Kikuyu Tribe - the Largest Tribe in Kenya: History and Culture
The Kikuyu (also Agĩkuyu/Gikuyu) is the largest ethnic group in Kenya. They speak the Bantu Kikuyu language. At a population of million as of , they account for close to 17% of the total population of Kenya. The term Kikuyu is derived from the Swahili form of the self-designation . Children in the community had a link to God through their parents and that. We will learn the importance of music to a culture. . The relationship between people and animals is strong. in Nairobi the best jobs and government positions are occupied with the Kikuyu and Luo. It is one of Kenya's oldest communities. Although some of the Kikuyu culture has eroded, the Kikuyu language is still When it comes to food, music, marriage ceremonies and everyday family life.
The British had taken farming lands from the Gikuyu and given these lands to white settlers. Gikuyu were forced to work on these farms and to provide labor for cash crops such as coffee and tea. The Gikuyu nationalist Jomo Kenyatta — became the first president of Kenya at its independence in He is respected among the Gikuyu for his leadership against colonialism outside rule and for his status as is regarded as the father of his country.
Today, the Gikuyu, like other Kenyans, participate in a democratic political system. Gikuyu are organized into two major political parties that are considered to be part of the opposition to the ruling government in Kenya. These parties are the Democratic and the Ford-Asili Parties. Political participation is primarily through election to a parliamentary similar to a congressional seat of which there are in Kenya or through direct election to the national presidency.
Kikuyus: industrious, farmers - Kenya's largest ethnic tribe
They number about 5 million among Kenya's total population of about 28 million. The Gikuyu live throughout Kenya but primarily reside in Nairobi Province and Central Province, located in the central region of the country.
As Kenya's largest group, the Gikuyu occupy a central position in Kenyan social life. The capital city of Nairobi lies just at the southern boundary of the area traditionally occupied by the Gikuyu people. Thus, many Gikuyu now are counted among the city's inhabitants of about 1. Gikuyuland is a plateau of about miles kilometers from north to south and 30 miles 48 kilometers from east to west. Its elevation ranges from about 3, feet meters to over 7, feet 2, meters above sea level.
The plateau features deep gorges and parallel ridges. However, on the eastern side of the plateau, the terrain is comparatively dry and is dominated by a grassland zone. The elevation increases to the west, giving rise to more rainfall and woodlands with good potential for agriculture. The largest ecological area is characterized by high altitude and rainfall where plant life is abundant and most of the population is concentrated.
This is the area where significant cash crops are grown, including pyrethrum a flower that produces a natural insecticidecoffee and tea. Rich soils aid the growth of traditional crops such as sweet potatoes, bananas, millet, sorghum, cow-peas, and maize cornwhich is the staple throughout Gikuyuland. The primary national language in Kenya is English.
All children receive instruction in English beginning in primary school and continuing through university. KiSwahili is a second national language, although it is not the language of government, it is widely used as a language of trade and commerce, especially by those without formal education. KiSwahili is also taught in the schools from primary through secondary school. The Gikuyu use either English or KiSwahili when traveling outside the central highlands. Radio, television, and mass media publications are available in both languages throughout Kenya.
The Gikuyu language is the preferred language at home and in the community. Gikuyu is taught in primary schools throughout Gikuyuland. The first tribal parents, Gikuyu and Mumbi, had their own children, who then had children who dispersed around Mount Kenya. One day a grandchild's knee started swelling. When he opened his knee, three little boys emerged, who became his sons. In time, one of them became a hunter; one enjoyed collecting fruits and plants; and the third made fire for cooking.
The hunter domesticated some animals, and the collector grew crops such as bananas, cassava, and sweet potatoes. The third son applied fire to stones and metals and became a blacksmith. In this way, the Gikuyu culture originated. The Gikuyu attribute their ultimate origins to sacred intervention by their god Ngai who sometimes resides on Mount Kenya which, for the Gikuyu, is a sacred place.
According to legend, Ngai carried the first man, Gikuyu, to the top of Mount Kenya. Ngai showed him the rich land spread out below the mountain. Gikuyu was told that his sons and daughters would inherit the land and multiply.
Gikuyu was given a wife named Mumbi, meaning "Creator" or "Molder," and together they had nine daughters. Ngai said that whenever problems arose, the people should make a sacrifice and gaze at Mount Kenya in order to be assisted. One day, Gikuyu was unhappy at not having a male heir. He pleaded with Ngai to provide a son for him. After appropriate rituals, Gikuyu went to a sacred tree where he found nine men waiting to greet him. He arranged for these men to marry his daughters provided they agreed to live under his roof and abide by a matrilineal system of inheritance tracing descent through the female line.
In time, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren were born. Still later, each daughter came to head her own clan, thus giving rise to the clans of the Gikuyu people. The legend continues that in time the kinship system changed from a matrilineal to a patrilineal one tracing descent through the male line.
It is believed this happened because the women became excessive in their domination over men. The men ganged up on the women when they were all pregnant at the same time. They overthrew female rule and became heads of their families.
From then on, polygyny one man with several wives replaced polyandry one woman with several husbands as a marital practice. Nevertheless, the women were able to maintain their names for the main clans.
