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Moderator, I hope you don't delete this thread. I've posted the same comments on the suggestions forum, but since I think the point that I was trying to make, has been made, I hope this thread can be turned into a sort of historical thread, of which there are a few on this site.

To the members of the site, who know their Gikuyu history well or have access to books written by Godferey Muriuki and/or Louis Leakey. Can you tell me whether the Agikuyu have any migration story? Why are we said to have migrated to the slopes of Mt. Kenya, if the oral history does not have anything of the sort. Is it on account of the Meru who have one and the linguistic similarities? Incidentally the Bukusu also have a migration story.

Also is there any book where all this stories and legends have been collected? That is for example, the creation story, the overrule of the women rule and more?

Finally, I was surprised while reading Kenyattas book at how few individualities of past history were mentioned. Were there no men or women of distinction in the Agikuyu society prior to the arrival of the white man. One would think at least a few distinguished themselves among the council of elders.

Also interesting would be to know where all the male names came from. The first daughters are well explained and some of the meaning of the names can be derived quite easily. But the where do the male names like Kamau or Njoroge, which are quite popular names come from. Also there are many girl names like Muthoni which are not among the 9 (or 10) but are also quite popular. What are their origins.

Interesting that no one is actually called Gikuyu while the naming system would have generated quite a number of Gikuyus in the odd numbered generations starting from Gikuyu and Mumbi.Jomo Kenyatta has a legend in which Gikuyu's grandson also called Gikuyu, of course, turns tyrannical. There are quite a number of Mumbis though. Any legends to this? Does Leakey or Muriuki cover such ground?

To fully understand the Gikuyu, one will probably need to read up on the Kamba, Embu and Meru too. Do the Meru also have a Gikuyu and Mumbi story and if not why are we bundled together. Of all this tribes had a common origin, then I expect common legends.


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Posts: 46 | Location: Nyairobi | Registered: 19 January 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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JohnnyK
I just started reading Muriuki's book. I will answer your questions pertaining to Muriuki. While Kenyatta's work is informative, it is important to bear in mind his anthropological bias, and the influence of his mentor Prof Malinowski.


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Originally posted by sajini:
JohnnyK
I just started reading Muriuki's book. I will answer your questions pertaining to Muriuki. While Kenyatta's work is informative, it is important to bear in mind his anthropological bias, and the influence of his mentor Prof Malinowski.


What exactly is biased in Kenyattas book, Sajini? I know Kenyatta omitted a few things and he was probably interested in putting the tribe in the best light possible.

In history though you can trust anyone, that's why one needs cross references. Between Kenyatta and Leakey, the truth will lie somewhere in between. Shame that Leakeys book is off the shelves as is Muriukis. As far as Mr. Muriuki is concerned it will be interesting to see how he arrived at the dates he says.

It would have been nice if some woman had also written a book at around that time, 1938, then the picture would have been complete. I look forward to what you have to say about Muriuki, though.


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Posts: 46 | Location: Nyairobi | Registered: 19 January 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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For anyone in Nairobi and interested in Gikuyu culture, the Kenya national archives is an excellent resource and carries several books including, L.S.B Leakeys The Southern Gikuyu before 1903. The Book is made up of 3 volumes and was published in 1977 based on Leakeys manuscript compiled from 1926 - 1939. They archives charge 200 shillings for membership which runs for one year.

Even better is this book By W. Scoresby Routledge and Katherine Routledge. THE AKIKUYU. * With a Prehistoric People: the Akikuyu of British East Africa.'

Excellent book about a thousand pages. Contains a lot of photos. A lot of our history is apparently stored in the British museums. Curiously there's very little in way of Kikuyu artefact's at the archives, at least the ones displayed while I was there.

Interesting that the story of Gikuyu and Mumbi is totally absent, insted there are two other stories. One that the tribe originated from an old man and his wife who were given sheep and goats by God. From their descendants the tribe grew. The man migrated from some place else,

The second one has the origins from a man and woman who lived in water.The 2 came out of the water journeyed to kiuk land and had many children.

The clan system is however there. The book talks of 13 clans but they are more or less the nine. Leakey gives different names to the same clan where as in this book they are all one.

At the end of the book are also several means. For those who were interested in writing among the Kikuyu. There is a picture of a gourd with several intricate pictograms inscribed.

