Origin of Bantus, Who are Bantu-speakers? (State the meaning of the term Bantu)
- The term Bantu refers to a group of people who speak related languages. They constitute the largest language group in Africa and occupy two thirds of the sub-Saharan region.
- The original homeland of the Bantu was between eastern Nigeria and the Cameroon highlands
- They moved from Cameroon through the Congo forest into the lake region of east Africa, Zambia and Shaba province of the Democratic Republic of Congo
- They then spread into east, central and southern Africa
- Due to their size and strength, they managed to conquer and now occupy two thirds of sub-Saharan Africa
- They form the majority of Kenya‟s population
Describe Bantu migration
- Bantu migration was slow and gradual, involving small groups at a time.
- Around 500 BC, they were living in the Congo forest, which was a major dispersal point from where they began to migrate.
- Their movement was in four major waves, two of which led to their settlement in Kenya.
Describe four major waves of Bantu migration into east Africa (In what four waves were the Bantu divided as they migrated into east Africa?)
- That which moved south-eastwards through the area west of lake Victoria, which became the second dispersal point and from where some groups, especially the Western Bantu, passed through present-day Uganda and eventually settled in Western Kenya from 1000AD as others, such as the Banyoro and Baganda, settled in Uganda.
- That which moved and entered east Africa at a point south of lake Victoria and proceeded eastwards across northern Tanzania up to the area between Taita hills and mount Kilimanjaro. At this point, some Bantu groups such as the Sukuma, Kuria, Nyamwezi and Haya were left in Tanzania.
- That which proceeded northwards from the area between Taita hills and mount Kilimanjaro up to Shungwaya.
- That which proceeded from Shungwaya up to the Kenyan coast. These became referred to as the Eastern Bantu.
Identify the dispersal points through which the Bantu migrated from and settled in various areas
- The Congo forest,
- The area west of Lake Victoria,
- The area between Taita hills and mount Kilimanjaro,
State the reasons for the migration and settlement of the Bantu into Kenya
- Population pressure due to food production, enabled by their knowledge in ironworking, with which they made and used better farm implements.
- Their might and strength due to better weapons and farm tools, which enabled them to easily fight and defeat other people and to clear new lands for agriculture.
- Internal pressure (family or clan rivalry).
- Natural calamities such as famine, drought, etc.
- Search for new farmland.
- The spirit of adventure i.e. their desire to taste life in new lands.
- Invasions and frequent attacks by warring neighbours.
- Diseases and epidemics, which affected both people and livestock
Discuss Socio-political organization of the Kenya Bantu during the pre-colonial period
- They were divided into clans, with the clan as the basic unit in the community.
- They practised circumcision.
- They believed in the existence of a supernatural being: God.
- Diviners and medicine-people were highly valued. Some communities had seers.
- They had rituals that marked different stages of life, e.g. birth, naming, circumcision, marriage and death.
- They had a regimental (Age-Set) system. circumcision formed the basis for an age-set and age-grade system
- They were divided into clans, each with a clan head.
- They had councils of elders, who settled disputes and presided over ceremonies.
- Some like the Wanga were centralized under monarchs. The Wanga were led by a King (Nabongo).
- Some, like the Mijikenda, lived in fortified villages.
- They were organized into Age-sets and age-grades.
- They had warriors chosen from the Age-sets to defend the community or enrich it through cattle raids on their neighbours
Explain the economic activities of the Kenya Bantu in the pre-colonial period
- They participated in local, regional and international trade.
- They practised farming.
- They kept cattle, sheep, goats and other domestic animals.
- Some were hunter-gatherers.
- They practised crafts such as iron smelting, basketry and pottery
- Some communities such as the Mijikenda practised fishing
MIGRATION & SETTLEMENT OF THE BANTU INTO KENYA [Describe two main groups in which the Bantu were divided as they migrated into Kenya]
- The Western Bantu, who were part of the first wave of migrants that moved south-eastwards from the Congo forest through the area west of lake Victoria, passing through present-day Uganda, where some of them settled as others proceeded to and settled in Western Kenya from 1000AD.
- The Eastern Bantu, i.e. Bantu-speaking groups that occupy the area between the rift valley and coastal Kenya, who entered Kenya after migrating eastwards across northern Tanzania. They had began to settle in Kenya by 1000AD and may have followed different directions to get to their present homeland.
