Friday, 17 August 2012

Kuhaswa - Traditional Giriama wedding...

Samson Karisa, Malindi high School. Assisted by Sidi Mwavita
The parents of the bride groom look for the bride.They go to the bride’s home and the father of the bridegroom introduces himself and then says”Fudzire mala Mudzungu wa utsunguni”. We have come to look for the cucumber that is painful. The father of the bride answers”nanmambale”let the painful cucumber spread. The bride is then called by the father and asked any question that will take time to answer, for the intention of the parents of the bridegroom is to look and observe her body language. If the bridegroom’s parents are impressed by the bride’s character and presentation, they say that they are contented and then fix a date for the bride groom to come and see the bride for the first time.

The bridegroom is accompanied by friends and cousins to come and meets the bride. When they get there, the bride says that he has been sent by his father to come and pay a visit to the village. The father-in-law understands and calls for his daughter to bring some water to the visitors. The bridegroom is not necessarily thirsty but takes the opportunity to make the bride stay there for sometimes so that he can observe her physical features. When contented the bridegroom tells the grandma of the bride that”mautin ni toto”-meaning he is pleased.

 The bride and the bridegroom are put in one room so that they can introduce to one another and this is how it goes-: They tell their names first then:”Nidzire haha henu Kwa sababu nidza fahirwa ni nne, je unnambadze?”-I have come to your home because I have a passion for you, what do you say about that? The bride may decide to conceal her feelings-“sidzihisi ma mtu yoyosi mino” I do not feel for anybody. The bridegroom goes on persuading her”Mwanzangu umudzo zhomu ma mahedzu niknhale fukale hammenga siku zosi”My friend you are so cute and I wish I marry you we be together for the rest of our lives. The bride shrugs her shoulders meaning that she has agreed but can say it verbally. The bridegroom stands and hugs the bride then he goes out the house. He tells the grandma that things are okay and they leave. The bride groom tells his parents he is pleased and procedures follow.

The parents of the bridegroom go to the bride to discus dowry. The parents of the bride asks for”ndama”bull and”kadzama mirongomiri na nane”eight liters of liquor (mnazi) that will be sent twenty eight times. A day for giving the bull and the liquor  is planned, the visitors go to the bride and a ceremony is held. This time they take the bride with them. They sing and dance. The main song is”Nangoza mwanangu, dama mwanaanenda, zho kwaatu, anenda kwamulumewee…dede, mudzungu wa utsunguni nau hambale”meaning Iam nursing my daughter dama,the daughter is going to peoples home, to her husband, my dear the cucumber of pain let it spread. “The father in law asks for a blanket as a gift to bless the couple. The mother in-laws for an”mkamba wa kurekeketa mwana”The kanga for carrying the baby. The bride is blessed and asked to agree with all that her husband tells her .The father in law takes water and swirls in his mouth then blows it on the chest of the bride and the bride groom. The mother in law does the same. The bride groom is told that the bride is not a ball for him to beat all the time, he is advised to protect the bride in happiness and in problems.

The visitors leave the home of the bride with a thigh of a goat to the bridegroom’s home. They are supposed to go on foot irrespective of how long it may be. When the couple reaches at the bridegroom’s home, they first enter the house of the bride groom parents. Water is poured on top of the makuti and are asked to come out as it dripples on them. The parents say –“zizimwani mimwiri”let your body relax. The couple then goes to the house of the bride groom, the first day  at the bride grooms home is called”kikutamanina”-shading dews. Several chicken are slaughtered and mnazi is brought a lot for people at home to drink and seep. The bridegroom sleeps at another house while the bride sleeps with her sisters and cousins at the bridegroom’s house. The second day goats are slaughtered and people keeps on celebrating. On the third day, the relatives of the bride go back and leave the village with a goat’s thigh. The couple starts life.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Sinendet, a Ceremonial Plant among the Nandi Community...

Emmy Makokha. NMK Librarian, Kitale
During the December holiday, I visited my friend’s home in Nandi Hills for a wedding ceremony. I realized that the Nandi community is one of the ethnic groups in Kenya rich in cultural practices. Her mother told us that during ceremonies and performance of rituals, they use a plant by the name Sinendet (Periploca linearifolia), a climbing herb up to 10 m long. It grows in hedges and on the edges of forests where it scrambles over other plants. Sinendet grows in Altitude ranging from 1700m to 2400m above sea level.

