Zimmermann estate in Nairobi’s Eastlands, off the Thika Superhighway, is nicknamed ‘Zima,’ but is pronounced ‘Ziima.’
The estate like alongside Eastleigh, is a 24-hour residential economy neighbourhood, mainly because of the 24-hour transport system. In ‘Zima,’ one can buy a kilo of meat from a butchery at midnight, buy a matchbox from a corner duka at 2am, and catch a matatu to the CBD on any given Sunday!
Bars don’t necessarily follow Mututho Laws of closing at 11pm, giving this congested estate a touch of debauchery and decadence, as well as a dash of danger, especially at night.
‘Zima,’ thus, has with it, a volatile edginess accentuated by its busy mass of humanity and dust-coated, high-rise buildings resembling bad teeth in the open mouth of a drunkard who has chewed a blackout by the roadside!
Bar and hotel waiters, ‘night nurses’ and makangas find ‘Zima’ very attractive to the pocket, rent-wise that is, and hence the epidemic of bachelors and bachelorettes living there, besides new jobbers who have to survive on meagre first salaries.
But did you know that it was in this estate that the late Ferdinand Marcos, the President of Philippines for 20 years to 1986, came shopping for stuffed game trophies?
See, ‘Zima’ hosted Zimmermann Ltd, the second largest taxidermy company in the world after Jonas Brothers of the USA.
Taxidermy, for those not in the know, is the art of stuffing and mounting dead animals for display (like the early man ones that stare at visitors at the Nairobi National Museum).
Before it closed shop in 1977 - the year game hunting was banned in Kenya - Zimmermann Ltd also boasted a tannery whose by-products included zebra carpets, warthog tusk beer openers, elephant ear handbags, elephant feet dustbins, earring pendants shaped out of lion claws, and pouches fashioned from buffalo scrotums.
Five-star hotels, museums and millionaire collectors went to Zimmermann to buy ivory statues, rhino horn carvings, stuffed wildebeest, impala and gazelles, which also interested president Marcos, who ordered for stuffed game trophies for museums in Philippines.
Jomo Kenyatta’s State House - which he rarely used - also sourced its game trophy decorations from Zimmermann, as did other presidents, kings, queens and princesses.
Did you know ‘Zima’ fleshed its name from Karl Fritz Paul Carl Zimmermann, an adventurous German taxidermist who came to Kenya in 1929 as a university researcher, but stayed in the area, then surrounded by sisal and Napier grass, and where he founded the Zimmermann Ltd? Mr Zimmermann succumbed to cancer in 1971.
Did you also know that Zimmermann Ltd was located next to River Ruaraka, where women bathed and did laundry? Well, the river was nicknamed Rui rwa aka, which is Kikuyu for ‘river for women’ — or so goes the yarn - and which was corrupted to Ruaraka!