Ngomongo Village Theme Park
VILLAGES OF KENYA
Ngomongo Villages is a theme – park original presentation of the ways of life of the rural peoples of Kenya.
It is a unique presentation of the ways of life of ten most colourful and diverse rural peoples of Kenya. It is situated along the road leading to Five Star Hotels in SHANZU, MOMBASA.
Ngomongo Villages was born in 1991. At that time it was a sun baked and barren rocky base of an exhausted limestone mine. The floor of this quarry is barely five feet above the slightly salty water table.
A local medical doctor started single handedly to reclaim this quarry by planting four acres of eighty different indigenous trees. Public awareness to tree planting was raised by inviting the public to plant the last open acre of quarry. A total of about fifteen thousand trees and plants have so far been planted in Ngomongo Villages.
Once the forest was ripe, rural villagers from far-flung corners of Kenya were invited to recreate their rural homesteads, each in a niche of the now fully-grown forest. The recreation was to detail including huts, farms, animals associated with some rural people like cattle for the Maasai and crocodiles for the crocodile hunting El molo people.
The paths connecting each village were themed to represent a dominant feature of each community. For example, beehives line the path leading to honey gathering Akamba people. Cattle skulls line the paths leading to cattle lovers Maasai homestead.
Once the households were complete, the villagers moved in in January 1998 to tender the crops and animals. These villagers have since found a permanent home in the village, living as they would in their rural homes up country.
That completed the Garden of Eden creation of Ngomongo Villages. A visitor completing this interesting one and a half kilometer walk through the village gets the impression of having literally walked through the entire rural Kenya in two hours. It is easy for the visitor to forget that this was once a desolate quarry.
The village therefore presents a fairly comprehensive look at the ways of life in rural Kenya in an enjoyable manner and without having to go and travel into all the respective rural areas.
However, a written and probably more detailed look at these rural Kenyan ways of life would supplement details not possible to put in place in the village homesteads. Hence this short narrative that follows.
It is in itself neither complete nor exhaustive. Just enough details are selected that would make an interested reader want to go and look up more details in our national archires and other books of “culture”, few and rare as they are.
The writing is in present tense and therefore tends to project a rather stagnant “culture”. This of course does not mean that rural Kenya has escaped Western influence. Far from it. There are various shades of western “development” in all the rural areas. This has not been represented in this booklet, or in Ngomongo Villages.
Any reader who feels that vital knowledge has been left out, misrepresented or otherwise is very welcome to write to us and we will amend or add relevant comments in our next edition.
RECLAMATION OF NGOMONGO VILLAGES QUARRY SITE
From wasteland to an eco-cultural tourist paradise.
The Ngomongo quarry in 1991 was a neglected wasteland of approximately 16 acres. This vast urban eyesore resulted from coral limestone mining. It was a hazard to the neighbours as it acted as a retreat for robbers.
At around this time, the Mombasa municipal council had earmarked the quarry as the municipal refuse dumping site. This if carried out would have contaminated the water table which lies only four feet below the quarry floor, and by extension the Indian Ocean coastal and marine ecosystem.
The built up surrounding urban neighbourhood would have suffered air pollution from the decomposing dumped municipal refuse.
Once reclamation work had started, individuals and the public were involved by a local medical doctor in community tree planting. This was later followed by incoporation of cultural tourism to ensure sustainability.
We document a few technical data first to be followed later by some most important explanations regarding the natural development in this one man’s environmental remediation campaign.
Geography and climate
The quarry is located 10 KM North of Mombasa Island, but within Mombasa municipality. It’s about 600 – 700 m inland of the Indian ocean shore line. The quarry floor lies only four or so feet above the water table, which inter connects with the sea bed as is evident from quarry well water level fluctuations that are coincidental with the ocean tides. The site is 4 south of the equator and 390 east of the Greenwich meridian .
It is excavated up to depth of 12m and is in the coastal and marine tropical climate. Rain falls every month although not reliably, much of the rain falling during April – June period. Average annual rainfall is about 1192mm with a maximum of over 2056mm. The number of rain days varies from 85 - 130 except for a marked increase in 1997 due to the El nino weather conditions.
The mean temperature is about 28.8 C in July and August. Average humidity varies too with lowest readings of 65% say in February and 85% in May.
