Thursday, 13 March 2014

Kikuyu Traditional Wedding (Ngurario)

This is the last ceremony of the kikuyu dowry.  It is normally done by those couples who are already married though in rare case the groom might decide to visit the brides home and give it before the wedding takes place. The husband after staying with the wife for sometime and may be after the wife has given birth to some children will decide to perform this ceremony popularly known as ngurario or gutinia kiande.  The husband accompanied by some friends and relatives makes a visit to the father in laws homestead so as to be told what items to bring before the ngurario day.  The list will be read out as the secretary from the husband’s sides writes.  These will include such things as 
1. Young Goat (Mwati)
2. Sheep (Ngoima)
3. Lady goat (Harika)
4. Big sufuria (rurinja)
5. Basin (basin ya mabati)
6. I dozen cups (ikombe cia mabati)
7. Sword (njora)
8. Blanket (murengeti)
9. Two pairs of bedsheet for the father (macuka)
10. Coat (kabuti) 
11. One small sufuria with a handle (gathaburia kena munyito)
12. Ten crates of sodas
13. Five crates of beer (njohi) etc 
14. Lessos (marithu ma atumia)
15. I bag of sugar (ikunia ria cukari)
16. Foods and drinks for that day
The husband then goes back home buys those things and once ready,he takes them.The goats is taken two days prior to the ngurario day.  The men (wazees) from the wife’s side will then receive five goats and if not fat enough they can reject them or else ask for another one for fattening (kunoria).  The husband goes back home to wait for the big day.
Sending representatives to oversee the slaughtering of goats (gutuma aira akuona mburi igithinjwo)
During the actual day, the husband will send some representatives to check on how the goats will be slaughtered and since they were five, three of them will be slaughtered whereas the two will be kept for the father-in-law to be taking care of them so that he does not get bored; it is assumed. The sister to the wife will also wake up early to hide the knives that are to be used for slaughtering. Slaughters will look for the knives in vain only to realize they have been hidden.  They will finally give the sister some money to release the knives (kumuthaitha). 

The entrance (Kuhura hoti)
When the visitors (mans side) arrive, they will find the gate to the in-laws homestead locked and they will

start singing the traditional kikuyu songs for the gate to be opened. Through the songs they will inform their in-laws that they have arrived and kindly request them to open the gate for them. The women on the other side will respond by saying that they do not have the keys to the gate since their daughter disappeared with the keys when she was stolen by the husband on her way to buy milk at a nearby kiosk. The songs will continue and the wife's side will ask the husbands side to provide the keys which should be in form of money.  After giving the money the gate is opened and the visitors are ushered in. 

Payment for relieving the shopping  (wauri)
During the visit the visitors will have already done some shopping, these will include maize flour, wheat flour, sugar, rice soap, cooking oil, a bunch of bananas etc and by the time the gate is opened the visitors are
already tired.  In order for them to be relieve of those items, they will have to give some money which is called (wauri).  This money will be given to ladies on the bride’s side so that they will share amongst themselves.  The girl’s mother will not get anything from here since she will not be anywhere near the gate.  It is assumed that the mother should be somewhere laboring to give birth to this girl.

Selecting the wife from many ladies (gucagura muka wake)
Selecting wife from many ladies
Once inside they are ushered to a tent whereby after the usual welcome food is served. Serving tables are cleared and the Actual occasion starts.  Then a few ladies maybe fifteen enter the house, they are tied from head to toe with sheets (lessos) and then divide into three groups each comprising five.  The first group is then called outside and the husband is asked to select his wife thereby being careful not to pick somebody else wife because there will be a penalty for that.  In case the wife is not in the first lot, the second group is called and the husband does selection if wife not there the last group will be called and the husband will pick on his wife to the applaud of the congregation.  Husband unties the lessos and then matches with her forward to the high table with a lot of jubilation (ngemi) from the crowd. 

