April 24, 2008

The Agĩkũyũ

Filed under: Uncategorized — nyerikiambu @ 5:41 pm

The Origins:


By this I mean, what the historians have traced as the origins of the Agĩkũyũ people. According to historians, the Gĩkũyũ ancestors immigrated from Meru and Tharaka via Mbeere and Ndia in the 17th Century (1601 – 1700). They regrouped in the area between the rivers North Mathioya and Gura and expanded westwards towards the Aberdares Range, southwards towards Kiambu and northwards towards Nyeri. By middle of the 19th century (1801 – 1900), they reached the foothills of the Aberdares. The expansion northwards was slowed by the presence of the Maasai in the area, and although trading and marriage relations were soon established between the two groups, it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that the Gĩkũyũ occupied areas north of rivers Rũirũ and North Chania. Finally, the southward expansion into Kiambu area occurred during the first half of the 19th century, and by 1880s Gĩkũyũ pioneers occupied the area between the Karura and Nairobi rivers, which brought them into intimate contact with Maasai living in Ngong area. Religious:

Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi God (Ngai or Mũgai (The Divider)) created Gĩkũyũ the father of the Tribe and took him on top of Kĩrĩ-Nyaga (Mt. Kenya) and showed him all the land that he had given him: West from Mount Kenya to the Aberdares, on to Ngong Hills and Kilimambogo, then north to Gabatula. He then pointed to him a spot full of fig trees (Mũgumũ) and he commanded him to descend and establish his homestead on the selected spot known as Mũkũrwe wa Gathanga (in present day Mũrang’a district) .When Gĩkũyũ descended to the spot he found a beautiful wife waiting for him, Mumbi. Together, Gĩkũyũ and Mũmbi had 10 beautiful daughters— Wanjirũ, Wambũi, Wanjikũ, Wangũi aka Waithiegeni, Wangeci aka Waithĩra, Wanjeeri aka Waceera, Nyambura aka Wakĩũrũ, Wairimũ aka Gathiigia, Wangarĩ and Wamũyũ aka Warigia, which are also very popular names for Gikũyũ females today.

When the time came for the 9 eldest daughters to marry, the youngest Wamũyũ not yet being of age, Gĩkũyũ prayed to God under a holy fig tree, (Mũkũyũ, some say Mũgumũ), as was his tradition, to send him sons-in-law. He offered a lamb as sacrifice and as the fire was consuming the lamb’s body, nine men appeared and walked out of the flames. Gĩkũyũ took them home and each daughter married the man who was the same height as she was, and together they gave rise to the nine of the ten clans to which all Gĩkũyũs belong. Wamũyũ, got a child out of wedlock. These clans are the Anjirũ, Agacikũ, Ambũi, Angũi aka Aithiegeni, Angechi aka Aithĩrandũ, Aacera, Ambura aka Aakĩũrũ aka Eethaga, Airimũ aka Agathiigia, Angarĩ aka Aithekahuno and Aicakamũyũ.

Note: Some authors only count nine daughters and nine clans leaving out the youngest daughter Wamũyũ aka Warigia and her lineage, the Aicakamũyũ. The Gĩkũyũ of old believed that it brought bad luck to count ones children. It was believed that a person who did so was tired of Gods blessings. As such the 10 clans are referred to by the Agĩkũyũ as full-nine (kenda-mũiyũru).

The legends say that the tribe was initially matrilineal but the women became tyrannical rulers and the men overthrew them by impregnating them at the same time. In those days the women were much stronger than the men.

From a purely mathematical point of view it is quite possible for the population to grow from the initial population of 20, Gĩkũyũ, Mũmbi, their 9 daughters and their daughters husbands to the present population of about 7 million in about the 450 years that the tribe is said to be in existence. The calculation is made under an assumed monogamy (the Gĩkũyũ were actually polygamous), the assumption that every couple produces 4 children. 2 daughters and 2 sons, and the assumption of a reproductive cycle of 25 years.

Gikuyu and Mumbi, Sources:

  1. Leakey L.S.B. – The Southern Gikuyu Before 1903 Vol I – III [1977, unpublished 1938] , 9 Clans
  2. Kenyatta, Jomo – Facing Mt. Kenya [1938], 9 Clans
  3. Kabetũ, M. N. – Kĩrĩra Kĩa Ũgikũyũ [1947], 10 Clans
  4. wa Wanjau, Gakaara – Mĩhĩrĩga ya Aagĩkũyũ [1960], 10 Clans


Clan Sources In Addition to the three afore mentioned Books:

1. Routledge, W.S. & K – With a Prehistoric People: The Akikuyu of British East Africa [1910], 13 Clans, most of which have been compressed together by Leakey


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