Identify the communities that belong to:
(a) The Western Bantu,
(b) The Eastern Bantu.
- The Mijikenda,
- The Pokomo,
- The Taita,
THE WESTERN BANTU [Explain the migration and settlement of Abagusi, Abakuria and Abasuba into Kenya]
- Abagusi may have originated from a place known to them as Misiri, under their ruler and ancestor called Kwitu.
- From Misiri, Abagusi and some Abaluhyia groups migrated to the Mount Elgon region where they lived for several generations.
- Around 1500AD, Abagusi, Abakuria and a section of Abalogoli migrated down Nzoyia river valley and settled at Goye in Yimbo and near Ramogi hill and other areas on the eastern shores of lake Victoria.
- Due to arrival of Luo Ancestors In the lake region around 1550AD, Abagusi were pushed to Alego, Kisumu, Sakwa and Asembo areas.
- Shortly after 1600AD, drought forced Abagusi to migrate and settle in the Kano plains. Their farther migration eastwards brought them into conflicts with the Kipsigis. Because of this, they moved to the fertile Kisii highlands and other parts of their present homeland, such as Kitutu, South Mugirango and others.
- In spite of conflicts with the Luo, Maasai and Kipsigis, Abagusi exhibited and practised good interaction, due to which they intermarried, traded and had other forms of exchange with these communities
- Abakuria live in south Nyanza. Their traditions indicate that they are related to the Abalogoli of Abaluhyia and Abagusi too.
- They also trace their origin to the Mount Elgon region and maintain that they came from a place called Misiri.
- Abakuria may have migrated alongside Abagusi up to 1500AD when they took their separate direction.
- Abakuria settled briefly around the shores of Lake Victoria, where they interacted with the Luo and the Southern Cushites. Abakuria may have picked up the practice of circumcision and Age-set organization from the Southern Cushites.
- Some of the Kuria clans may have come from northern Tanzania.
- By 1800AD, Abakuria had all settled in south Nyanza, where they again met and continued interacting with Abagusi. Indeed, some clans of Abagusi originally settled in Kuria territory in the second half of the 18th century
- Abasuba occupy Mfangano and Rusinga islands on lake Victoria, where they settled from 1750AD, after arriving as refugees fleeing from Buganda. Other Suba people were displaced by the in coming Luo.
- Suba migration was mainly triggered by fighting in Buganda and Busoga, following the assassination of Kyabbagu by some of his children. Kyabbagu was King of Buganda. As a result of the assassination, there was a struggle for succession to the throne, which made some of the groups around Lake Victoria to flee.
- In their migration from Busoga and Buganda, most of the Suba spoke either Luganda or lusoga.
- The Suba later interacted with the Luo as they entered Kenya, although they at first saw the Luo as a threat to them. They traded and intermarried with the Luo among other practices.
- Some Abasuba settled at Gwasi and Kaksingiri in later years. They adopted the social customs of the Luo. Today, most Abasuba have adopted Luo culture.
- Because of Luo influence, Abasuba have almost lost their original language and way of life
Explain how Abaluhyia migrated and settled into Kenya (Analyse the migration and settlement of Abaluhyia into Kenya)
- Luhya oral tradition traces their origin to an area called Misiri. Historical evidence shows that Abaluhyia resulted from intermarriage between various ethnic groups in the course of their migration into Kenya. Buluhyia is an area in which Nilotes, Bantu and some Cushites interacted.
- Luhyia migration and settlement into Kenya started around 300AD. Their most recent ancestors spread from eastern Uganda from around 1300AD. Most of them may have originated from the mount Elgon region and then settled in Bukhayo, Marama, Tiriki, Bunyore, Wanga, Maragoli, Marachi, Kisa, Samia, Idakho, Isukha, Bungoma and other Bukusu areas, Bunyala, Busonga, etc.
- As they migrated, they assimilated other groups, such as the southern and eastern Cushites as well as Southern Nilotes.
- Between 1550-1750AD, Luhyia society began to take shape. By 1883, Abaluhyia had fully emerged as a community.
- Abaluhyia interacted with Nilotic speakers such as the Maasai, Kalenjin and Luo, which led to a lot of cultural exchange.