The coastal region around Mombasa has two monsoon currents: the Southeast monsoon during the month of May to the beginning of October and the northeast from November to March.
Quarry rehabilitation project
Corals usually live in colonies. Each single animal excretes a skeleton of calcium carbonate which cements with neighbour cell excretions, eventually forming a whole colonial build up of compacted constructions which extend over wide areas. Corals don’t thrive in temperature below 20 degrees C and depend on shallow seas for growth. Once the living corals get dry from shifting sea levels, the whole coral structure dies and is then known as coral limestone rock. It is at this point that man excavates coral limestone for construction works.
The arid and desolate Ngomongo quarry pit excavated to 12m was not conducive for plant growth.
It had no hope of being spontaneously inhabited by trees for another ten years.
The reason for quarry rehabilitation was therefore to make it into a good hospitable land, with high utility to the people around, improve on the ecosystem, reduce its various hazards, and make it into a sustainable development..
The total dissolved solid and the salinity of the ground water was studied for planning purposes.
(A) Indigenous trees project 1991
Much as is true that casuarina tree species grow and adopt easily to hostile floor environments, the doctor nevertheless started by planting an assortment of indigenous trees on a four acre quarry section.
This was expensive and difficult as unlike casuarina, indigenous trees need better hole preparation and size. I m by 1 m holes were chiseled out of the rock base and filled with soil and manure. The latter had to be purchased and delivered to site.
Indigenous trees were difficult to grow and required watering and irrigation perennially, every dry season. This was difficult in a quarry location with no power supply or good diesel pumps. Theft of affordable small petrol pumps and horse pipes / jericans was perenial. All had literally to be ferried to and from the quarry every day and stored over night in a safer place 2 km away.
Tree seedlings from government forest stations were purchased and transferred to the quarry. The quarry’s own small seed bank which was established later with the help of the community around the quarry, provided seeds to set up a tree nursery. Planted one meter apart initially, the casuarina were later thinned to two metres apart
The casuarina did very well and helped in breaking up the coral rock with their carpet like root system.
Currently the casuarina trees are of average height of 10 m and above provide a very good tree cover and shade for the quarry floor.
The dropping foliage of these trees is broken down by micro –organism and other small organisms like the millipede. The original millipede population were collected by hand by the neighbourhood community and introduced in large numbers into the quarry. Millipedes feed on the fallen leaves (needles) thus breaking them down to release nutrients.
The forest leaf cover was continuously degraded adding much more humus to the ground, as the number of millipedes increased in this their promised land.
Millipedes can reach up to a length of 12 cm, hide under the leaf foliage during the dry season, reappearing in large numbers during the rainy season
The casuarinas are famous for their prestigious timber which is used in the construction industry.
The neem tree is also doing very wells, so are the Baobab tree, coconut, mango trees and the date palms, “mvuli”, “muratina” and others.
The Neem tree (“mwarobaini”) is believed to be able to cure 40 diseases hence the name “mwarobaini”. The logs are used for carving wood sculptures by “Akamba” carvers. Its bark and leaves are used for treating fevers such as due to malaria and other ailments. The leaves yield a non – synthetic insecticide. The small branches are used as disposable toothbrushes
The powdered back of the tree is used for protection of maize granaries against weevils.
The “Muratina” tree spongy fruit is the traditional ‘yeast” for brewing traditional “muratina” brew for the “Kikuyu” and the “Akamba” ( this can be sipped and tasted at the Akamba village of Ngomongo villages)
“Mvuli” is a sought for hard wood originally from Tanzania. It is the best oak tree equivalent for furniture in East Africa.
Plants and insects
Ferns, mushrooms and other plants which require tree cover and a lot of humus started appearing after just a few years in the forest. At first only a few species were found flourishing but more species are now appearing, some on branches, trunks of dead wood and on the rock cliff faces.
Leaf shedding ants are useful in cutting leaves into small pieces. The ants work day and night. Their leaf shredding habit and their fungal cultivation are beneficial to the forest. These types of ants are many, an example being the weaver ants.
The termites are also in large numbers in our forest. The termites feed on soft timber trunks, thus they are usually considered as pests, but they play a great role in reducing the dead wood in forests to humus.
