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Facing Mount Kenya: A Running Commentary (Part 4)

Facing Mount Kenya: A Running Commentary (Part 4)

Main Picture is a statue in the Desert Sands of Sudan which has more pyramids than neighbouring Egypt. The Nubian temples in Dangeil or Meroe are a part of the last Nubian Kingdom 300 BC–AD 300. They are built of granite and sandstone.
The pyramids were partially demolished by Italian Giuseppe Ferlini in the 1830’s . He was a combat medic who turned ‘explorer’ and later ‘treasure hunter’. I have read many times and listened to accounts that stated that often, whites, unable to conceive that the our statues and buildings clearly portrayed ‘a black advanced civilization’ became enraged and destroyed much of Africa’s cities, burning, looting and taking even clothes to their museums as ‘treasures’.

A Writing Culture

Africans have been writing for over 5000 years, but the general African public and even scholars of African literature are often unaware of these early literatures, believing that African literature starts in the late 1950s as the result of colonization. In this view, Africa is a savage Caliban who is introduced to writing by a European Prospero and Things Fall Apart is his first articulation! Westerns assume that whatever writing happened to be done on the continent was not done by Africans or in African languages and scripts – until very recently, and even then with much skeptism. This lack of awareness of the three thousand years of African writing is particularly surprising given the legions of pre-twentieth-century African texts that historians have uncovered and studied in the past fifty years! Yet the African public has not been educated!

While historians labor to overturn long-held misconceptions about Africa as a place “without history”, literary critics from Europe have done little to own up to their historians assumptions of Africa as a place without literature. To date history text books do not mention the libraries of Timbuktu and Alexandria, the reading and writing culture of those on the Swahili Coast, and the arts and architecture of Iberia. The extraordinarily rich trove of pre-twentieth century African continental literatures has yet to be written about in any depth by Euro-American literary critics, and where are the African Critics themselves? Certainly, no single book to date addresses their work at length and almost no literary essays published outside of Africa address the continental works. But ancient Africa had many indigenous scripts including hieroglyphs and hieratic, both developed in Egypt around five thousand years ago to represent the ancient Egyptian language. Egyptians then invented Demotic, which was related to Hieratic, and Coptic, which was related to Greek and used to represent African language.

Nubians used all the Egyptian scripts, but also invented their own – Meroitic, to represent the African languages of Meroitic and Old Nubian. Meanwhile in North Africa and the Sahel, black non-arab Africans invented the LibycoBerber scripts to represent a variety of Berber (Black) languages, while East Africans invented Ethiopic or Gəˁəz, to represent the African language of Gəˁəz. Along the Swahili Coast, Kiswahili was spoken in-land as far as the Congo, as far north as Sudan, and is older than Arabic by about 700 years. In the medieval period, Black Indigenous Africans in East, West, and North Africa used the Arabic script, but in the early modern period, Africans invented Ajami, which is related to the Swahili -Arabic script, for both their East and West African languages. It is only in the twentieth century that the Roman alphabet came to be used widely in Africa, and local languages were banned in Mission Schools. (adapted, Wendy Laura Belcher Early African Literature: An Anthology of Written Texts from 3000 BCE to 1900 CE)

“East Africa, so far as it received attention in the early nineteenth century
“East Africa, so far as it received attention in the early nineteenth century

“East Africa, so far as it received attention in the early nineteenth century “East Africa, so far as it received attention in the early nineteenth century was counted as part of the Muslim World and from these limits Islam has not receded – from the coastal shores of the Indian Ocean and past the Great Lakes Region into the Kingdom of the Buganda. There is no single Islam culture without literacy. Before the European penetration into South and East Africa, the peoples in these parts might have been classified either as ‘military and pastoral’ or ‘agricultural and industrial’ – with a prejudice against tillage which still persists in some parts of East and South Africa. The Great Lakes Plateau consists of an average elevation exceeding 3000 feet. It is a region of distinctive physique in the geography of Africa. With it the neighboring ocean littoral is to be included, for cultural and commercial association with the interior highland, are intimate. ” – (AFRICA, a Social, Economic and Political Geography of it’s Major Regions”, 1934, Walter Fitzgerald)