- The interaction of Abaluhyia with several other communities perhaps explains why there exists so many clans and dialects among Abaluhyia. In fact, the term Luhyia means Family. Abaluhyia means People Of the Family or Family-people
Explain how Luhyia interaction with Nilotic speakers facilitated cultural exchange (In what ways did Luhyia interaction with Nilotic speakers lead to cultural exchange?)
- Some Luhyia clans such as Abashimuli of the Idakho were formed.
- Some Abaluhyia picked up and started speaking the languages of the people they interacted with. This is more so with the Marachi, Kisa and Samia, who started speaking the Luo language. On the other hand, the people with whom Abaluhyia interacted adopted Luhyia dialects.
- From the Kalenjin, the Luhyia learnt cattle keeping and age-set organization.
- Some such as the Wanga bought or borrowed military services from the Maasai, who also had entered Luhyia territory.
- Sharing of practices, particularly in the border region resulted. E.g. Southern Luhyialand, especially Bunyala, Samia and Busonga (Usonga) have been heavily influenced by the Luo due to sharing of language and rituals, such as removal of teeth
Identify the dialects that constitute Luhyia community (What dialects is the Luhyia community made of?) Eighteen major dialects constitute Abaluhyia. These are:
Trace the migration and settlement of the Wanga into Kenya (Analyse/explain Wanga migration and settlement into Kenya)
- The Wanga Kingdom was founded by the Bahima, who had migrated from western Uganda and who settled at Imanga hills under their King: Muhima, who was referred to by the title Nabongo. Between 1544-1652, Nabongo Muhima founded the Hima dynasty by uniting the different clans that had settled at Imanga.
- Shortly after 1652, the Hima dynasty was replaced by the Bashitsetse dynasty under their ruler called Wanga. It was after this ruler (Wanga) that the Kingdom was later named, to become Abawanga or Bawanga (people of Wanga). In most cases, the community is referred to just by the name Wanga.
- The Bashitsetse established a more centralized system of government.
- During the reign of Nabongo Wamukoya, a group rebelled and formed a parallel kingdom known as Wanga Mukulu of Kweyu. During Nabongo Mumia‟s time, Wanga Mukulu was ruled by Nabongo Sakwa.
- The Abawanga suffered attacks from their neighbours. To resist these attacks, Nabongo had to seek assistance from the Europeans. They got assistance from General Hobley.
- The British expanded the Wanga traditional rule and made Nabongo a Paramount Chief. As a Paramount Chief, Nabongo Mumia ruled what was known as Eastern Uganda, which include the present Nyanza and Western provinces and parts of Rift Valley (Turkana, Uasin Ngishu, Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Bomet, Kericho, Buret, Baringo, West Pokot, Keiyo, Marakwet and Nakuru) up to Mai Mahiu.
- Through Mumia, the British assisted the Abawanga to fight their enemies e.g. the Ababukusu, Luo, and Iteso. Mumia died in 1949.
Identify the Kings (Nabongos) that reigned over Wanga
- Nabongo Wamukoya Netia (1760-1787),
- Nabongo Osundwa (1787-1814),
- Nabongo Wamukoya (1814-1841),
- Nabongo Shiundu –(1841-1882),
- Nabongo Mumia (1882-1949)
Describe the political organization of the Wanga in the pre -colonial period
- The Wanga are of special interest because of their centralized system of government, which no other Luhyia or Bantu group in Kenya had.
- They were headed by a king (Nabongo).
- The office of Nabongo was hereditary.
- Nabongo was assisted by a chief minister and an army commander.
- Nabongo levied taxes on the conquered communities and controlled trade in his kingdom.
- Nabongo mainly appointed members of the royal family as officials to administer the provinces.
- Apart from the Wanga, all other Kenya Bantu had no centralized authority. Some Western Bantu communities such as the Luhyia were affected by the spread of warfare in the Western Kenya region, so the political set-up among some communities had to be reorganized. The centralized system of government such as that of the Wanga was most reliable.
Discuss the socio political organization of the Western Bantu during the pre -colonial period
- They were organized in clans. The clan was the basic unit of their political and social organization.
- Circumcision of boys was a very important practice, especially among Abaluhyia and Abagusi. It was at circumcision that the boys were taught the values and customs of their homeland. While Abagusi and Abakuria circumcised their females, the rest of the western Bantu did not. Some Western Bantu communities like the Khayo, Samia, Marachi and Abasuba do not have the practice of circumcision.