1. Lantana camara
2. Castor oil
3. Hocra - ladies finger – (vegetable)
8. Indian almond – (fruit tree) – “mkungu”
12. Guava – (fruit)
13. Neem tree – (medicine)
14. Arrow roots
16. Sweet potatoes
19. Algaroba – (origin Mexico)
22. Sweet potatoes
23. Ananas - pineapple
26. Paw paw
29. Whistling acacia
30. Ficus sycamores / casuarinas forest
31. Sugar cane
32. Cactus - Euphobia
36. River bamboo
( C ) Wet lands
Natural Ponds were dug by an improvised homegrown hole and shovel. The shovel was made from an empty fifty gallon steel water storage tank whose designated shoveling edge on the tank open top was reinforced with a sharpened pick – up main leaf spring, welded on to this edge.
With two men sitting on the plough or shovel to give it weight and anchorage, the donkeys would drag the plough or shovel. This would be repeated many times until the lake was at least one meter deep below the water table. The depth of the 3 ponds is an average of one metre.
Crocodiles were introduced into one of the ponds that represents Lake Turkana in the village theme. (Lake Turkana is on the northern part of Kenya).
The other pond represents in our village theme, lake Victoria which is on the Western side of Kenya. Tilapia has been introduced into this lake.
Large flocks of birds nest on and feed on these wet lands. These including king fishers, weaver birds, Egyptian geese etc.
(C)The bird sanctuary
(D)Within the quarry, a two acre bird sanctuary has local chicken, ostriches, geese and
The daily feeding of birds at the bird sanctuary has attracted many wild birds like the Egyptian geese. These wild birds have established their breeding sites on the quarry rock out crops and most of them have made the quarry their home.
There are now over 50 species of birds in the entire quarry. The birds help in seed dispersal as they feed on wild fruits and drop their droppings on other parts of the forest.
Frequently identified species are :
1. Egyptian geese
3. Helmeted guinea fowls
4. Crested cranes
6. Black water tortoise
8. Local chicken
The quarry now has ten diverse rural Kenya villagers each with a niche of forest, displaying his true “culture” and “ rural home replica”.
Among the things they display are huts, utensils, gardens and the crops they grow in their rural areas. The gardens were made by clearing patches of the new forest ( how destructive again!) loosening the coral, then putting a 4” soil and manure cover on which various tribal unique crops are being cultivated. (See FAUNA above).
The land which was once a lifeless wasteland now has a diversity of life. Readers whenever you visit Kenya remember to visit Ngomongo villages. The quarry has turned out to be a paradise where you can see the whole of rural Kenya in one spot.
A small lesson to learn
large scale land reclamation is not sorely a cooperate concern.
Seemingly useless land can be turned into a paradise.
Don’t look over your shoulder. It is you who can plant that extra tree that will make a difference!
The “Rural Kenya” Peoples
The Kamba are among the Bantu people of Kenya. They live in the Eastern province of Kenya
They live in villages composed of huts. Several huts form a homestead. The huts themselves are made of a ring of poles, covered with grasses from top to bottom. Women on a communal basis did the construction of each hut.
Each household consists of a man and his wife or wives and their children. In every village there must be a fetish (kithitu) to protect the village.
The Kamba are experts in cultivation. They grow crops like bananas, beans, maize, sorghum, cowpeas and sugarcane. To control pests they use crop rotation. They store their food after harvesting in granaries built outside the house but within the homestead.
The men are famous bow and arrow hunters. Boys were not allowed to go hunting till after circumcision.
Honey production is a trademark of the Kitui Akamba people.
Woodcarvings as is known today, is literally synonymous with the Akamba crafts men.
Marriage admits man to adult hood. Discussion of marriage between the parents of the boy and girl is like in many other tribal cultures, a discussion of dowry. The currency of dowry is in the form of goats, sheep or cattle.
Once consensus on dowry is reached, there is a ceremony in which roasted goat meat and alcohol is consumed. During this ceremony the bride to be clears a piece of ground, which she pretends to cultivate. The male future in laws follows her to the “garden”. When she sees them, she pretends to run away but they catch her and take her to the mother in law’s hut where she will live for the next seven days.
On the eighth day there is another feast to signify that the couple are now husband and wife.
There is a selected number of elders who are entrusted with the running of all affairs in each locality. These elders rule over twenty years. They are chosen by the people because of their exemplary qualities like courage, wisdom, moral uprightness, tact and self-control.