Cutting the Shoulder (Gutinia kiande)
Cutting the Shoulder
The wife and the husband will change to the kikuyu traditional attire and the master of ceremony  for cutting the shoulder might also change or not depending on whether he is a professional.  The shoulder to be cut is then put on a traditional basin and placed on the table for all to see.   The Mc will then ask the husband to cut the shoulder and he will be assisted by the wife who will hold it. Once he succeds in cutting it the Mc will tell him in front of the crowd that even if the wife gives birth to a child even if not belonging to the husband, he will take care of that child.  The husband will answer in the affirmative though not happy while doing so

Eating the ears (Kuria matu) 
The husband will also be asked to give the wife some ears from the slaughtered goat to eat and while eating
Eating the ears
he will ask her to eat them so that she will have ears to hear him whenever he calls her.  Likewise the wife will do the same to the husband.  Other women who happens to be agemates of the wife will also eat ears together with the wife so that they will be reminded of the importance of listening to their husbands.

Taking porridge (gukundania ucuru)
Wife giving husband Porridge
Once through, the next step will be to give the husband porridge (gukundio ucuru).  About five men accompanied by their wives will be called upon to come and sit at the front chairs so that they will also be given porridge by their wives. Here the wife will first polish the husband’s shoes, comb his hair, cut his nails and then wrap him a towel at the front to act as a baby feeder all through trying to soothe him so that he may accept taking the porridge that will be given by the wife. Porridge will then be put in a calabash by the maids who will then hand it over to the wife to feed the husband.  In most cases the husband will refuse to take it and twist the neck to face the other side. Here the wife will most likely give him a present so that he agrees to take the porridge. All this time the wife is holding it.
wrapping husband with a towel
Once he agrees to take it the other five men follow suit and they are also fed by their wives.  From there other guest will take the porridge.  On the process while visitors are still taking the porridge some people from both sides will enter the house to go and give some dowry which will mark the end of the dowry even though in Kikuyu we normally say uthoni nduthiraga (dowry is never finished).  This is because if as a
husband you are blessed you will continue giving or else assisting your in-laws even though you know too well that what you were meant to give for dowry you have already given.
The grooms parents then fixes a day when they will visit the brides home and both parents agrees on the day. The grooms side will cater for all the expenses i.e food and drinks.  The visitors from the grooms side visits the boma (homestead) from where after the usual welcome food will be served. 

Certification of kikuyu wedding (Kuheo certificate ya kuguraria)
Kikuyu Certificate
Immediately after cutting the shoulder the mc will then call upon the couple and give them the certificate which he will read out the number and announce that the girl has been married in a kikuyu traditional wedding and no man should dare joke with her.

Giving dowry (kuingira kuracia)
Later, some close family members of both parties will be shown a separate place where they will negotiate and give the dowry.  Once inside the house the mc from the girls side will ask the visitors to introduce themselves and say the reason as tto why they have come visiting.  The Mc will answer by saying that they got a flower from this home and it has proved to be alright no wonder we are coming back.  The visitors will then be asked to give what they have and after giving will also give money for beer, sodas for women as well as lessos. They will also be asked to produce the towel for dusting the sodas and also an opener     (gikunuro na opener),all this should be in form of cash. 
The master of ceremony from the brides side will then call the girl and ask her if her father should accept that beer (njohi) and soda and after agreeing (ngemi) will be said which will be three for the girl.  All will be given the sodas to share and lessos will also be left for ladies to share amongst themselves.  The visitors will be given back a crate of beer as a sign of appreciation (gucokia guoko).  after all is said and done guests leave at their leisure.

Story Prepared By:
Grace Mwangi, Librarian;Institute of Primate Research

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Luo Cultural Beliefs ‘Kweche Mag Luo’

The Luo tribe had very many beliefs and in all their beliefs the only remedy was the usage of different herbs ‘Manyasi’. For instance, it was a taboo for a daughter-in-law to enter the bedroom of the mother-in-law. If this happened, there was a herb used for bathing and drinking to avoid any calamity.