- After initiation, the boys joined age-sets. Various age-sets had various duties, e.g. provision of warriors to defend the community, raid for animals,, help one another in tasks such as hunting, building huts, harvesting, etc. Senior age-sets advised the junior ones, settled disputes, distributed war booty, etc.
- They believed in one God. They regarded God as controller of everything, who continues to influence man's life, even after man‟s death. They called God by different names. They also believed in ancestral spirits, to whom they poured libations and offered sacrifices.
- Medicinemen and diviners were highly valued in the society. Sorcerers and witch doctors were hated, because they were believed to use charms and medicine to harm others
- Apart from the Wanga, the Western Bantu were politically organized as follows in the pre-colonial period:
- They were under village councils run by elders.
- They were categorized into age-set systems, which provided the community with defence and security.
- Positions of leadership were hereditary
Explain the functions/role of the council of elders among the Western Bantu during the pre-colonial period
- They maintained and ensured law and order in the community.
- They served as the final court of appeal in all matters.
- They had power to declare, stop or call off war.
- They presided over religious and other communal functions.
- They served as ritual experts.
- They settled land disputes
Explain the economic activities of the Western Bantu during the pre -colonial period
- Keeping livestock. They kept cattle, sheep and goats, which provided them with milk, meat, hides and skins.
- Agriculture. They grew grains, pulses and root crops such as cassava, arrow roots, potatoes and yams as well as legumes like beans and peas.
- Trade. Abagusi gave their Luo neighbours grains, iron implements and soap-stones in exchange for livestock, salt, hides, milk, pots, baskets, etc. The case was similar between the Luhyia and their Nandi and Luo neighbours.
- Fishing. They used hooks and lines, basket nets and fence traps to catch fish. They sold some of the fish they caught to neighbouring communities.
- Ironworking. This enabled them to have better weapons and farm implements, which aided their migration and settlement in various places before they finally settled in their present homeland.
- Crafts. They were good in pottery and basketry, which boosted their trade and other economic activities.
THE EASTERN BANTU [Who are the Eastern Bantu?]
Identify the communities that belong to the Eastern Bantu
- The Mijikenda,
- The Pokomo,
- The Taita,
- The Agikuyu,
- The Ameru,
- The Akamba
- The Aembu
- The Coastal Bantu.
- The Highland Bantu
(a) The Coastal Bantu,
(b) The Highland Bantu.
The Coastal Bantu include:
- The Mijikenda,
- The Pokomo,
- The Taita.
- The Akamba,
THE COASTAL BANTU [Trace/explain the origin of the Coastal Bantu]
- They probably were the first Bantu people to settle in Kenya.
- Their ancestors may have moved from a dispersal point west of Lake Victoria through northern Tanzania to the area between Taita hills and Mount Kilimanjaro.
- Others such as the Mijikenda moved towards the coast, while the Chagga of Tanzania settled to the south. The Taita remained on the hills as the Mijikenda and other groups moved along the coast up to Shungwaya, which may have been somewhere between rivers Juba and Tana. The present highland Bantu moved westwards and eventually occupied their present home areas.
- The Shungwaya dispersal mainly resulted from the southward expansion of the Oromo by 1600AD. The Mijikenda groups started settling in their present home areas in the course of 1700AD. By the beginning of the 19t h century, they had settled in their present homeland. The Pokomo on the other hand moved from Shungwaya, following the river Tana. Here, they interacted with Cushites such as the Oromo and the Somali.
Who are the Mijikenda?
Name the nine communities the constitute (make up) the Mijikenda.
- The Giriama,
Analyse/trace the migration and settlement of the Mijikenda and Pokomo into Kenya
- The Mijikenda trace their point of origin to Shungwaya, which in Bantu means “To be driven away”.
- From Shungwaya, the Bantu were forced to move southwards by the Oromo, who also stopped their northward migration around the 16t h century AD. The Somali also joined the Oromo in forcing the Mijikenda out of Shungwaya, from where the Mijikenda moved in small groups, which explains why they settled in different places and why today the Mijikenda exist and are identified by their small groups or clans.