Strike a Bargain - Charles Wilda - (1854-1907)
Strike a Bargain – Charles Wilda – (1854-1907)

In other words, there existed a vibrant trade right across Africa, and East Africa was central to this trade. There were also clear caravan routes, civilizations, there were “military & pastoral” as well as “agricultural & industrial” communities, and along the coast, there were communities which spoke a distinct language – Kiswahili – which penetrated the inland as far as Western Congo and to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean! Africa was a vibrant continent !

If one was to take Facing Mount Kenya at face value with Kenyatta on the cover dressed in a coarse Raymonds Wool blanket caressing a crude spear, it portrays the people of East African as illiterate and as fanciful as the ‘native’ characters found in the Tarzan & Jane novels. (Tarzan of the Apes tells the story of Tarzan – meaning“White Skin” in ape language, who is adopted as a baby by the she-ape Kala after his parents, the Lord and Lady Greystoke, pass away after being marooned in West Africa!!) The Tarzan books were printed first in 1912, and Jomo Kenyatta’s thesis was published in 1938. Note that while his cover had him dressed in a blanket, he himself, never dressed like that in either Nairobi or London!! Throw in the fact that his cover was unlike the many pictures we see of Kings and Queens across Africa a few years before his book was written – in palaces, seated on Thrones, richly garbed and approached by the European who had to make obeisance. In his book this entire plateau is a seemingly isolated “dark-ages uncivilized group of communities” an idea that both the Kikuyu and British often thrust at other Kenyans, with them belonging to a hierarchy of the ‘most civilized’. This is why Kenyans have cognitive dissonance when presented with historical facts – eg, that the waPemba and those who lived along the East African Coast boasted of stone and coral buildings – of double and triple story homes, of fine beautifully built masjids decorated with tiles and precious stones. Of indoor toilets. Of plumbing. Of women wearing gold filigree and clothes made of silk, of wearing shoes, of hot water baths, of a culture of reading and writing. The Swahili boasted of using porcelain cutlery, slept on beds with sheets and pillows, and had intermarriages with the Chinese, Omani and Indians, spoke several languages fluently, including Mandarin and Arabic. Each Masjid had a madrassa, where both male and female students went to study.

Abakunta from Buganda Kingdom who fled to Kenya in 1797
Abakunta from Buganda Kingdom who fled to Kenya in 1797

Further inland, the Kingdom of the Buganda was a fully fledged kingdom with all of the political ramifications of a modern civilized nation. In Western Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, there are accounts written by white observers of Ugandan doctors performing C-Sections on mothers in the 1800’s, with both mother and child surviving. In Ethiopia, there was Menelik II 17 August 1844 – 12 December 1913, the Emperor 1889 to his death in 1913 and Negus or King of Shewa from 1866–89, remembered for leading Ethiopian troops against Italy in and winning the Battle of Adwa. Why is it that as we approach Muranga, when we come to central Kenya through the eyes of Jomo, history fizzles out entirely and we turn into a people without any historical past?

The 9 Strangers – an investigation

Let us try and answer this other question… whom were the ‘handsome men’ and what were their origins? By elimination, these men were not of the of Eastern Africa Highlands which we now know extended from the Northern highlands of Axum, stretched to the Great Lakes Region and past present day Uganda to the Congo, ended just below Lake Malawi in present day Tanzania. In the 1950’s History taught that the Kikuyu are stated to be kin to the Congolese. But my great grandmothers stories led me to believe that the first Kikuyu were known as the Gumba, a small tribe of extremely dark short men who dwelled in caves. Other tales on the ‘origins’ of the Kikuyu include being related to the Mijikenda as they wandered from Middle Africa. One thing is clear – the Kikuyu did not originate, from these lands, as according to the fable, they were “strangers and unknown” to both Gikoyo, Moombi and the 10 Warrior Sisters. By horseback, it would take a less than a week to travel around Mount Kenya, a bit more, to travel to the Great Lakes Region. Note that there is no culture of agri-culture at this point.