Elders taking traditional brew during a ceremony
Sinendet plant was and is still widely used among the Nandi community in very many ways one of them when performing rituals like the rites of passage (circumcision), wedding and negotiation for payment of bride-wealth. During circumcision, traditional weddings and negotiation for payment of bride-wealth; the traditional brew ‘busaa’ was put inside a pot and the Sinendet was tied around the neck of the pot as a sign of respect to the ceremony. Because of twining and climbing nature of Sinendet, Nandi always tied it around the pot as a sign of peacemaking (kalyet) and bringing people together.
Sinendet Plant is also used when paying the bride-wealth to the bride’s home. Her mother told me that the cows were normally tied on the neck with Sinendet plant and taken to the family of the bride.
The Nandi also use the Sinendet plant to show peace and unity amongst themselves where there were conflicts before. The plant is also important to the community during the blessing and the giving of ancestral names to the young and the old.
Son honored after passing National Exams
It was normally placed on the neck of the child to show honor to the individual. They use the plant in honoring an individual for example the leaders within the community or a person after an excellent performance or victory in a particular event or activity especially during athletics, elections etc. where they wear the plant on their necks.
Sinendet plant is used by the Nandi as herbal medicine. The roots are known for the treatment of a number of diseases for example Diarhoea, Pneumonia, Venereal and many other diseases.

Traditional brew prepared in readiness for a ceremony

Zongo, My Real Life Experience...

Fatma Mansoor

Kongowea is on the main land at the North Coast along Mombasa - Malindi road across the Nyali Bridge. Kongowea is a big area with high population, the place host all the tribes in Kenya. This is due to the fact that the only big market in Mombasa is in Kongowea. The people living here are generally middle class there are rich people; the landlords. The houses are semi-permanent and of Swahili architecture. Four roomed house, two small rooms’ stores behind, a Swahili kitchen, a big corridor in between the rooms, a joined toilet and bath room. The space is used to welcome visitors, eating, resting to get fresh air during the day. The Swahili house has two main doors, one in front and the other behind. The Swahili house is entirely meant for a Swahili family. The design and space caters for their needs in their every day’s life, however due to economic constrains the rooms are rented out to individuals or families resulting to congestion. Sharing of facilities available e.g. the toilet, bath room, kitchen depends on the understanding of the people living there but in most of the time it creates havoc.

In 1996 I was living in Kongowea in a Swahili house, in one of the rooms. The room on the left side, immediately from the main door. The other rooms lived the people from the up country, some live with their families. I can’t remember the date but it was on a Saturday February, 1996 a day for general cleaning and laundry. I was going about my house chores, happy; I was in a good mood that day.  I was almost done at 3.30pm when I experience this sharp pain in my stomach, the pain keeps persisting and until I was very restless and cold not stand or sit any more, I ended p crawling down crying for help. Fortunately my husband arrived and immediately went to seek help to take me to the hospital from the uncle who lives just opposite our house.  Uncle Hussein (deceased Mwenyezi Mungu amrehemu) accompanied my husband to my place Mzee Hussein (Mwenyezi Mungu amrehemu amweke pahali pema pa wat wema Inshaallah) looked at me, examine me for sometime for about 5 – 7 minutes and finally he open up and said “THIS IS NOT A HOSPITAL CASE THIS IS ZONGO ACCORDING TO THE BEHAVIOR THAT I SEE” this was my first time to hear the word zongo and its was a big vocabulary to me.  

Mzee Hussein then asked my husband to go to the nearby bush to get tunguja mwitu and collect small stones to perform the zongo exercise.

My husband returned with the items and the zongo exercise was performed immediately. The foam was applied all over my body almost three times and within half an hour I was okay and standing with my two feet again. Amazing!!!
After the zongo exercise mzee Hussein asked him again to go to the bush and get Mnuko uvundo leaves. On his return he asked him to mix up the leaves and water and squeeze the green leafs to the juice add a little salt to taste and give it to her.  He said the plant is good medicine for the stomach ache, gastric, flu, and chest pain and above all it also also protect one from the evil eye.