The Music and Culture of the Kikuyu Tribe - FSU World Music Online
To this day, most women carry one of these names. A number of other important legends provide cultural heroes. Among these are Karuri, who was a past ruler of legendary proportion. Another is Wamugumo, a noted giant believed to have been able to eat an entire goat by himself. He could clear land that took many men a long time to clear, and he was able to kill lions, buffalo, and leopards with ease. A famous woman called Wangu wa Makeri ruled during the period of the matriarchy when women held the majority of power.
At that time, women were allowed to have many husbands, especially young men, and the old men did all of the work. Traditionally, folktales and riddles combined with myths to provide young people with a strong sense of Gikuyu values.
Grandmothers were excellent story tellers. Some common riddles are: A man who never sleeps hungry? Fire since it is fed throughout the night ; My son lives between spears? The tongue; My child travels without rest? The river always flowing. Proverbs are numerous in modern-day culture and change constantly to reflect the times. For example, one proverb teaches that "A good mortar does not correspond to a good pestle," to explain that successfully matching a husband and a wife may be difficult.
Another proverb widely heard is "When the hyenas come, nobody will give shelter," which means that in times of panic, it is every man for himself. Many proverbs teach common sense, such as "When one goes on a journey, he does not leave his bananas cooking in the fire.
In Gikuyu, one says Kaanaka Nikora kona kora kora, nako kora kona kaanaka Nikora kora. The significance of belief in a high god, Ngai, is maintained or was transferred to the Christian-centered belief in monotheism the belief in one god.
He lives in the sky and is invisible. Sometimes he lives on Mount Kenya. He should only be approached for serious problems such as those involving life-and-death questions. During periods of famine or epidemic diseases, Ngai is approached by the elders on behalf of the entire community. Other traditional beliefs have also persisted into contemporary life. Important among these is the belief in ancestral spirits. These departed relatives are involved in all matters, especially those not considered important enough to seek Ngai's attention.
Matters of everyday health, for example, involve the ancestor spirits, who cause sickness when their interests are not taken into consideration. In the past, religious values emphasized community solidarity and discouraged individualism.
Authority was vested in elders and prophets, who were believed to know what was best for all people. Expressions of individuality and solitary life were not encouraged. Someone perceived to be outside the group might be accused of being a witch and could be killed by the elders. At the same time, considerable security was provided by the emphasis on the group.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, there was a custom known as Ngweko. Periodically, elders supervised gatherings of young people who would spend private time with each other for the purpose of getting to know members of the opposite sex. Young people paired off according to mutual attraction. Should a young girl become pregnant, the boy responsible was held accountable and was expected to marry the girl he had impregnated.
- Kikuyu people of Kenya and their Culture
- Kikuyu people
The Gikuyu considered Ngweko to be a form of sex education. And since Ngweko was associated with reproduction, the Gikuyu considered it a sacred act of carrying out the orders of their high god Ngai to reproduce.
Many elder Gikuyu believe that the missionaries made a mistake when they labeled Ngweko as sinful. The schools that were established after the arrival of the Europeans did not include sex education. Since the beginning of co-educational boarding schools, teenage pregnancies have become a major social problem in Kenya, including among the Gikuyu. Prior to participating in Ngweko, both boys and girls undergo numerous rituals, including surgery on their genital organs.
The purpose of these rituals is to enable young people to bond with others with whom they have undergone painful experiences. Clitoridectomy female circumcision was, and to some extent still is, practiced by the Gikuyu. It is the topic of much debate by Africans and others, and is often referred to by outsiders as female genital mutilation. A middle-ground position appears to be emerging that grants the social significance of adolescent ritual while working to eliminate clitoridectomy, even under hospital conditions where it now occurs.
The procedure was formerly done in unsterile conditions with crude instruments. Many life-threatening injuries and deaths resulted. Gikuyu boys continue to be circumcised, a practice widespread in Africa and many other parts of the world as well. Many dances and songs, called mambura rituals or divine servicestake place during initiation ceremonies. Gikuyu history is publicly enacted so as to provide a sense of community solidarity.
Each irua group is given its own special name. Initiation ceremonies involve special foods and the selection of a sponsor to impart knowledge and to supervise the young person. After several days of instruction, boys and girls are taken together to a compound for their circumcision.
Numerous friends and relatives gather for singing and dancing throughout the night. A special feast is made for the parents of the children. The day before the operation, there is a ceremonial dance known as matuuro. The next day the physical operations occur. Both boys and girls are expected to endure circumcision without crying or showing signs of weakness. Many elder Gikuyu people still maintain strong relationships with others with whom they were initiated.
While mandatory painful initiation ceremonies are increasingly becoming a thing of the past, many Kenyans are troubled by what they perceive to be a rising tide of individualism and lack of peer group solidarity among the young. Young people today in Kenya must work out for themselves how to combine old customs with modern ones.
This issue is a prominent theme and is the subject of stories, plays, and other programs on Kenya radio and television. Dating, courtship, friendship, and family life are significant concerns around which people construct their social lives. In the past, social life was dominated by rules about age hierarchies and gender distinction.
