1900s: Rare Photos Of ‘Kisuma’ Market In Earlier Times

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A market scene at Port Florence (Kisumu) in the early 1900s

Kisumu city is believed to be one of the oldest settlements in Kenya. Historical records indicate that Kisumu has been dominated by diverse communities at different times long before Europeans arrived. The people from the Nandi, Kalenjin, Kisii, Maasai, Luo and Luhya communities converged at the tip of Lake Victoria and called the place “sumo” which literally means a place of barter trade. Each community called it different names, for instance:

 

 

The Luo called it “Kisumo” meaning “a place to look for food” such that the Luo would say “I am going Kisuma” to mean “I am going to look for food”.

 

 

The Abaluhya called it “Abhasuma” which means “a place to borrow food” such that the luhya would say “I am going Khusuma” to mean “I am going to borrow food”.

 

 

The Abagusii called it “egesumu” meaning “a structure for keeping/rearing chicken”. It is believed the Abagusii were in Kisumu but found Kisumu was not good for crop husbandry and agriculture.

 

 

The Nandi called it “Kisumett” which means a place where food was found during times of scarcity and exchange, which cannot be attacked by Nandi and Terik irrespective of any issue.

 

 

Industries are centered on processing agricultural products, brewing, and textile manufacturing. Asians once constituted more than one-fourth of the population, but that segment declined after independence in 1963.

 

 

Kisumu was identified by the British explorers in early 1898 as an alternative railway terminus and port for the Uganda railway, then under construction. It was to replace Port Victoria, then an important centre on the caravan trade route, near the delta of Nzoia River.

 

 

Kisumu was ideally located on the shores of Lake Victoria at the cusp of the Winam Gulf, at the end of the caravan trail from Pemba, Mombasa, Malindi and had the potential for connection to the whole of the Lake region by steamers.

 

In July 1899, the first skeleton plan for Kisumu was prepared. This included landing places and wharves along the northern lake shore, near the present-day Airport Road. Demarcations for Government buildings and retail shops were also included in the plan.

Source: Luo Nation

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