- The Mijikenda settled in fortified villages, just inland from the coast. Each of the nine groups settled in their own separate ridges, which are commonly referred to as Kaya, a word that means „towns‟. The term Mijikenda itself expresses that the community consists of nine related groups.
- Each Kaya was fortified with tree trunks. Even after settling in their present homeland, their main enemies were the Oromo and the Somali.
- By the 19t h century, the Mijikenda had interacted and established themselves as middlemen in the Long Distance trade between the Akamba and the Waswahili at the coast.
- Ancestors of the Pokomo lived with those of the Mijikenda at Shungwaya, but the Pokomo moved southwards and settled along river Tana, where they interacted with Cushitic communities. Population pressure and Oromo attacks were the main reasons for Pokomo movement from Shungwaya.
Name the three hills inhabited by the Taita.
- Mangea hill, where they first settled.
Trace/analyse migration and settlement of the Taita into Kenya
- The Taita are a people of mixed origin, though most of them trace their origin to Shungwaya.
- They first settled on Mangea hill in the 16t h century, from where they migrated to their present home areas.
- They live on three hills i.e. Davida, Sagalla and Kisigan
Identify Taita clans and their origins
- The Wasadu, who originated from the Oromo.
- The Wanyanya, who originated from the Maasai, Oromo and Akamba.
- The Wanya, who originated from the Mijikenda, Agikuyu and Shambala.
- The Shambala, who originated from Tanzania.
- The Wasann, who originated from the Pokomo, Akamba and Shambala.
- The Wasasadu, who originated from the pare in Tanzania.
- The Waikumi, who originated from the Maasai and Akamba.
- These clans emerged as a people after many years of interaction.
ORGANIZATION OF THE COASTAL BANTU
- They were divided into clans, each with its council of elders (Kambi), which served as the final court of appeal in all matters as the highest ruling council.
- The council of elders comprised the highest level of Age-set systems as part of the organization of the society.
- Under the elders were prophetesses and prophets (Wafisi), who had authority over all religious and ritual matters by administering oath and conducting all traditional ceremonies at every level e.g. circumcision, harvesting, planting, cleansing, reconciliation, etc.
- In short, the social and political institutions among the coastal Bantu were closely interwoven.
Describe the economic activities of the Coastal Bantu during the pre -colonial period
- Agriculture. They mainly cultivated grains, with which they traded.
- Keeping livestock. They kept cattle, sheep and goats, which provided them with milk, meat, hides and skins.
- Fishing. Most of the coastal Bantu who lived on the sea-shore and along river-banks caught fish to supplement their diet and to boost their trade.
- Hunting. This was more so with the Taita and Mijikenda, who hunted elephants and rhinoceros for ivory, horns, etc.
- Trade. The Mijikenda traded with the Akamba, Chagga and Taita as far back as the 18t h century AD. They traded in grains, goats, sheep, cattle, iron tools, beads, clothes, ivory, skins, rhino horns, etc.
THE HIGHLAND BANTU
THE AKAMBA [Analyse/discuss migration and settlement of the Akamba into Kenya (Trace the origin of the Akamba)]
- The Akamba trace their origin to the area around Mount Kilimanjaro, from where their ancestors migrated to the great bend of the river Tana. They then moved to Taita hills and finally reached Tsavo west. Around mid 15t h century AD, the Akamba followed the eastern banks of river Athi, from where one group moved across the Athi to Ulu. Due to Oromo attacks, another group of the Akamba moved south to the Galana river and settled in the region around Chyulu hills north of Mount Kilimanjaro. Due to drought in the Chyulu area, some Akamba migrated and settled in the Mbooni hills near Machakos around mid 16t h century. Soon, due to population increase, some Akamba migrated farther to Iveti, Kilungu, Masaku and Makueni. In the course of their migration and settlement, the Akamba met and interacted with the Agikuyu.
In what ways was Akamba migration and settlement influenced by the environment? (Explain how and what environmental factors influenced Akamba migration and settlement into Kenya)
- Those in Mbooni region took up agriculture due to soil fertility and ample rainfall in the area.
- The Akamba who moved to drier areas like Chyulu hills became hunters.
- Others moved to Kitui and adopted pastoralism and hunting. It is this group that later participated in the Long Distance trade by providing ivory and slaves to the coastal traders in thee 19th century.