There is evidence that Gikuyus have more individual choice in these matters today. However, some Gikuyu have lost their sense of community responsibility so cherished in the past.
In the past, boys were organized into groups of local boys who had been initiated at the same time. These were grouped into larger groupings, called regiments. Boys in a common group or regiment proceeded through life together and exercised authority over groups and regiments coming after them. Detailed rules governed the roles of various age or generational groupings in the realms of dating and procreation, defense, and social structure.
Due to the altitude, much of the region is free of malarial mosquitoes and the tsetse and other flies that spread human and animal diseases. The Gikuyu have had success in commercial farming and in many other businesses. Some Gikuyu now own large estates and live an affluent lifestyle. However, many other Gikuyu live in slums, which have grown rapidly in urban areas, especially Nairobi. Thousands of homeless street children have come to Nairobi from Gikuyu towns where they suffered from family dislocation and poverty.
In the past, traditional Gikuyu houses were round with wooden walls and grass thatched roofs. Neighbors generally helped in the construction of a home in exchange for beer and meat. Building supplies were collected from local materials. A husband and wife typically lived in separate houses. The woman's house had space for her children and her sheep and goats. Well-built homes sometimes lasted for ten years or more, although rethatching the roof was an annual event.
It was considered a religious obligation to have children. Four children—two boys and two girls—was the ideal. Boys were desirable because they carried on the family name, which was passed on through the male line. Girls were desired so the family could collect bride wealth gifts to her family from her husband-to-be's familywhich could in turn be used to obtain wives for their brothers.
A married woman became more powerful as she bore more children. Her children stayed with her in her home, separate from their father. Polygyny one man having multiple wives was valued as a means to provide large families. Women, too, often preferred polygyny to monogamy one man and one woman ; they often helped their husbands find younger wives. Elder wives had clear authority over younger wives and supervised them in affairs of the compound. Events leading to marriage began with an initial meeting of the aspiring son-in-law with his perspective parents-in-law.
The young woman's agreement was required at this meeting before events could proceed. Later stages included parental visits, exchanges of goods as bride wealth, and finally the young woman moving into the home of her husband. The marriage itself was finalized when, prior to moving in with her husband's family, the young man and his relatives visited the young woman's house bearing special gifts.
Today, marriage no longer involves these traditional rituals and exchanges. Nevertheless, there is still bride wealth, significant involvement of parents in the choice of their children's spouses, and the high value placed on having children.
Marriage ceremonies no longer involve Gikuyu religious rituals, which have given way to Christian and Islamic marriage practices. Skin tanning was a vital industry for which many men were renowned as specialists. Women's clothing includes three pieces—an upper garment, a skirt, and an apron.
Men wore a single garment covering the entire body. Young men preferred bare legs made possible by wearing short skirts, especially those made from kidskin lambskin or goatskin because of its smooth hairs.
Elders wore more elaborate costumes—often made of fur. European clothing is now commonplace throughout Gikuyuland. In rural areas, women wear multicolored cotton dresses or skirts and blouses. Origin[ edit ] The Kikuyu belong to the Northeastern Bantu branch. Their language is most closely related to that of the Embu and Mbeere.
Geographically, they are concentrated in the vicinity of Mount Kenya. The exact place that the Northeast Bantu speakers migrated from after the initial Bantu expansion is uncertain. Some authorities suggest that the Kikuyu arrived in their present Mount Kenya area of habitation from earlier settlements further to the north and east,  while others argue that the Kikuyu, along with their closely related Eastern Bantu neighbors the EmbuMeruMbeereand Kamba moved into Kenya from points further north.
Kenya dates to around the 3rd century, as part of the larger group known as Thagicu. By the 6th century, there was a community of Agikuyu newly established at Gatuang'ang'a in Nyeri. The Agikuyu established themselves in their current homeland of Mt.
Kenya region by the 13th century. Each clan traced its lineage to a single female ancestor and a daughter of Mumbi. Some clans had a recognised leader, others did not.
Each clan then forwarded the leader of its council to the apex council of elders for the whole community. The overall council of elders representing all the clans, was then led by a headman or the nation's spokesman.
The title Mwathani or Mwathi the greatest ruler comes from the word gwatha meaning to rule or reign with authority, was and is still used. Ngai cannot be seen but is manifested in the sun, moon, stars, comets and meteors, thunder and lightning, rain, rainbows, and in the great fig trees Mugumo. Thunder is interpreted to be the movement of Ngai and lightning is the weapon used by Ngai to clear the way when moving from one sacred place to another.
Some people believe that Ngai's abode is on Mount Kenya. In one legend, Ngai made the mountain his resting place while on an inspection tour of earth. Ngai then took the first man, Gikuyu, to the top to point out the beauty of the land he was giving him. All those forces things in the universe came from God who, from the beginning of time, have had the vital divine force of creation within himself.
Everything created by God retains a bond from God Creator to the created. The first humans who were created by God have the strongest vital force because they got it directly from God. Because these first humans sit just below God in power, they are almost like Gods or even can be Gods. The current parent of an individual is the link to God through the immediate dead and through ancestors.
On Earth, humans have the highest quantity of vital force.