In Summary
  • A Rwandan couple named their son after him for his generosity.
  • Prof Mabel Imbuga only had fond memories of the man she was married to for 37 years.
  • The two met in 1968 when students from Alliance Girls and Alliance Boys would go to mentor students in other high schools.

Many have read his books and few have had a chance to interact with the prolific writer Prof Francis Imbuga.

But it is not too late to get to know this man who coloured the lives of high school students with his interesting setbook; the man who is remembered, and revered at the same time, as a literature icon.

An exhibition that serves as a memorial of Prof Imbuga’s works was launched on Monday at Kenya National Archives, and it will run until April 2019.

The breakfast gala event saw the late professor’s family and close associates talk about the man they had come to know over the years as humorous and full of life.

“It’s exactly six years since dad passed on. Through your prayers and support, we thank God that we’ve grown in strength and faith to get by,” Adrian Imbuga, the only son of the Imbugas, said.


He described the late professor as humble, witty, philanthropic, headstrong and a person who had no room for mediocrity. Mzee must be rolling in his grave seeing how his favourite team AFC Leopards has been fairing lately, he added.

Prof Francis Imbuga.

Prof Francis Imbuga, holds two of the books he wrote, during an interview at his Nairobi home on November 5, 2012. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Doris Mbugua, the Imbugas eldest child, said that working on the exhibition and reading her father’s notes made her discover the world Prof Imbuga lived in at different points in his life.

“I also got see a lot of my mother during this time. As a scientist, she’s very conservative with information; but looking at pictures from the past she was able to tell us more about her life and I enjoyed the experience of her opening up to us,” Doris said.

She also found out that the novel The Animal Within, which the late professor finished writing in 1972, seemed to be inspired by his life at that point. When the book was rejected, Prof Francis Imbuga almost gave up on writing.

Imbuga’s family hopes that the exhibition will inspire younger generations to write.


Dr Evans Mugarizi said the late Prof Imbuga’s magnanimity was evident when he was asked to help set up the English Department at Kigali Institute of Education in Rwanda. When Dr Mugarizi was hired, the professor took him into his house.

Adrian Imbuga.

Prof Imbuga's son Adrian Imbuga speaks during the launch of "An Exhibition of Prof Francis Imbuga's Literary Works" at Kenya National Archives on November 19, 2018. PHOTO | THOMAS RAJULA

When their time in Kigali was coming to an end, Prof Imbuga asked that they do something for the house helps--a young man and young woman--so that they can continue earning a living. They took Alex to study tailoring and bought him a sewing machine while Maria studied catering.

“Little did we know that we were setting a foundation for a couple. They got married and had a son—Evans Imbuga,” said Dr Mugarizi.

The couple gave their son Dr Mugarizi’s first name and Prof Imbuga’s surname.

Dr Reardon Olubayo, Professor Mabel Imbuga’s older brother, praised his brother-in-law for being honourable.

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