Of much historical use is this monograph written about the Kamba written in 1920 by Gerhard Lindblom called The Akamba in British East Africa. Notice the various symbols employed by them. It is offered free of charge here.


As pertains to our own history this book written by John Boyes and which appeared in 1911 is also available for free, just download the PDF is also highly interesting.


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Posts: 46 | Location: Nyairobi | Registered: 19 January 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Johnnyk you are The Bomb!

I'll be at the National Archives as soon as am able. 8 hrs is enough for me!


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Posts: 224 | Location: Nyambarĩ kũa Mũthũngũ ti Kanoru.  | Registered: 06 November 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Originally posted by wamax:
Johnnyk you are The Bomb!

I'll be at the National Archives as soon as am able. 8 hrs is enough for me!


No Problemo! Enjoy. I understand folks looking for info because it's a bit hard to come by and I've also been searching. The Achieves has more books on the history of kiuks but I think the routledge book is one of the oldest if not the oldest. The good thing about it are the numerous photos. I think the Muriuki book can be found at the University of Nairobi Library. Muriuki used to be a professor there. The opening hours are also in there on their website. uni of Nai Lib I'll go check it out next Sato.


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Posts: 46 | Location: Nyairobi | Registered: 19 January 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Wamax, actually check out University of Nairobi's catalogue! If you just type in kikuyu, you get all the books they have. It's quite a bit of good stuff too. Definitely going there on Sato. The good thing is that you can search their catalogue online, unlike the archives where you have to search the catalogues at the place.


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Posts: 46 | Location: Nyairobi | Registered: 19 January 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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For anyone interested in LSBs Leakey, the Southern Kikuyu before 1903. Richard Leakey has printed some and is selling them for 20k for the complete 3 volumes. If you can raise that kind of dough, write Richie boy a mail, he'll tell you where in Nairobi his office is and ou can buy the books.

PS: The Nairobi University doesn't apparently allow non students to use the services of their Library. More gross insanity I can't imagine as it is a national public learning institution funded by tax payer. That is Kenya though.


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Posts: 46 | Location: Nyairobi | Registered: 19 January 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Johnny, you are a man after my own heart. The Agikuyu are one of the more interesting paradox of modern history. They abandoned their cultural norms faster than you can say amen, yet there is more written about them than just about any other tribe in Kenya. So fast did they abandon their pre colonial way of life that in these day and age any living person relaying the Gikuyu story will be probably have read it from a book and not as in days of old something that has been orally transmitted from one generation to the next by the next of kin.

There are books about the Agikuyu dating as far back as 1902. I haven't read or seen any of these books and they'd probably make for interesting if not painful reading as all books written at about this time by whites are. The first book written by a Gikuyu though about the Agikuyu and correct be by all means if I'm wrong is Miikarire za Agikuyu (Check Spelling) by Stanley Kiama Gathingira. It might even be the first book ever written by a Kenyan black african. I have been looking for this book for a while and preferably in it's original version but to no avail. This is a huge shame of course. That is also the fate of many a book written at this time, a huge part written in Gikuyu too. The things I've read would suggest that the volume is unvbelievably great and if the Gikuyu want to preserve the story of their culture, for we have no kikuyu culture anymore, then they might want to collect all this material in a central place accessible for any interested party.

The History of The Kikuyu 1500 - 1900 is indeed a seminal work. It's author seems from my reading it to be more a proponent of the Agikuyu being an amourphous group who somehow becane a group as opposed to the single origin propagated in the Gikuyu and Mumbi storty. Muriuki talked to a lot of people in the lae 60s to come up with this work. It does make for interesting reading and there is an interesting map which start the Gikuyu journey at Nyambane hills. And here in lies the paradox of his own theory for it does not match the map drawn. The map starts from a siggular point and shows no elements coming into the fold that are from a different origin. Johnnyk, I found copies of the book being sold at Savanis. You might also want to check out the bookshop of the University of Nairobi.

Another book in similar vain to Muriuki's though published just the other day is Mau Mau from Below by Greet Kershaw. It's also based on this authors collections in the 1960's. It is however more focussed on a smaller area. The title is very deceptive, for in my opinion there is very little to do with Mau Mau in the book. It is more a book about a land dispute which led in the author's opinion to different elements finding themselve on different sides on the Mau Mau war.
 