The Akamba supreme god is called “Ngai” who lives in sacred places in forests, mountains and groves. Only elders are allowed to go to these places.
The Akamba fear thunder and lightning, they being the works of “Ngai”.
To sacrifices to “Ngai”, they offer honey, beer and milk. In major calamities they will want to be more indulgent and offer lambs.
Bad sickness is thought to be caused by witches. They can only be reversed by the medicine man.
The inheritance of property is to the male only as daughters are deliberately disregarded in this exercise.
The El molo is a Maasai word for “people without cattle”. With this derogatory term the Maasai used to despise all those communities who do not possess cattle. The name stuck to the El molo.
El molo came to Kenya in the 16th century from the North Eastern Africa. El molo is the smallest tribe in Kenya and probably the whole world.
According to early missionaries and ethnologists the “pure” El molo number only about 40, while those with Turkana and Samburu blood are about 200, making them probably the smallest tribe in the world.
They live in “ groups” Large groups are referred to us as “ Anderi”, smaller groups “ Illah”.
They live on the South Eastern borders of lake Turkana, in front of the island “ of goats” or more appropriately the island “ of no return”, where they once took refuge and lived. Temperatures here can go up to 45 Degrees Centigrade.
Their land is rocky, dry and windy.
In this terraine, it is hard to find something for the goats to nibble. Rainfall whenever it comes, if at all is not a blessing either. It is a tragedy for both animals and people as it is torrential and always pregnant with killer floods.
Since time in immemorial, El molo have suffered attacks from surrounding tribes.
Very few elders nowadays know the El molo language. The youth have turned to either Turkana or samburu language. El molo language is dying. Their culture is also being eaten up by culture of surrounding bigger tribes. Even the way of dressing for the El molo now closely resembles that of the Samburu and Turkana. Their hairstyles and wigs also resemble those of Turkana. Girl’s ornaments are like those of the Samburu.
El molo life is primary. A life of fishermen who use harpoons and nets while riding on rafts made of logs. They fish Tilapia, Nile perch, crocodiles, turtles and hippos on occasionally.
They also feed on dates, “ loka” from the dum palm and bush cherriks of the
“ sokotei” which grow twice a year.
Every two or three years, a special ceremony called “ ngwere” is celebrated. Moite is the little village where the ceremony takes place, some 65 km from the village of the El molo. It is here that the elders go to pay homage to their ancestors.
The ceremony is climaxed by hunting and killing a hippo for the feast. Young warriors do the hunting of hippo. Hippo killing is very dangerous, divine and ceremonial. The hippo killer has ultimately to throw himself on the raving hippo, subdue and kill it, to become a living hero.
This would not be accomplished if elders who whip their backs at the slightest show of fear did not closely follow the young warriors. The eventual hippo killer would wear hippo bone ornaments all his life as a mark of his courage.
The El molo circumcise both sexes a culture copied from the Maasai. Girls are circumcised on the same day of their marriage.
El molo dowry consists of three or four dum palm logs for building rafts. Discussion of marriage between the parents of the boy and girl is like in many other tribal cultures, a discussion of dowry. The currency for payment of dowry is in the form of a fishing harpoon and a net of palm strings. The bridegroom gives a new name to the bride the same day of marriage. Inter marriages with the Turkana and samburu are now accepted.
A woman is responsible for building huts, cooking and other domestic work. Men are responsible for fishing and hunting.
They call their God “waca”. For El molo, death means going back to “waca” .
Adults are buried outside the village on the lake shore. The grave is then covered with stones and the whole village then moves a few yards away from the grave.
The Luo originated from southern Sudan. They are river/lake Nilotes closely related to the highland Nilotes among them the Kalenjins and the plain Nilotes like the Maasai.
The Luo do not practice circumcision unlike the other Nilotes.
They keep cattle and cultivate root plants. When the Luo arrived in Nyanza province they met other hunters and gatherers bush men called “ khoikhoi.” They promptly displaced them.
Other people the Nilotes encountered were the Cushites, an example being the Somali and Rendile. These were better-armed and better fighters than Bushmen. They were able to check further expansion of the Luo.
The Nilotes also encountered Bantus who were keen on farming. These Bantus kept cattle and practiced ironwork, pottery and fishing. The early Bantus who lived in Nyanza before the arrival of the Luo were the “ samia” and “jimbo”.
