PALIAct Ukombozi Library

Cite as:

Okune, Angela. 2019. "PALIAct Ukombozi Library." In Scholarly Memory in Nairobi, Kenya: Care for Sites and Sourcescreated by Angela Okune, Trevas Matathia and Syokau Mutonga. In Innovating STS Digital Exhibit, curated by Aalok Khandekar and Kim Fortun. Society for Social Studies of Science. August.

Essay Meta-Narrative

PALIAct Ukombozi Library was established in 2017 in the Central Business District (CBD) of Nairobi, Kenya. The library holds approximately one thousand books and seeks to fill a gap of progressive content relevant for working class Kenyan readers. In a 2017 interview, members of the library's leadership articulated how "every decision ... – how much to spend on books, which books to buy, what staff to appoint, how to manage the service – is a reflection of [the librarians'] class position and their world outlook." The library seeks to put into practice progressive librarianship where libraries are not seen as neutral sites of knowledge, but rather "sites mandated to help create conditions where people can raise their own voice and can take their own power." One of the sponsors of Ukombozi Library is Vita Booksan independent Kenyan publisher supporting people’s struggles to create societies based on the principles of equality and justice.

This essay is part of a broader essay on Scholarly Memory in Nairobi, Kenya which includes McMillan Library, Kenya National Museum Library, British Institute in Eastern Africa Archives, Kenya National Archives, and PALIAct Ukombozi Library.

Essay Bibliography

AFP. 2018. “The Faces behind the Revival of the McMillan Library.” Daily Nation , August 11, 2018. more

Shared Questions: Innovating STS

All Innovating STS exhibits are oriented by nine shared questions in order to generate comparative insight. These are:

ARTICULATION: What STS innovations (of theory, methodology, pedagogy...Read more

About Innovating STS

Furthering its theme, Innovations, Interruptions, Regenerations , the 2019 annual 4S meeting in New Orleans will include a special exhibit, Innovating STS , that showcases innovations ...Read more


This section foregrounds artifacts created about this site either by the founders, key actors involved in the site, or others. It also includes materials that are interlinked or related such as descriptions about the digital repository third-party organizations or relevant materials found in the spaces themselves.

Vita Books: Publishing against Imperialism: Interview with Shiraz Durrani and Kimani Waweru

AO: This interview with Shiraz Durrani and Kimani Waweru by Stephanie Kitchen was conducted in 2017 and published in Read African Books. Waweru manages the Ukombozi Library on a day-to-day basis and Durrani is the founder of Vita Books, one of the collaborating founders of the library.Read more

Githethwa, Njuki. 2018. “Feeling Mwalimu Nyerere Intellectual Festival.” Pambazuka News, July 6, 2018.

AO: This article reports back on the author's experience of the 2018 Mwalimu Nyerere Intellectual Festival and includes mention of the Ukombozi Library.Read more

Gisesa, Nyambega. 2019. “The Unsung Mau Mau Heroes Who Fought for Independence.” Daily Nation, June 1, 2019.

AO: This article mentions Ukombozi library and the National Archives. It quotes Kimani Waweru, the in-charge at Ukombozi Library as saying: "There was a deliberate effort to ensure that the stories of these great men were not told. A few individuals who tried to research on...Read more

Durrani, Shiraz. 2006. Never Be Silent: Publishing & Imperialism in Kenya, 1884 - 1963. 1. ed. London: Vita Books.

From book jacket: “We will never be silent until we get land to cultivate and freedom in this country of ours” …so sang Mau Mau activists. The struggle for independence in Kenya was waged at many levels. Never be Silent explores how this struggle was reflected in the...Read more