Mwney Hadithi was born in 1950 in Nairobi, Kenya, in a rambling wood house surrounded by ten acres of bush with a river, and a crocodile who wandered in one morning and went to sleep by the ironing board, and a Heffalump who got stuck in the garden gateway one night.
Locally schooled at Kenton, then UK to Rugby, then to London for University, where reading foreign literature inspired him to collect traditional African stories, the amusing animal ones rather that the scary ones about women who turn into hyenas.
Back home to a solitary white house on the coast, built by Denys Finch-Hatton in the Out of Africa days. It overlooked a deserted, half-moon sandy bay where basking sharks rolled in the creek, and secret coral tunnels ran through the cliffs under the house emerging in a ruined 14th century village out back. The solitary neighbour was a snake collector who milked poisonous snakes for their venom. The place was magical, with one foot in the invisible world.
Here Greedy Zebra (1984) was written, the first of the Mwenye Hadithi books. In true storytelling tradition these animal tales are a patchwork of traditional myths and original stories, woven with fresh motifs, moral lessons and threads of humour.
Inspired by the extraordinary animals all around him, each with it’s own story to tell, there are now 13 books in the series, in many languages from Zulu and Xhosa to Chinese and Japanese, delighting children across the planet.
After scripts for some 20+ episodes of the Disney/BBC animated series Tinga Tinga Tales, a new Hadithi series is in the works, this time focusing on stories from the Bird Kingdom, always beautifully illustrated by Adrienne Kennaway.
Mwenye’s most recent book is The Wild Flufflump, a stand-alone tale written to support TUSK Trust and pachyderms everywhere, with the aim of making younger readers want to cuddle elephants and protect them forever.