The luo of Kenya are divided into four groups called Joka - jok, Joka - Owiny, Joka - Omolo and Luo - Suba.
The Joka jok ( people of Jok) were the first to arrive in Kenya. They settled around Ramogi hill in Nyanza ( E. Uganda) in about 1490 and were led by Jok. They constantly engaged in battle against the Gusii, then the resident Bantu community. When Jok their leader died, Ramogi Ajwang took the leadership
The people of Jaduong Owiny referred to as Joka Owiny broke away from the Adhola of Uganda and arrived in Alego around 1620, fought against local Bantu and settled in the land gained in battle.
The Joka Omolo came from Northern Uganda and now live in Alego, Ugenya, Roya and Nzoia
The Suba arrived about 1500 AD and displaced some of the Bantus around Lake Victoria.
The Luos admired Bantu implements like conoes for fishing, iron implements and pots and bought them in exchange of their own.
A Luo family is made up of man, wife or wives, sons, daughters and an extended family. A man is a most central figure of every Luo homestead. The presence of a man in Luo homestead is personified by a cock and a tall stick, sticking out of the apex of the roof of his hut. Both are present in each man’s homestead. If the man dies, the stick is cut and the cock slaughtered. A rich man marries many wives so as to have many sons to protect his property and look after his herds. A Luo society is patrilineal in that males inherit property. Women do not feature at all in inheritance.
In a Luo homestead (dala) each wife is the head of her own household and leader of its domestic and economic activities of her children.
After the birth of every child, the mother stays indoors for four days after delivery if the new born is boy, and three days only if the baby is a girl.
At the age of between ten to twelve years of every male child, six teeth from lower jaw are forcefully extracted. This is the initiation ceremony for the Luo, equivalent to circumcision in other communities. Much as this tooth extraction is more painful than circumcision, other communities like, the Kikuyu look down on the Luos as uncircumcised people.
Grand parents educate the young in community laws and traditions.
Marriage is viewed as a stage of attaining full social status and adulthood.
It all starts with a pre-arranged mock fight between prospective bridegroom’s friends and bride’s friends. Subsequently the bride is “captured” and taken to the bridegroom’s home for a short while. Later the bridegroom’s parents visit, the bride’s parents to pay respects and start negotiating and paying dowry.
The bride would return to live with her parents, being allowed to visit her husband briefly and only when he delivers more cows to reduce his dowry debt. Once dowry is complete there would be a whole day of celebrations at the bridegroom’s home. Only then would the bride go to live permanently with the husband. Upon a husband’s death, his property is shared according to his will. It is believed that to go against the wishes of a dying man would bring bad luck to the family. Daughters are not entitled to any inheritance.
The Luo believe in “Nyasaye” the creator of the world. They pray through their ancestors. They also believe in reincarnation of dead people’s souls to animal bodies such as lizards and snakes. It follows therefore that a snake or a lizard that enters a house is not to be killed. He might be an ancestor who having remembered how he was neglected when he was alive, would be coming to take revenge on the living. Clearly then, the house owner must try to pacify him by offering something good to eat.
Omieri are large pythons whose presence or visit to a Luo homestead are a divine blessing then must not be harmed but treated in a manner fit for the god’s messenger.
Evil spirits are believed to cause illnesses like small pox and measles. Good spirits are rare, but if they enter a person, the person becomes a medicine man!
Clan elders are responsible for governing and keeping law and order. For example, when one is found guilty of killing another he must also face death by beating, drowning or poisoning.
The Luo originally were cattle herder’s but eventually became cultivators of cereals, fruits and vegetable only some hundred years ago. They are primarily pastoralists who feed on milk, blood and meat from cattle and fish. Luos are fond of fish, and have therefore kept close to the rivers and lakes.
Beer is a delicacy reserved for elders
The Rendille are cushites. The Rendille are camel nomads of the hot arid North Kenya Semi-desert. The Camel provides most of the needs for the Rendille including milk, blood, meat, skin, bones for tools, as well serving as transport vehicles.
Being nomads they move from one place to another in search of water and pasture for their animals. They therefore have no time to look after crops and have completely neglected cultivation.
When a Rendille child is born he or she is given a sip of camel milk to initiate him into the “ camel culture”.
