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Barbara Kimenye
Born Barbara Clarke Holdsworth
(1929-12-19)19 December 1929
Halifax, West Yorkshire, England
Died 12 August 2012(2012-08-12) (aged 82)
Occupation writer
Genre Children's books
Notable works Moses series

Barbara Kimenye (19 December 1929 – 12 August 2012), was one of East Africa's most popular and best-selling children's authors. Her books sold more than a million copies, not just in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, but throughout English-speaking Africa. She wrote more than 50 titles and is best remembered for her Moses series, about a mischievous student at a boarding school for troublesome boys.

A prolific writer widely regarded as "the leading writer of Children's literature in Uganda", Barbara Kimenye was among the first Anglophone Ugandan women writers to be published in Central and East Africa. Her stories were extensively read in Uganda and beyond and were widely used in African schools. Kimenye was born in England, but by her own admission considered herself Ugandan.

Early life and education

Barbara Clarke Holdsworth was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England, the daughter of a Jewish-born Catholic convert mother and a West Indian doctor father. She attended Keighley girls' grammar school before moving to London to train as a nurse. There she met many students from East Africa, and married Bill Kimenye, son of a chief from Bukoba in what was then Tanganyika. They moved to his home town on Lake Victoria in the mid-1950s. After the marriage broke up, she moved to Uganda, where she had friends.

In Kampala, she was reacquainted with many friends who had been some of the first Ugandan students in Britain. They were becoming the first leaders and professionals of what would soon be independent Uganda. The Kabaka of Buganda, Mutesa II of Buganda, invited her to work as a private secretary in his government. She lived near to the palace compound with her two sons, Christopher (Topha) and David (Daudi). During that time, her family became close to the royal family. She moved to Nairobi, Kenya, in 1965 to work on the Daily Nation, and later The EastAfrican.

She lived in Nairobi until 1975 when, with both sons in England, she moved to London. There she worked for Brent Council as a race relations adviser, while continuing to write. She assiduously followed political developments in a disrupted Uganda and played an active role supporting exile groups opposed to the rule of Idi Amin, and later the second Milton Obote regime. In 1986, with the overthrow of Obote, she returned to Uganda. She was to spend a further three years in Kampala before deciding to relocate to Kenya, where she spent the next 10 years in semi-retirement. In 1998 Kimenye finally settled back in London, where she lived happily and was much involved in community affairs in Camden. Christopher died in 2005. Barbara Kimenye is survived by David, and a granddaughter, Celeste.


Barbara always had a gift with words (she wrote her own newspaper as a child of 11) and became a journalist on the Uganda Nation newspaper. She developed a talent for storytelling, writing down the tales she told to children. Moving to Nairobi, Kenya, in 1965 to work on the Daily Nation, and later the East African Standard, Barbara was wooed by publishers who, post-independence, sought talented authors who wrote for and about African children. However, her first book, Kalasanda, for Oxford University Press (OUP), was a tale of Ugandan village life, and was followed by Kalasanda Revisited. It was after this that she turned her hand to writing for children and schools. Her first two stories, Kalasanda and Kalasanda Revisited, were successful. However, her salient legacy sits magnificently in the Moses series about a mischievous student at a boarding school for troublesome boys. Shortly before her death, she received news that the Moses series was about to be relaunched by OUP and also to be translated into Kiswahili.

Published works

Non fiction

Children's books

Moses Series

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