In doing a study on the people of Lamu I came across the history of a Chinese ship that had crashed on the coral reefs of one of the smaller outlying islands known as Paté. There, in a village of stone huts set amongst dense mangrove trees, a number of elderly men said that that they were descendants of Chinese sailors, shipwrecked on Paté many centuries ago. Their ancestors had traded with the local Africans, who had given them among other gifts, zebras and giraffes to take back to China; On this particular journey, their Ship was driven onto the nearby reef and was unable to be repaired. The sailors asked if they could stay and marry the daughters, of which the Elders agreed – but on one condition, that they must first convert to Islam in order to marry the Lamu daughters. The difference between the above story and that of the Kikuyu is the storyline – it is historical fact that can be proven while the Kikuyu myth is an obscure and deliberately ambiguous one.

I’rua – FGM & the Trauma of Pain

Further along the book, we are pounded but not surprised with Kenyatta’s arguments in favour of female circumcision that reflected theories of functionalism, a branch of social anthropology commenced – coincidentally– (at this point I am allowed to be sarcastic) by his Professor Malinowski, which views rituals in terms of the social functions they perform. Female circumcision, also known as clitoridectomy or, in today’s more politicised language, – (at this point I am allowed to be sarcastic) by his Professor Malinowski, which views rituals in terms of the social functions they perform. Female circumcision, also known as clitoridectomy or, in today’s more politicised language, FGM aka female genital mutilation – was practiced in Kenya’s 1930s – but by only 21% of the Kikuyu. Despite the low numbers, Kenyatta defended, insisted and pushed FGM in the name of supporting the principle of “age-grading” ( the organisation of society around age-groups) as a tool for education, and particularly for teaching endurance. The larger context in which this question arose, however, was around the rights of native Africans to practice “their traditions” (note: this by Malinowski). Hence, in the second edition of Facing Mount Kenya, the subtitle of Kenyatta’s thesis changed from “tribal life” to “traditional life of the Gikuyu.”

Yes, I got hung up a lot on the sentence where Jomo defended FGM as a tool for education and particularly for teaching endurance – what endurance do you teach through FGM?

The debate on female circumcision (known locally as i’rua – from the word ruoaatuurirũo pain/painful/tear apart) became heated in 1929 when the mission Church of Scotland in Kenya banned the practice, and furthermore required all of its members to pledge the same. Kenyatta was already in London when this ban took place, but he was livid. Note that the Kikuyu Central Association KCA membership was entirely male, and as the General Secretary, he retaliated by taking a stand in favour of FGM. What was going on in his head? Can I state that his stance on FGM was informed by a political allegiance and a position against dominance by first the church and then the Crown?

Kenyatta had two ambitions in writing his thesis – to regain the lands lost that the son’s in law had stolen from the Daughers of Mombi – by all means necessary – from the white man and,

to make sure that the Moombi daughters were in constant I’rua and thus unable to regain control of their lands. Remember that the daughters even in old age were physically stronger than the men, and well disciplined in the arts of war and combat.

FGM has been scientifically proven to be singularly the most excruciating cutting performed on a female. In the pain meter scale where broken femurs, cluster headaches, shingles and toothaches are identified as ‘the most painful experiences’ that a human can suffer – FGM is 4,000% more painful. It is so painful, that it destroys the female psyche and cripples a female soul – for life. It degrades her body and kills her spirit. Infibulation or pharaonic circumcision is the “sewn closed” category which involves the removal of the external genitalia and fusion of the wound. The inner and/or outer labia are cut away. Worse, it causes fistula during birth and agonizing pain when birthing, as the vulva are absent, and there is scaring where the muscles become inflexible and hard thus unable to dilate for birth. The condition where the bottom of the vagina wall rips a hole through to the anal wall during birth when the baby cannot naturally emerge from the vagina is known as Fitsula.

FGM is a curse.

And it’s history is rooted in Rome.