If the newborn baby is a boy, a piece of cow hide is hung above the entrance of the hut. His father wearing a special leather dress then announces the news three times for the neighbours to hear so that they would come calling to give gifts like milk and animal fats. A dance is thereafter held for four days.
The mother would stay in the house for the next forty days after which the child is introduced to the outside world. To do this, the mother would retrieve the dried up umbilical cord, which she had stored, and place it on a heifer. This heifer now becomes the first property of the child.
Circumcision for Rendille boys and girls is around the age of fifteen years. On the circumcision day the boys gather at the cattle boma where they are first blind folded before being operated upon by a skilled man. The boy’s mother blesses each boy’s foreskin before being placed on the back of a heifer. This again signifies the closeness of the Rendile to cattle.
Circumcised boys would then stay away from the village, hunting birds and lizards in the wilderness. Their wounds are treated with a special resin to stop bleeding. Girls have their legs bandaged together and stay at home till they recover.
In late teens circumcised men mix with their age mates and join in hunting elephant, lion, rhino and buffalos both for food and sport. Once old enough the young men are then given responsibilities of looking after his father’s cattle. They would spend most of his time away from home with the cattle. They would also be part of organized raids against other tribes.
Women wear fertility necklaces, which are a load of beaded necklaces accumulated from childhood. The neck muscles eventually become weak as a result of the long-standing support given by these necklaces. If the necklaces are removed at once, the head may be too heavy for the now weak bare neck muscles and a neck spinal dislocation and death may occur.
Marriage takes place when a man reaches the age of 25 years.
Once dowry is agreed the boy’s father takes some tobacco and a portion of the agreed number of cows to the bride’s father. The girl’s parents usually accept the offer.
Marriage takes place in the bride’s home. At night a sacrifice of a ram is made and the meat consumed in cerebration. The next day the bride and groom set off for the groom’s home to became husband and wife.
Elders see to it that law and order is maintained by the people. Elders are the judges in this tribe as they are wise enough and are said not to favour anybody. The degree of punishment for crimes committed depends on the seriousness of an offense. For example, if a man steals livestock then he has to pay back five times the number of cows or goats stolen.
The Rendile believe in God. They offer their prayers in a thorny enclosure called “Naabo”.
“People have got to respect God because he is able to cause death when annoyed”.
“Mijikenda “ means nine tribes.
The Mijikenda came from central and South Africa. When they migrated to E. Africa, they settled in Shingwaya near Somalia. They practiced shift farming and cattle raring. The pressure from the Galla and Somali forced them South towards the coast to what is now Lamu and Tana river.
They live in windowless loaf shaped huts.
Each Mijikenda tribe has a “kaya” or traditional place where they go to appease ancestors. Inhabitants of each kaya are divided into clans. Each Kaya can trace its ancestry way back to Singwaya. The Chonyi trace their ancestries through their fathers while the Digo peculiarly go back through their mothers. They tackle matters, which affect their clans in their kayas.
It is traditional to have a feast and dancing when a child is born. This happens on the 4th day for baby girls and 5th day for baby boys. If the parents had lost children before through death, they naturally hoped that the new one would live on this time. They would therefore not give this new baby a proper name until he become big and strong.
Circumcision is most important occasion in the life of a child. Circumcision ceremonies are held every four years. The operation itself takes place during the dry season, as healing is believed to be quicker then. After circumcision boys would live in their grandfathers hut or alternatively several boys would build a hut of their own to live in.
Marriages are arranged. The boy’s parents choose the girl. Dowry consists of 18 cows and one bull and “mnazi” a traditional coconut derived brew.
Death is taken seriously. Burials are a man’s duty. A funeral ceremony lasts seven days. A second ceremony is also performed a year later. During this cerebration, relative give sacrifices at the graveside in the form of cows and goats as an appeasement of the dead man’s spirit. When the head of the family dies the eldest son takes over as the head of the family.
Mijikenda barter different crops grown by neighbours like maize for coconuts. They also bartered arrow poison with the Akamba.
Apart from farming, hunting for bush pigs, bucks and antelopes is way of life. They do fishing in rivers and creeks of the sea. Cooking utensils are pottery based. The pots are baked in the fire to make them firm and hard.
They also trap rodents, which they eat and consider delicacies.
They have blacksmiths whom they fear and associate with magic. Not many people can become blacksmiths. Blacksmiths have an unusual greeting among themselves. A blacksmith will greet another by bending on one knee and saying let the work continue.