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Johnny, that is the Savani's in Westalands, btw. They did have a lot of copies of that Muriuki book.
 
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In the spirit of this thread, here is some literature that an aspiring young man or woman can read to inform him/her of his/her people. The books with * can be bought from on of the leading bookshops in Nairobi. That is Text Book Centre either @ Sarit or Kijabe street, Savanis, Book Point on Moi Avenue and Prestige on Mama Ngina Street. The Books with ^ can be found @ the Kenya National archives and the rest can be found @ one of the libraries of the university of Nairobi.

I will do the list chronologically with the first publication date in these () brackets.

1. ^ With a Prehistoric People. The Akikuyu of British East Africa (1910) - W.S. Rotledge & K. Routledge

2. ^ Bantu Beliefs & Magic with particular reference to the Kamba & kikuyu tribes of the Kenya Colony (1922)- C.W. Hobley

3. Miikarire ya Agikuyu (1933) - Stanley Kiama Gathigira

4. ^ The Akikuyu: Their Customs, Traditions and Folklore (1933) - C.Cagnolo

5. An African Speaks For His People (1934) - Permenas Githendu

6. * Facing Mount Kenya (1938) - Jomo Kenyatta

7. ^ The Southern Kikuyu before 1903 (unpublished 1938, published 1977) - L.S.B. Leakey

8. * Kirira kia Ugikuyu (1947) - M.N. (Mathew Njoroge) Kabetu

9. ^ Kikuyu Social & Political Institutions (1956) - H.E. Lambert

10. Mihiriga ya Aagikuyu (1960) - Gakaara wa Wanjau

11. ^ A History of the Kikuyu 1500 - 1900 (1974) - Godferey Muriuki

12. * Mau Mau From Below (1997) - Greet Kershaw
 
Posts: 6 | Registered: 15 January 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Nyumba, Very good questions you have raised. I will try to answer you very briefly.
1. Apart from Muriuki G. Leakey and Kenyatta, there is a lot of literature on the Gikuyu.One of my favourite work is written by H.E. Lambert, The system of land tenure in the Kikuyu Land unit, Cape town, 1963(1949). I believe he was one time a DC of Embu in the 1930s...but a symphathec fellow. He tries to explain some possible origin of the Gikuyu revisiting some myths. Concerning Migration, you have to understand that the Gikuyu were not, they became (I mean, they were part of a laRger group which included, Meru and Kamba and that's why their history is intrinsically connected. They became what they are today by 'taming' the soil and burying their ancestors in the land. Read bout 'Gichandi'for instance and see all those hierografic engraved in the Gichandi(kinya). If you want, read my small article on ww.karangimugumo.co.org.
Gikuyu people had a written history...through the Gichandi of course and there is a lot of migration history which you can teeth out from those drawings.
2.Kenyatta has to be read with suspision. although I do not discredict his contribution, nevertheless he forged his own image of the Gikuyu people in order to achieve his 'selfish'goals. Leakey too contribute to the formation of the image of the Gikuyu. we might never really know what the real image might have looked like...people like Muriuki, Gathigira have tried to give a fraction of it. I have reseached extensively on the Gikuyu taking the sacred Mugumo tree as the fulcrum of power and history. Again I have a copy of one of these articles which was published last year by SOAS(university of London).
Yes there were great women in Gikuyu history...rulers, diviners, seers...do you remember that Gikuyu people were ruled by women in the beginning? Kenyatta might be right trying to show how men and women came to a compromise when men took over. that they had to retain the Gikuyu Names..Don't forget Wangu wa Makeri was real..I nterviewed one of the surving daughter of chief Karuri in Tuthu (Karuri was a secret lover of Wangu) a few years ago.
3. Can I talk about names now? Gikuyu people like Meru and Kamba or indeed most of Africn peoples named their children either by the names of animals, Njogu, Njagi,Ngari, or what they did: Muriithi, murimi, githiora; through seasons, ruling generations like Maina or Mwangi. some names like Kamau means either wild cat or one of the age grades given after circumcision through the ituika (change of government) ceremony. Kamanu for instance was a dance of young men and women. Maitha was an old name for Masai and thus any woman called wa-maitha means they have a maasai blood or connection. Do you still need to know more...let me know. just to mention that in the southern Gikuyu those names related to animals, land seems to have diminished with time but in places like Kirinyaga, they are still used.
Muthoni comes from the in-laws in marriage. the name was never used to name the firsborn or first daughtes, only in-laws. I do not think it comes from 'shy' but of course with time people started naming their first born daughter muthoni...very rarely in Kirinyaga and Embu.
Lanbert tries to explain the Origin of the name Gikuyo as totemic (from fish) but I do not agree. I think it would be difficult to ascertain the etymology of the name but who knows, there might still be some legends out there. Dr. Chege Githiora who teaches at SOAS (university of London) might have something to say.
4. let me say that history is lke a 'web'. its inter-conected. You can read Gikuyu history without really needing to read the Meru and Kamba but you like great 'cousins', you cannot avoid their presence and power over our history, neither can they.
The problem is, most of the existing literature has a lot of western influence...did we really need David Anderson to come and tell us how our grand fathers were abused in the concentration camp? He never even took a minute to acknowledge his research assistancts or worst still, rivisit the Gikuyu names...the book is a good reading though.where are our heroes...
More next time.
Dr. karangi
 