When the branch of Europeans known as When the branch of Europeans known as Roma first arrived in Rome, during the period known as the Byzantine Empire, they divided themselves up as those who had direct linkages and ancestry from the Gods, and those men and women whom were mortal, thus doomed to a life of servitude and poverty. So great and mighty where these Elitists, that they named themselves ‘Blue Bloods’ on account of the colour of their veins seen through their pale strangely white skin. Slaves were not allowed to bear children of the gods, and babies born from these unions were thrown to the wild wolf packs that roamed outside the city. Later it became easier to control the woman’s sexuality. FGM in its severest form (infibulation) is where the vaginal opening is also sewn up leaving only a small hole for the release of urine and menstrual blood. Other female slaves had fibulae (broochs) pierced through their labia to prevent them from getting pregnant. Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo notes that “…a widespread assumption places the origins of female genital cutting in pharaonic Egypt. This would be supported by the contemporary term ‘pharaonic circumcision’, and while there’s evidence of male circumcision in Old Kingdom Egypt, there is none for females. This was not common practice in ancient Egypt. There is no physical evidence in mummies, neither is their anything in the art or literature…”

Timelines of The Betrayal

1. The Land 2. Ownership 3. Authority 4. Balance

After the role reversal and the revolt by the men, there was a loud cry by women across the lands. A cry, of betrayal. It has been scientifically proven that Cortisol, a natural drug in our bodies, released during deep emotional pain, will affect an infants growth. Cortisol can elevate the blood pressure and the heart rate, increase blood sugar, and interrupt digestive and kidney functions. Infants are likely to develop when older, high levels of drug dependency, depression, lack of attention (ADD) aggression, bullying and mental health problems such as Bi-Polar and Schizophrenia. (M.R. Gunnar, “Quality of care and buffering of neuroendocrine stress reactions: potential effects on the developing human brain,” Prev Med 27, no. 2 (Mar-Apr 1998): 208-11.)

1. Ownership of the Lands meant care, for “…according to the Tribal Legend, we are told that in the beginning of things, when mankind began to populate the earth, the man Gikuyu, the founder of the tribe was called by the Mogai – the Divider of the Universe – and was given as his share the land, ravines, the rivers, the forests, the game, and all the gifts that Mogai bestowed on Mankind…” – in understanding etymology it is important to notice language flow and descriptive words. Kenyatta’s use of the words ‘divider’ ‘his share’ and ‘the game’ (not animals) points to a language that is both rigid and not belonging to an African genre. In his texts concerning the ownership of the lands, Kenyatta fails to understand the context of African land ownership – that the land cannot be owned by man, that land belongs to a community and requires a balance of maintenance, sustenance and nourishment, and that the land had been in the care of the 10 sisters plus their Mother, for a period of at least 100 years. In a single week, the care of the land, was overturned. So too, was the army. It was a coup d’etat extraordinaré, only that a problem immediately arose.

2. Ownership

As the women sank into their pain of betrayal, a cry spread throughout the lands, and there was a noticeable absence – there were no women warriors to take care of the land. For had not the men taken over that mantle? Abruptly, in less than a week, the women were bullied to stay at home and cook, (is this why the Daughters of Moombi are abysmal cooks?) while the men rode out…but to do what? In their planning to overthrow their women, they infact, made a blunder. Where the women outriders had kept the foreigner at bay, where they had a system that worked, the Kikuyu men let the white colonizer into the center of the lands, whereupon history shows that the newly self named Gikuyu men lost the same lands that they had conned their women out of. Towards the end of the 19th century, Muranga and Thika fell into the hands of the foreign white European.

The sins of the fathers passed onto the sons, and the land issue become an obsession to a group of young Kikuyu men, who when as middle aged men, had witnessed the passage of female land ownership in to their old fathers hands – through treachery. But one thing was clear – women could not be allowed to regain control of the lands. In their treachery, the men self- defeated themselves, but refused to admit that they had made a serious error, and further, instead of attending to the wrongs that their fathers committed against their mothers, these men, together with Johnstone Kamau devised a diabolic campaign that began with the law that women be circumcised to weaken them further, and he hyped up this propaganda through the KCA who had offices in Muranga, Thika, Embu and Meru – the Mount Kenya Region.

