Chronicles of an Architect: Understanding the Mjengo lingo Spoken in Kenya’s Construction Sites

By Virginia Mwangi / June 8, 2019




There is no unique and enjoyable language I have heard like that of mjengo people. The talk and language ease your muscle strain and makes you forget the China loan that as rumored could have enslaved.

“My fundi tells me that we need to buy “mukwa” and “fisher board “. What could he be referring to?” My client asked me. I get asked these questions often by first time home builders who are going it alone in the construction of their projects.

In addition, there is also another group of clients who do not get satisfied with the explanations of their fundi and Google has failed to educate them. Therefore, they seek these answers from those they deem to be the custodians of this information.

Today let us discuss the construction site lingo that one is likely to encounter in a construction site in Kenya. This language is mostly not documented, unlike the technical terms.

Kabiru ya wembe

During my attachment at a construction site in Runda, I was told a mason that his wall was not plumb. He looked at me strangely and he told me “Hii ukuta iko na kabiru ya wembe” literally meaning “this wall has the plumpness of a razor blade.” I did not understand, so it was my turn to look at him strangely.

He went ahead to demonstrate using a plumb bob and I saw what he meant. The plumb bob is used to measure the verticality of a masonry wall and what the mason was telling me is that the wall was so vertical that only a razor blade can get between the plumb bob and the wall.

Their sense of humor is simply out of this world.

Chimba Mtaro

At the foundation level, the terms and phrases that you will likely hear include: chimba mtaro which means “digging trenches” mostly for the strip footing. In a strip footing foundation, the trenches are done then some concrete of about 2 inches deep is poured to protect the steel reinforcement (chuma) from getting in direct contact with the soil. After the steel reinforcement is laid as per the requirements, concrete Koroga is then poured to complete the strip footing.

Then the foundation walling will also require to have the “kabiru ya wembe”. Well compacted hardcore filling is done in the spaces enclosed by the foundation walling, then a 2-inch thick quarry dust (vumbi ya kware) blinding is applied. At this stage, termite control dawa ya mchwa is also applied. A damp proof membrane (karatasi ya polythene) is then laid on the treated quarry dust blinding.

At the slab level, the phrases and terms you will encounter among others include the following; Weka shutter meaning the installing of the formwork that would hold the concrete when it is being poured, Koroga which means the whole process of mixing and pouring concrete.

The walling that comes up after the slab is done will also attract its own terms. For example, applying mortar on the blocks for bonding (funga joints) is also done.

Mukwa is simply hooped iron. It is laid on alternate courses of a masonry wall that is less than 200mm thick. Weka key refers to the decorative process of using steel rebar to accentuate the vertical or horizontal joints of a masonry wall.

Weka niro

Weka niro is a phrase that is used and it refers to the using of neat cement on floors or walls.

Fisher Board

Finally, at the roof level, you will likely hear phrases or terms like “fisher board” this is actually fascia board which is normally installed at the edge of the roof.

Kofia

Kofia is another term and it is used to refer to the coping that comes on top of the parapet wall or to terminate a free-standing wall.

I have not exhausted all the phrases or terms used but armed with this knowledge, you can always add onto it.

In the comment section, feel free to share what you have heard in construction sites and we can try shedding some light on the real meaning.





More Articles From This Author








Other Related Articles










SOKO DIRECTORY & FINANCIAL GUIDE

ARCHIVES

2019
  • January 2019 (256)
  • February 2019 (216)
  • March 2019 (285)
  • April 2019 (254)
  • May 2019 (272)
  • June 2019 (251)
  • July 2019 (340)
  • August 2019 (293)
  • September 2019 (170)
  • 2018
  • January 2018 (291)
  • February 2018 (219)
  • March 2018 (278)
  • April 2018 (225)
  • May 2018 (238)
  • June 2018 (178)
  • July 2018 (257)
  • August 2018 (249)
  • September 2018 (256)
  • October 2018 (287)
  • November 2018 (284)
  • December 2018 (187)
  • 2017
  • January 2017 (183)
  • February 2017 (195)
  • March 2017 (207)
  • April 2017 (104)
  • May 2017 (169)
  • June 2017 (205)
  • July 2017 (190)
  • August 2017 (195)
  • September 2017 (186)
  • October 2017 (235)
  • November 2017 (253)
  • December 2017 (266)
  • 2016
  • January 2016 (165)
  • February 2016 (165)
  • March 2016 (190)
  • April 2016 (143)
  • May 2016 (246)
  • June 2016 (183)
  • July 2016 (271)
  • August 2016 (249)
  • September 2016 (234)
  • October 2016 (191)
  • November 2016 (243)
  • December 2016 (153)
  • 2015
  • January 2015 (1)
  • February 2015 (4)
  • March 2015 (166)
  • April 2015 (109)
  • May 2015 (117)
  • June 2015 (121)
  • July 2015 (150)
  • August 2015 (157)
  • September 2015 (188)
  • October 2015 (170)
  • November 2015 (174)
  • December 2015 (208)
  • 2014
  • March 2014 (2)
  • 2013
  • March 2013 (10)
  • June 2013 (1)
  • 2012
  • March 2012 (7)
  • April 2012 (15)
  • May 2012 (1)
  • July 2012 (1)
  • August 2012 (4)
  • October 2012 (2)
  • November 2012 (2)
  • December 2012 (1)
  • 2011
    2010
    2009
    2008
    2007
    2006
    2005
    2004
    2003
    2002
    2001
    2000
    1999
    1998
    1997
    1996
    1995
    1994
    1993
    1992
    1991
    1990
    1989
    1988
    1987
    1986
    1985
    1984
    1983
    1982
    1981
    1980
    1979
    1978
    1977
    1976
    1975
    1974
    1973
    1972
    1971
    1970
    1969
    1968
    1967
    1966
    1965
    1964
    1963
    1962
    1961
    1960
    1959
    1958
    1957
    1956
    1955
    1954
    1953
    1952
    1951
    1950