The story is based on my true personal experience that happened way back two decades ago, and because I got married to a Digo to be precise the indigenous knowledge has helped me all along.  I use mnuko uvundo in my daily life. Especially when I give birth I use the leaves of mnuko uvundo to birth my child, I used it also as medicine to relieve stomach ache pain to my newly baby born, to protect them from evil eyes. The traditional knowledge does work wonders and I believe in it.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Wanja, Mnuko Uvundo and Tunguja Mwitu...

Khadija Baushi is a young mother. She is 20 years old. Khadija gave birth on 4th July 2012 to a baby girl and named her Rayan.  She uses indigenous knowledge to care and protect her new born baby

Use of Wanja (Eye pencil):
The mother and child use wanja to protect them from the evil eye.In case there is no wanja, charcoal is used. Khadija Baushi gave birth on the 4th July and will remain inside the house for forty days as per Islamic religion. During the forty days indoors Khaija is taken care by an elderly woman who massages both Khadija and her child every morning and evening for forty days.
During the massage the elderly lady (Mkunga) uses Simsim oil/mafuta nazi, ubani wa moto, na habasoda.  The mother would then recites Suratul Fatiha, Nas, Falak and Ahad three times religiously. This is to protect the baby and the house from any evil doing. Use of Habasoda is used to protect one from Hassad and its also believed to be antibiotic medicine. Habasoda seeds are mentioned in the Quraan that if there is any medicine that can protect one from dying then it’s “Habasoda”
The Simsim oil is thick and is preferably used on mothers and child because it keeps their body warm. New born babies and mothers are delicate and their bodies are said to be open (Poles) and therefore it’s good to use simsim oil. Simsim oil has to be applied on the fore head “UTOSI” to protect the cold”

Apart from the above, also widely used by the Digo community as medicine and protection from evil eye are:

·         Mnuko uvundo
·         Tunguja mwitu
Khadija Baushi:

Had this to say on the above plants:
Mnuko Uvundo is a wild plant found in bushes and forest. It is small and green in color and the plant is very important to the community. It is mostly is used as

·         Medicine:  The plant is used as medicine especially for new born babies, for stomach ache and also chest pains, the leaves are used to wash the baby and some is kept near the baby to protect it from evil eye.
·         The plant is also used as vegetables  

Tunguja mwitu:

Tunguja mwitu is also an important plant in the community it goes hand in hand with mnuko uvundu.  While one can use mnuko uvundo to protect him/her or the child from evil eye, tunguja mwitu is used in healing in case somebody has looked at you, hear your voice and liked then it’s said (AMEPIGWA ZONGO) “Zongo” The Zongo is said to happen when:
·         The Zongo Person set an eye on you and  liked you
·         Hear  your voice and liked it
This also applies to metal things e.g. moving cars, machines electronic and even plants:
Interestingly with zongo the person doing it, happens to like you but without his knowledge he/she harms you.

Apart from Tunguja mwitu which is poisonous and dangerous also there is also Tunguja, a plant almost resembles Tunguja mwintu but the fruits are more oval. The fruits are used as vegetables by the Mijikenda’s


To human beings: once one is said “amepigwa zongo” no herbal, scientific medicines, or even witchcraft can cure the sick person. The diseases include:
·         Severe headache pains
·         Stomach ache pains etc.

The result of Zongo is death if not discovered early enough.

Metal items e.g. cars; electronic machines stop working immediately after the “zongo” act. It is only the people who are familiar and know about the zongo act can help sort out the zongo mazingambwe, but this again depends with the individuals if you believe in it or have an idea ya (mila na desturi)

Result of the “Zongo” act:

  • Written off machines and loss of property.
  • The machines are left an unattended for a long time causing them to rust and eventually declared scrape
 For those familiar with mila na desturi usually applies the indigenous knowledge to sort themselves out of the mess and for those who are not familiar with the custom end up losing the loved ones and even their property for lack of ELIM U ASILIA – (Indigenous knowledge)

Application of Tunguja mwitu

  • Get the tunguja mwitu fruits from the bush (7) in number , small stones (7) in number and a big sufuria full of water
 The above items are then put in a sufuria full of water and mixed (kupekecha). The mixture after the “pekecha” exercise form the foams (povu), then it proves the existence of Zongo act; on the other hand if the exercise is performed and no foam is formed then this proves that there was no zongo act.