During planting ‘komo’ or ‘golo kodhi’ it was a taboo for young people to plant before the elders of the home (their fathers). The older people would plant first then followed by the young generation. If this happened then herbs ‘manyasi’ was used and chicken slaughtered for cleansing the person and the home.

The daughter-in-law waited for the mother-in-law to harvest ‘keyo’ first and fulfill some to-do rituals before she can harvest ‘keyo’. Failure to do so, the herbs ‘manyasi’ was used for the cleansing to avoid a taboo ‘chira’.  The mother-in-law and the father-in-law were to be the first to eat the maize or millet from the harvest ‘keyo’ before any other person to avoid a taboo ‘chira’ in the family. If any of the elderly persons was not alive or present the one who is left would do it. Without the two it was done only by an older member of the family.

‘Goyo dala’: The first son was to move before the other sons. This was done in a very traditional manner. The man and his son were to sleep in the new home and chicken was to be slaughtered. It was difficult for this ceremony to happen without the son from the first wife. Luos used to marry many wives those days. During this occasion there were special herbs ‘manyasi’ that were taken.

This was done depending on the sex of the person who has passed away. If it was a man of the home people were to sleep outside the home for 4 days and if it was the mother 3 days. After those days each member of the family was to be shaved using razor blade and then herbs ‘manyasi’ were taken for cleansing.

When fighting with the husband, a luo wife was not supposed to beat the husband using her underwear. When such happened they would not be together as a man and wife untill they take the herbs ‘manyasi’ that was special for that.
  • In the community there were many herbs ‘manyasi’ used for treatment of diseases and cleansing of                               rituals e.g. Dyschoriste radicans – ‘Ratek-min-Angasa’ (in dholuo)
  • Toddalis asiatica – ‘Nyalwet—kwadu’
  • Calvatia (Lycoperdacaceae) – ‘Obuoch-Juok’
  • Mystroxyton aethiopicum – ‘ododo’
  • Amaranthus ( Amaranthaceae) – ‘ong’ong’o’
  • Sclerocarya birrea – ‘yaga’
  • Kigela Africana – ‘amoyo’ 
  • Cleome gynadra and many more plants were used.

Some of these believes are still being practiced by a few people but use of herbs will never stop as long as the community exists/lives on.

Story Prepared By:
 Monica Ageng’o, Librarian (Herbarium – Nmk)

Importance Of Chicken ‘Gweno’ In Traditions

Chicken ‘Gweno’ (in Dholuo) is the considered as a special food among the Luo community. In the community, chicken was slaughtered during occasions such as:
Marriage ‘Nyombo’
Funerals ‘Liel’
For special visitors ‘Welo mogen’
Home coming ‘Duogo dala’
Moving from the parents home to one’s home ‘Golo dala' and many other ceremonies.

Preparation of chicken ‘Chinjo gweno
Chicken slaughtering was done at the backyard by the man of the home. In his absence members of the household would do it (i.e. the sons). Women would only slaughter chicken in the absence of men.

The slaughtered chicken would be dipped in hot water to make the removal of feathers easier. After removal of the feathers the chicken was roasted on the fire place or placed on three stones used for cooking until it turns brown.

The now featherless chicken would be apportioned into 7 or 8 pieces according to the occasions e.g. during marriage ‘nyombo’. In other occasions, apportioning of chicken ‘ng’ado gweno’ was done in the normal way, either by men or women depending on who was available at that time.

The apportioned pieces were placed in a pot, water and salt added then it was let to boil. In the old days the frying of food was not done, oil from milk was used. The oil was added to the boiling water and it was left boil till tender and ready for eating.

Marriage occasions ‘Nyombo
The chicken was apportioned into big sizes of 4 or 5 parts. Some parts were removed like gizzard, intestines and liver whereas parts like the head and feet were kept aside.
The son-in-law was served with special parts of the chicken and he was the one to eat before other visitors. This was so done to enable other sons-in-law to take chicken in their in-laws homes.

