the village and the Medicine Man. A group of village men sit lined up in front of a white missionary and an African Christian preacher who speaks to them. Two white women missionaries chant with local women, and a male missionary distributes Christian tracts to children where there is a Sunday School. Villagers in colourful dress make their way to a Christian missionary church. Outside there is a school teaching literacy and sewing, and a white woman is teaching a group of girls folk dancing, "from local and European traditions." They are then shown tending a vegetable patch. Another group of girls sit in a large circle following movements from a Girl Guide leader. Three girls stand up in their Girl Guide uniforms and make a Girl Guide salute. Boys do physical exercises, and the parents display some of their handwork, including baskets and hats. Following this is a sports competition including sprinting and jumping. A blackboard shows the scores of the teams including Ribe Boy's and Girl's School. One of the white teachers plays an accordion and leads a group of children.

On the river, there are people rowing canoes. The commentary warns against the dangers of crocodiles and disease. People take a boat, the Naghea Ya Tana, down the river. When it docks, a person on a stretcher is carried off to go to the hospital located in a group of one-story blue roofed buildings. Here there is a woman with swollen feet, and a man with only stumps for feet.

In the Kikuyu country new irrigation projects are shown in use, and one village has an Othaya Health Centre. The commentator remarks that the children's parents knew the prisons of the Mau Mau prison camps. A brick house is being built, and a bus heads off for town. The commentator states that the overcrowding and vice of the overburdened towns creates, "an atmosphere of discontent, out of which movements like that of the Mau Mau can grow." They become caught up in struggles which "express the sub-conscious resentment of the soul." Outside a shop there is a poster for an Indian film.

Locals attend the Bahati Martyrs' Church and Community Centre, one man has an arm sling put on. Others are taught medicine, cooking and how to look after their children. Men and women exit the church after a service where the commentary states that they will have been helped to face the problem of race, "the greatest problem in Kenya today." The film then shows members of the different religions of the country, expressing the hope that people of "different learning, culture and temperament can learn the meaning of peace." Showing a modern Wesley Methodist Church, the commentary also declares that, "Indians, Africans, Arabs and Europeans must learn the way of Christ."
Inside the church, the congregation receive communion.

End credits: 'Produced and Distributed by the Methodist Missionary Society'