In what ways did the Akamba interact with the Agikuyu in the course of Akamba migration and settlement into Kenya? (Explain interaction between the Akamba and Agikuyu in the course of Akamba migration and settlement into Kenya)
- They exchanged trade items.
- They intermarried.
- They adopted cultural aspects like language and dressing.
- They raided and fought each other.
- They began sporting activities such as wrestling and archery.
THE AMERU [Name the dialects that constitute/make up the Ameru]
- The Tigania,
Discuss/analyse migration and settlement of the Ameru into Kenya
- The Ameru claim a place called Mbwa, which is somewhere at the coast (probably Manda island) as their area of origin. However, historians believe that this tradition of Mbwa fits very well with Bantu dispersal from Shungwaya.
- By late 15t h century, ancestors of the Ameru had begun arriving in Meru. Ameru migration from the coast was mainly due to Oromo pressure.
- From Shungwaya, the Ameru moved westwards along the river Tana and pushed into Igembe and Tigania regions. Around 1400AD, the Ameru and other Mount Kenya groups were living as hunters and pastoralists.
- They moved farther into the interior, crossing river Tana. Some, especially the Tharaka, finally settled to the east of River Tana as others such as the Chuka, Muimbi, Imenti, Tigania and Igembe settled in the area west of the River Tana
- The Ameru and Agikuyu are believed to have initially migrated as one group until 15th and 16th centuries, when the Agikuyu took their separate direction. The traditions of the two groups and those of the Aembu and Mbeere seem to confirm this view.
- Aembu and mbeere ancestors are believed to have initially migrated with those of the Ameru and Agikuyu from the Kilimanjaro area before going their separate way.
- By 1500, the Mbeere had settled in their present homeland. However, the Aembu crossed River Thuci and moved north-westwards to the area east of mount Kenya, where they settled and interacted with the Athi and Gumba, who they later assimilated and from who they learnt the art of bee keeping, ironworking and circumcision.
- The Agikuyu are the largest population of all the Eastern Bantu. They inhabit the Central province of Kenya.
- Describe two legends or myths that refer to Gikuyu origin.
- That which presents the Agikuyu as having originated from Mukurwe Wa Gathanga, where their ancestors (Gikuyu and his wife mumbi) were settled after God created them. According to this legend, Gikuyu and mumbi begat nine daughters, who married and mothered the nine clans of the present Agikuyu.
- That which states that the Agikuyu may have descended from one of the four sons of a Mbeere man, the other three of which may have mothered the Akamba, Athi and Maasai.
Discuss/analyse migration and settlement of the Agikuyu into Kenya
- By 1200AD, The Bantu had already settled in the Central province of Kenya. However, the original inhabitants of the area were hunter-gatherers, such as the Athi (Dorobo) and the Gumba. These may have been the remnants of the original inhabitants. The Athi and the Gumba interacted with the Agikuyu, who later assimilated them.
- The Agikuyu may have moved south-west from the coast around 1400AD, probably to avoid hostile neighbours, such as the Oromo. They also may have moved in search for cultivable land. They followed the Tana River.
- As they moved, some groups broke off and settled in different places. Those who settled in the east became the Tharaka while those who settled in the south-west became the mbeere. They had arrived and settled in Mbeere and Chuka from a northern direction by the 16th century AD. One group proceeded to the confluence of the Tana and Thika rivers by the beginning of the 18t h century. This was the group of Gikuyu ancestors that is associated with the Mukurwe Wa Gathanga tradition in Murang‟a.
- The Agikuyu later moved to the Mweya plains, where they were joined by the Akamba and the Thagicu. Farther expansion of the Agikuyu led to the displacement of the Athi and Gumba, some of who were assimilated while others ran into the Nyandarua and Mount Kenya forests.
- In the first half of the 19t h century, the Agikuyu once more migrated to Othaya and Aguthi. They also moved north-eastwards to Mathira and Tetu in Nyeri. They spread and settled in different parts of Central province and reached as far as Kiambu and Nyandarua. Their settlement in Kiambu and Nyandarua was interrupted by the coming of the Europeans in the 19t h century. However, they were still migrating by early 20t h century.
- As they migrated, the Agikuyu borrowed ideas from the Cushites, the Maasai, the Gumba and Athi. The Gumba and Athi were later together known as the Okiek.