The foam is then applied all over the body, or items affected by the zongo act. The exercise is done repeatedly till no more foam is formed. When applying the foam, usually the person performing it chant “if it is a zongo mazinga mbwe” let it go. The exercise is repeated three to four times a day to make sure the zongo is completely wiped out

Time, to perform the exercise: Unless the exercise is very urgent the time preferred is very early in the morning 4am – 5am and in the evening 6.30pm and 7pm

Friday, 3 August 2012

Muhina Tree...

Mwanabwana. 7 West, Mombasa Primary School. 14 Years
One day during the school holiday l visited my grandmother and l wanted her to tell me a story on Muhina tree.
Long time ago women duties were in the kitchen including fetching fire wood for cooking. Three to five women from the same village would gather and go together for fire wood. One day one of the women started cutting the leaves of one of the trees in the forest squeezing it hard to get the juice, then she realized her hands were changing in color. The women were interested with the tree so they took it to plant in their gardens at home. Muhina tree is said to have come from Arabia and India.
Hinna leaves are removed from the tree, dried on the sun and then pounded to get the hinna powder. Hinna is used as a decoration for Islam and Swahili women as they get married and for the women attending the ceremony. Small girls and teen girls are not allowed to apply hinna. They are allowed only on Iddi celebration and only one hand and simple flowers because hinna is one sign of married women.
it is further used as decoration for women and as medicine. The hinna powder mixed with water only can be applied on the body to lower own high temperature also you can apply on your back if its aching. Hinna is also used to dye the hair and mustache.

Heena painting on the feet

Heena painting on the hands

Heena painting on the feet
Heena painting on the hands

Historia na Matumizi ya Leso...

Saumu Iddi, Lady of Our Mercy Primary School, Likoni. 10 Years Old
Hapo zamani, wanawake walitumia kaniki kama nguo ya kujifunika alafu leso zilitoka india na baadaye zikaanza kutengenezwa hapa kwetu. Duka la kwanza kuuza na kutengeneza leso ni duka la Abdalla.
Matumizi ya Leso; twajifunga wakati wa swala, leso yatumika kuoshea maiti wa kiislamu , leso huvaliwa kama nguo , kufungia motto, kama afron wakati tunapika jikoni, kama kata utengenezwa kubebea maji na pia mapambo majumbani ya kitanda. Leso hufungwa wakati wakucheza chakacha ama msondo katika maarusini. 

Mti wa Muhina.....

Abdi Ahmed, 12 Years. 5 East. Mombasa Primary School.

Muhina ni mti unaotoka Yemen, nyanya alituelezea.Ni mti kiasi na ukikuwa una majani mengi sana. Mti huu humea mwituni lakini pia watu wa zamani bado wanaupanda uani mwao. Muhina hutundwa majani  kisha ukachungwa na kutiwa ndani ya madebe kasha kisha kupelekwa kwenye mji kuuzwa.  Watu hununua kwa kipimo kulingana na matumizi. Unga wa hina hutiwa ndani ya bakuli ukaongezwa chai ya rangi na ndimu kasha kupaka.  Heena nyanya alielezea kuwa yatoka India na Egypt.
Heena ni mapambo inayotumika na wanawake wanapo olewa na wanapoudhuria sherehe ya harusi. Watoto wa kike hawaruhusiwi kupaka ila wakati wa sherehe ya Iddi. Nyanya  alisema heena ipo tangu jadi sana ikitumika upande wa bara Rabu, India na Egypt kwa kujipamba, lakini hapa kwetu pia hutumika kama dawa yakupoza presha ikiwa juu, mti wa mgongo, miguu na pia nywele kwa watu wazima kubadilisha rangi za nywele zao. Katika sherehe zetu za waswahili tuko na heena party. Bwana harusi hufinikwa na kitambaa na kupakwa heena kwenye mikono yote na mwili.