3. Authority

Female Warriors and Keepers of the Land

Female Warriors and Keepers of the Land - There were 10 daughters. Warrior Queens of Moombi.
Female Warriors and Keepers of the Land – There were 10 daughters. Warrior Queens of Moombi.

There were 10 daughters. Warrior Queens of Moombi.

The lands had been given to the Daughters of Moombi for a reason as ordained by Mogai – they held the Banner of Protection of the Lands against it’s physical, mental and spiritual destruction. These 10 daughters had grown and been trained in the wholesome care of the lands. Each had a specific name which symbolized the systemic cultural structures that both reflected and instructed their sacred duties. These ‘houses’ were ‘schools’ where children were taught disciplines.

(I) Acheera; Travellers, knowledge gatherers, storytellers

(2) Agachiko; Marketers, negotiators, wise – dealers with outsiders in terms of trade

(3) Airimo; Healers, shamaams, diviners, seers

(4) Amboi; Defenders of the lands and song Leaders – especially when going to war

(5) Angare of Wildlife – trackers (the art of reading signs in the bush)

(6) Anjiro; Mystical and possessing spiritual powers. Defenders and offer sacrifices for warriors before war

(7) Angoi; Goddesses : Overseers of the entire lands – environment and people – leaders

(8) Ethaga; Rain makers and healers – shamans, sages, very Spiritual

(9) Aitherando: Lovers of Humans, Justice and Law, bringers of balance and order – “Ka,” in Africa and also known as “Chi” in the East

(10) Wamuyu:- Life. Both Spirit and physical, holds the entire lands together. Also known as Warigia , she remained single and adopted children – orphans, or those who felt they wanted to remain set apart – single – as seers.

Mogai had given the mantle to The Daughters to protect the land, and in doing so bequeathed them with “…all the gifts that the Lord of Nature bestowed…”

4. Balance

The Etymology of Language and Things

Let us go back to the name of the ‘lands’. According to Jomo Kenyatta’s Facing Mount Kenya, ‘Gikuyu’ was told to settle with his wife Moombi– the ‘Creator’ in a place known as Mokorwe wa Nyagathanga which means “the place of “fig trees” and the bird species ‘nyagathanga’. It is to be noted that the fig tree is common to the whole of sub-sahara Africa and are sacred trees to – the ‘Creator’ in a place known as Mokorwe wa Nyagathanga which means “the place of “fig trees” and the bird species ‘nyagathanga’. It is to be noted that the fig tree is common to the whole of sub-sahara Africa and are sacred trees to all Bantu peoples, each whom have a name for the fig tree – this tree it is not peculiar to ‘Kikuyu’ tribe, although Jomo Kenyatta deliberately presented it as existing only among the Kikuyu and only special to the Kikuyu, disregarding the function of the tree across Kenya and Africa. In fact, the fig tree is so proliferate in Africa, it is the most common tree, followed by the Acacia. Considering that this book was written in 1938 – it was appalling clear that the greatest of all trees, the fig tree, grew across the continent. How could Kenyatta not know this?

This Bird species ‘nyaga thanga’ is recorded as ‘unknown’ by the Kikuyu. Yet when one considers the word in Utu and in Egyptian Hieroglyphics, it comes from the word ‘anga’ – the definition being ‘Juu’, also ‘Wingu’, ‘Mbingu’ and ‘Uwingu’ – Nya ga-anga – literally meaning “of the heavens” and is not a ‘bird’ flapping about in the sky, but implicates a physical land. Mogai showed to Gikuyu a land full of ‘the fig tree of the heavens’ – heaven being not an obscure place in the sky as denoted by caucasian theology, but a real place on earth according to the Bantu. And it had been handed down to the 10 daughters and their female descendants as proscribed by Mogai., a god whom one faced in the general direction of Mecca, for if you stand in the area Muranga or Thagana today, and lift up your hands facing Mount Kenya, one shall directly face the same direction as Muslims face when praying. (that’s a sidebar). The handsome strangers were to assist in proliferation and to live balanced ordered lives, according to a proscribed pattern set out by Mogai.