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Part of the reason why the kikuyu abandoned their culture has to do with the colonial masters.Remember that the rule was harsh and cruel in the Kikuyu land.More people preffered associating themselves with the churches and what did the church teach? Tha new way of life.Having witnessed worst scenarios, it was healthy to change.
It should how ever be noted that the British until today fear Kikuyu s.Agikuyu are full of admiration from even other African communities.
Today agikuyu probably have a sub-culture of the original agikuyu.Its eroding so fast.


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Posts: 149 | Location: Ndeiya Ng'ombe muhakaine wa Gikuyu na Ukabi | Registered: 15 February 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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mbui, good observation.
However, remember that the Gikuyu people were always a very resistant group. They resisted their neighbouring groups (Maasai,Embu and Meru), they completely anihilated the Gumba group around Mt kenya, they assimilated the Ndorobo and some masai groups. How would they have let the colonial master finish with their culture?
Although Colonial rule might have been harsh, nevertheless there are parts of History that underline their fight for political and religious space. Most Gikuyu came to religion because there were some inevitable benefits:education=good job but they hated Western religion religion hence the formation of Gikuyu Karing'a. I will not rush to the conclusion as to whether it was healthy to change...most pastors and priest collaborated with colonial master during the concentration camp to create camps of torture...some priests did not honour the vow of confidentiality during confession. And Gikuyu people knew this. I still wonder the values the western church taught that were not already within the African philosophy?: the Kihoto worldview. African had a connection with Christianity even before the coming of Europeans...do you remember the quen of Sheba? The Ethiopian eunuch?
You were right, the British still 'fear' the Gikuyu way...that is not new. Everybody always did..I am left wondering whether its real fear or a guilt consciousness.
Gikuyu culture is still thriving in Music, literature, language and philosophy. some parts of Gikuyu are better in revisiting their culture than others...Gikuyu life is as real as the air you are breathing right now.
Thanks for your contribution.
Karangi
 
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Karangi,
I agree with you.To me the British brought nothing new to the Agikuyu.Our gord Mwene nyaga existed, life was good.The Brits probably brought some brain washing to our population.Most of the current problems yes even political came from the British.Remember the Kind of sir McDonald and most of the senior British representatives were the reject from Britain.Our leaders lacked role model in the new system.
I compare The Kikuyu to the Jews, remember the black Jews??That is us.I dont support Kikuyu people doing a way with some of their culture. Wanganangu sings "aanake a matuku maya,,gutire ukuuga ruhio rwa njora,,ruhio rwao ni thipoti, tusker na pilisner,,,Athuuri a matuku maya , gutiri uri thingira,thingira wao ni kwa maraya,,,,Nao airiitu aitu, gutiri ukomaga kiriri,kiriri kia ni irabu-ini" We got to change or perish. Remember "Kaaga kuigua nyina no gukua gakuaga". Tutiri nginya njaba cia ita, tukuhruo nginya ni ihii twathaka.
Mwenenyaga angiroririkana nyuma ya mumbi.


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Posts: 149 | Location: Ndeiya Ng'ombe muhakaine wa Gikuyu na Ukabi | Registered: 15 February 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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