The medicine man on the other hand is liked and revered. He claims to cure all diseases. Young men who want to become medicine men are taken to the bush and shown how and where to obtain herbs. The Digo were expert medicine men reputed to cure leprosy. Some crooked medicine men used their skills to cause harm. Genuine medicine men would then be called to undo the damage.
Rainmakers are also like medicine with an additional gift of ability to foretell future. A female fortuneteller for example foretold the coming of Europeans and motorcars.
The Kalenjin are Highland Nilotes comprising of kipsigis, Turgen, Marakwet, Keiyo, Pokot, Sabaot, and Okiek sub groups. The Okiek are forest people living mainly on honey gathering. The word “Kalenjin” means I tell you or I say to you. It is a term that is coined to describe a collection of these tribes. They originated from the borders of Ethiopia and Sudan, having migrated into Kenya some 200 years ago.
They live in age groups under appointed political and religious leaders who rule and settle matters affecting their communities. Their huts are most interesting. The inside is divided into two with each side having its own door. One side is for in-laws whenever they come visiting. They must always enter through the back door and must keep to their side of the hut.
Their diet is mainly meat from livestock and milk mixed with blood and served from a gourd. Bear is brewed from honey and grains and is consumed socially from a central pot. All partakers would sit around the pot each with his own straw dipped into the pot. Any new comer would squat quietly at a respectable distance away till he is welcomed to the group.
Boys wear goat’s skin or cow hides. Distinguished warriors would wear leopard or monkeys skins. Girls have long aprons made of cow’s hides. Married women wear a cow skin blouse and a separate skirt from cowhide. Old men wear garments made of gazelle skin, ox or goat.
Medicines is made from roots, trees barks. The Kalenjin medicine man is a skilled surgeon able to open skulls in what is today’s TREPHINING
Only married women are supposed to get pregnant. They wear charms for protection in pregnancy and are not allowed to do heavy work during this time. After delivery, the mother is secluded in the house for four days after delivery if she gets a baby boy and three days if the baby is a girl. Baby naming comes four months after the birth.
Family planning by abstinence and polygamy is practiced. For example, the second kid, by tradition, was to be born only when the first one was big enough to fetch a walking stick for the father.
Two permanent lower jaw teeth are plucked off during initiation. At about this time also ears for both sexes are pierced for cosmetic purposes by slicing open a large hole in the pinna
Kalenjis are mixed farmers. They grow tea as their major cash crop who grow subsistence crops like maize, millet, pumpkins and cassava.
The Turkana are found in the Rift valley province in Turkana District. They are river lake nilotes. They are pastoralists and keep many cattle.
Men wear headdress that are painted red and or blue and then crowned with ostrich feather . They wear cow hide sandals and have trade mark cloths thrown over their shoulders. They wear sharp bladed wrist and finger bangles that also serve as lethal fighting instruments. They also wear a lip plug called “Attape” for cosmetic purposes.
They are do not practice circumcision.
Girls wear earrings, ankle rings and lots of beads. They normally apply red ochre on their hair.
Married women wear two aprons one infront and the other one behind, made of a gazelle or goat skin. Unlike a young girl the married woman would be heavily beaded on her waist belt. This special married woman’s belt is called Alagan. It has the same symbolic functions as a western wedding finger ring.
Peculiarly ladies have their scalp hair shaved on the sides much like today’s men fashion hair cut.
Every initiated man carries at lest two spears and a club. He also wears the deadly wrist blade and a finger hook. The finger hook occasionally has a special function of tooth extraction.
Turkana are the most fearless fighters in Eastern Africa using fighting instruments like the lethal arms and finger blades.
They keep cattle, camels, sheep and goats. Donkeys are used for carrying heavy loads. Sheep milk is reserved for the kids.
Their main diet is milk mixed with blood, wild fruits and meat. However, in times of food shortage, the Turkana, have perfected the art of survival. They will laterally eat anything from turtles, snakes and crocodiles.
Being nomads their homesteads are temporary.