- The Maasai seriously opposed or resisted Agikuyu invasion. However, the Athi welcomed and were on good terms with the Agikuyu. The Agikuyu borrowed many economic and social aspects from the Athi, e.g. ironworking, circumcision, clitoridectomy (female circumcision) and some age-set features.
Describe the socio-political systems among the Agikuyu during the pre -colonial period
- The Agikuyu at touched a lot of political and social importance to the family and age-set.
- Being the smallest social and political unit, every family had its own head. Several families formed a clan.
- Gikuyu country was divided into clans or territorial units, each of which was made up of several sub-clans (Mbari) with common descent, usually living on the same ridge. each territorial unit was headed by a council of elders: the “Kiama”, under a senior elder known as “Muramati” or “Muthamaki” (spokesman). Muramati was highly respected by the community because of his wisdom and leadership qualities. However, he was not a chief.
- Each sub-clan was ruled by a council of elders subordinate to the “Kiama”. This performed religious, administrative and judicial roles within the sub clan, leaving the “Kiama” to deal with matters beyond its ability or communal mandate.
- At puberty, young boys were initiated through elaborate rites, crowned with circumcision, during which they were taught the social values, customs and their duties to the community as warriors.
- Boys circumcised at the same time formed an Age-set (Rika). Age-sets formed the military base for the Gikuyu community, since members of the same age-set considered one another as brothers, which created a strong political and social bond. Circumcision of girls was also done every year.
- They believed in one God (Ngai), who was all-powerful and in complete control of all life and who has a definite dwelling place: Mount Kirinyaga (Mount Kenya). Since God was all-powerful, people prayed to him through priests. priests offered the community‟s prayers to God through ancestral spirits. Diviners interpreted God‟s messages to the people.
- Sacrifices were offered to God in thanksgiving or to ask for his blessings.
- The Agikuyu strongly believed in ancestral spirits, who continued to live for many generations, even after physical death and who were all-powerful as intermediaries between God and the living.
- Medicinemen and diviners were very important in the community. The Medicine man (“Mundu Mugo”) could cure certain diseases and expel evil spirits. Medical skills were inherited from close relatives. The Diviner (“Murathi”) could foretell the future.
- From the main council of elders, a council of senior elders was formed.
Explain the role/duties of the council of elders among the Agikuyu in the pre -colonial period (What were the functions of the council of elders among the Agikuyu during the pre-colonial period?)
- They were the highest court of appeal.
- They solved land and inheritance disputes.
- They settled civil and criminal cases.
- They presided over religious and other functions.
Identify the economic activities of the Agikuyu during the pre -colonial period
- Agriculture. They grew sorghum, eleusine, millet, root crops and many others for subsistence.
- Animal husbandry. They kept cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, etc.
- Trade. They exchanged various trade items with their Maasai, Akamba, Okiek and other neighbours. Such items included grains and livestock.
- Ironworking. From iron smelting, they obtained weapons and farm implements, with which they were able to settle and farm in their present homeland.
- Crafts. They made pots, baskets and other items, which boosted their skills in trade and other economic activities.
Discuss the effects of Bantu migration and settlement into Kenya
- Increased population in the regions where they settled.
- spread of ironworking to other parts of Kenya. The skill reached other communities, such as the Luo.
- Increased intercommunal conflicts. For instance, they fought with the Oromo at the coast, the Maasai in the Rift Valley and the Luo near Lake Victoria.
- More trading activities as the Bantu exchanged iron products with other communities. For example, Abagusi gave iron products to the Luo in return for baskets.
- Increased cultural interaction and exchange. For instance, many Bantu groups assimilated the Southern Cushites as some Bantu were assimilated by Nilotes.
- spread of agricultural practices in Kenya. For example, the Kwavi Maasai of Kenya adopted cultivation.
- Population redistribution. E.g. the Dorobo moved to forested areas.
- Displacement of some communities. For instance, Abagusi were displaced by the Luo in the Kano plains. Some Eastern Cushites were displaced by the Agikuyu from parts of central Kenya.
- Intermarriage. E.g. Abaluhyia intermarried with the Maasai, Kalenjin and Luo.
- Exchange of knowledge and skills. Many Bantu adopted the Age-set system and the practice of circumcision from the southern Cushites.