Funeral occasions ‘Liel’ 
During funerals chicken was slaughtered for the visitors i.e. in-laws from both sides. There was also a special chicken which was slaughtered and eaten by the elders of the clan for cleansing ceremony of the dead person. The ceremony was only for older men.

Special visitors ‘Ruako welo mogen
Luos as a community are very welcoming and proud people. In the event of a visit by a respectable person then chicken together with brown ugali would be served to the visitors.

Home coming ‘Duogo dala
Chicken was slaughtered during the home coming of a son who migrated near home or went on a journey in a far land and he is finally home. This happens even today though sons and daughters get the same privileges since the girls are nowadays allowed to eat chicken, as opposed to the earlier days.

Cultural beliefs (Myths)
Traditionally, chicken was food for men only. Women and girls were not allowed to eat chicken.
Nowadays chicken is eaten by all members of the family. Chicken used to be slaughtered for important visitors and during most of the celebrations or occasions but nowadays it may be taken just as a family meal.

Luos generally love chicken and this explains why in most of the homes chicken is kept.

Story Prepared By:
Monica Ageng’o, Librarian (Herbarium Nmk

Omurembe (Red Hot Poker Tree): - Traditional Belief Among the Luhya

Omurembe is traditionally a Medicinal Plant Found in Western Kenya and Nyanza. The story is about Omurembe in local language of Luhya, sub-tribe from (KISA) Western Kenya

The local Luhya people used Omurembe in various ways, i.e. making of the Isukuti, the famous Luhya drum was curved from the trunk and this was sold to the local music makers for entertaining people during festivals, football activities, wrestling and even funeral activities to make people cheer up.
Boats/Canoes were also curved from bigger trunks and given that the trunks are also to remain afloat on water. The curved product encouraged cross river transportation within the local peoples, fishing industry and was promoted within the locals which boosted their income, especially those living along the rivers like Nzoia and River Yala where navigation was applicable.

It was used to cure mumps in both children and adults alike from the community(s) residing around. The Luo also used the tree as a cure for similar diseases.
Activities carried out during curation included: The concerned patient would wake up very early in the morning around 5.00a.m, and walk to the site of the (Omurembe) tree; and one must carry along a piece of slept-over ugali known as (Obuchieni) or in Kiswahili ‘Kiporo’ once at the site, the affected person would be required to go run round the tree singing and eating the slept-over ugali ‘Obuchieni’ at the same time for the remedy to be effective.

The song would go like this:
Tsindeindei wera khu murembe                (mumps remain on Red Hot Poker Tree)
Tsindeindei wera khu murembe                (mumps remain on Red Hot Poker Tree)
Tsindeindei wera khu murembe                (mumps remain on Red Hot Poker Tree)
This exercise is repeated until one feels relieved, and then they would leave the site quietly and go home without uttering a word nor without looking behind until you reach the House/home.
The remedy would take like two days before they Mumps disappear.

If there was a notorious petty thief fond of stealing other people’s goods/items, money etc., the affected person would get a twig/branch from ‘Omurembe’ tree/plant, then would strike the twig on the spot where the stolen item was lying or had been placed before the act, after a day or two, the thief would complain of stomach swelling/headaches and then the thief would come out to reveal the act of stealing.  Traditionally the thief would then be required to compensate the affected owner before the remedy can be administered by medicinal Man to reverse the situation. Failure to do that, the suspected thief would easily die from that act. If the thief agrees to compensate the owner then the tree was then uprooted with all its roots.  This vice at that time contributed to near extinction of the tree where this was practice i.e. 
Western and Nyanza regions. This act kept people away from unnecessary theft activities in society for fear of what would befall them. However, in the recent past, one would walk far and wide without finding this tree that was very common. It is sad to say that this plant that was common in parts of Western and Nyanza is near extinction. One can walk far and wide without coming across this tree. In other words this should be declared endangered species. Where it can be found it should be preserved for indigenous knowledge for the future generation to learn from the past.

Story Prepared by:  
John Amulaku, Librarian – NMK Main Library