There have both love marriages and arranged marriages. Dowry is very high in order to discourage divorce after marriage. Also among the Turkana, a man is allowed to keep concubines. Each household has different gates for the wife, concubine and animals
Like many Bantus, the Kikuyu migrated from South and Central Africa in the Congo region. They now live on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. Mythology says that they belong to the family of Gikuyu and Mumbi who came from the skies. At first, the story goes, Gikuyu and Mumbi lived in Muranga at a place called Mukurweini from where the tribes grew. The tribe is divided into nine clans from the nine daughters of Gikuyu and Mumbi ( Agaciku, Angari, Ambui, Anjiru, Acera, Angui, Aithira andu, Airimu, Agathigia)
Their economic activities are mainly farming of food crops like yams, arrowroots, maize, beans as well as cash crops like coffee and tea that were introduced by white settlers. They also keep a number of animals like cows and goats.
Like in many other Bantu communities’ marriage is very important to the Kikuyu for continuity of the family. Polygamy is accepted in the community. The choice of a wife has minimal parental interference.
Marriage within a clan is not accepted. Boys and girls mostly meet at dancing ceremonies. The best dancers have a better hand in the choice of a partner. Once a girl is sighted the boy would tell his friends who would approach the girl on his behalf. Dowry is in the form of cows and goats and honey beer.
They believe in death as a terminal event. Death announcement is by horn blowing and drum beating. Kikuyu do not believe in burying their dead. Undertakers in an “evil” forest dump the body after being rolled into a cow’s skin (ndwara). The undertakers would come back to be cleansed by the witchdoctor.
The Kikuyu believe in God (Ngai mwene nyaga) who lives in Mt. Kenya (Kirinyaga). They pray facing the mountain in times of calamity or during thanks giving. The elders give offerings in form of a white goat. However, when they want to petion “ Ngai “ during draughts or outbreaks of a serious disease, they would offer a black goat.
Circumcision is for both boys and girls. They have a council of elders who made important decisions and settled disputes and prescribed punishment. For example, a condemned thief would be put in a beehive, which would be rolled down a steep hill. Murders would also face death.
Adultery was not accepted although a woman was allowed to have one child outside marriage.
The Maasai belong to the group of plain nilotes. They were first classified as Nilo – hermits by early European history because their dressing and hair styling looked like those of helmeted ancient Romans. They are found in Rift valley province, Narok, Kajiado and Northern Tanzania districts.
They are nomadic pastoralists.who believe that they are the only ones in this world who should own cattle. They are a legendary and most formidable warrior tribe. Their culture is closely knit around cattle and the need to protect them. God gave them cattle and all cattle in this world belong to the Maasai. A traditionally Maasai greeting is. “I hope your cattle are well ”. This explains why they raid other communities for cattle. Mythology goes that” Engai” the Maasai God had three sons and to each, he gave a different possession. For the Kikuyu, he gave a hoe to till the land, for the Mkamba, he gave a bow and arrow for hunting and for the Maasai, he gave a herding stick.
Maasai believe that pastoralism is superior activity to hunting or farming. Hunting and farming are demeaning for a Maasai. They totally depend on pastoralism. Only those who intermarried with the Kikuyu practice farming.
They practice circumcision but also like the other nilotes have their teeth removed as initiation Women do not keep scalp hair and are closely shaven.
Maasai are very meticulous about age groupings. There are strict age groups of adults, elders, boys and girls.
All homesteads have wild animal deterrent thorn fence. The huts are barely tall enough with tiny windows. A spear in front of each hut announces the presence of the husband in each hut and would serve as a warning to other men suitors.
For the Maasai, life is a celebration. Graduation into each age group is an elaborate communal ritual revolving around courage, warrior hood and ability to jump during ritual dancing. A Maasai when happy with you will bless you by spiting on your chest
The Pokot live at the foot of Cherengani hills in Western Kenya. They are mainly pastoralists, perennially battling potentially lethal calamities like drought and cholera.
They have traditionally remained aloof from western cultural and developmental influences. Many Pokots view other educated Pokots as lost members of their tribe. Their huts are beautiful windowless structures, roofed with cow dung.
Obsessed with passion for cattle ownership, the Pokot daily sing special songs of praise to their cattle, telling them they are more beautiful than their women. Every man’s greatest desire is to posses a cow with one horn pointing forwards and the other one pointing backwards.
A wig of painted mud on the head indicates a man has reached maturity.
Pokots respect dead senior citizens with ceremonial burials, the young are dumped into the bush to be devoured by the wild animals.