In the old Gikoyo language, women were collectively known as Aka, derived from the verb – gũaka – to create, invent, craft, design, form. Not coincidentally, this is the name of The Moombi, the First Woman. She was ‘Creator & Moulder’. In popular myths, Moombi was not directed to worship Mogai, for she herself was a goddess whom had the gift of creation which she passed onto her daughters but not to her sons. The children could not be called the children of Gikoyo for he could not create and he had to pray, sacrifice and raise his hands towards the Mountain, which he did, diligently. Life was balanced. The Stranger sons by marriage were known as ‘andu a nja’ meaning ‘people from outside’ and the singular form ‘mũtumia’ which in gikoyo means “the one who remains silent”, while the word Mutumia amongst the Kamba means ‘a man’.

After the revolt, both the terms ‘andu a nja’ and ‘mutumia’ came to convey the term woman. How is this? Let me answer myself – the men reversed the natural Mogai given roles.
This exposes another thread – that although the women were the creators, the strangers who were truly ‘from outside’ turned around and renamed the female ‘andu a nja’ .

So deeply has this story of Facing Mount Kenya been ingrained into Kikuyu hierarchy that few women have a standpoint in the current Kikuyu patriarchal system, and they lag behind their sisters in other parts of the country. While it is not rare to find strong Kikuyu women – because they fight tooth and nail and natural hair for their rights – even then there is the stain of disdain and rejection from an extremely high percentage of Kikuyu men. In Kenya, womens’ human rights are frequently addressed by non-kikuyu males.

There is a tribe of the Amazon forest in Columbia known as the Tukanoans. They believe that God created man, but not woman. Woman, they believe, already existed in the form of Earth – “Earth is a womb, all life forms are planted in the womb of Mother Earth. She protects and nourishes every life form. A woman’s womb represents the fluid earth. Seeds swim in that fluid until they germinate. Humans swim until birth. . They believe that God created man, but not a woman. Women, they believe, already existed in the form of Earth – “Earth is a womb, all life forms are planted in the womb of Mother Earth. She protects and nourishes every life form. A woman’s womb represents the fluid earth. Seeds swim in that fluid until they germinate. Humans swim until birth. How can we plant in a womb which has an imbalance of energies? Rain alone cannot give us a future. The sun, the moon, the soil, ancestors, the unborn, wind, insects, trees, rivers, fire, animals, and volcanoes – all are living cosmic energies.” (Kariuki wa Thuku, The Sacred Footprint, Vol 1, A Story of Karima Sacred Forest, towards reclaiming of the Community Territorial Stewardship of Natural and Cultural Heritage.)

Woman. I can see the wheels in your mind turning…
Woman. I can see the wheels in your mind turning…
Kenyans, how can we plant in a Kenya which has an imbalance of energies?

Link to Facing Mount Kenya

Link to the first Post

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Najar Nyakio Munyinyi

Najar Nyakio Munyinyi

Consultant on Indigenous land Rights

I live in Kenya above the Equator and there are problems with land use and utilization with many tribes being cheated out of their lands by international 'CONservation' NGOs. I do the PR, research, and writing for our group.

#AfricanWombman #Environmentalist #LandActivist #TreeHugger

I coined this term #womb-man to shout out to all womb-men, for we are "men" or human - with wombs - our girls, our mama's, our aunties, grandmothers - for our wombs are not only special, they're also at the #core of our triple gates - 1 our physical well-ness, 2 our soul well-being and 3 our spiritual progression. As womb bearers, we literary LIVE a-round our #wombs, and thus it is imperative to acknowledge this beautiful inner core of our beings.

I'm also the #creator and host of #TheMaa'ituPodcastShow - please go ahead and have a listen in, I have shared the website below..

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