Every nation, tribe, and people have diversities in culture, background, and historical records. The KIKUYU people are no exception. The Kikuyu are a Bantu-speaking ethnic group. According to Wikipedia, “at a population of 8,148,668 as of 2019, they account for 17.3% of the total population of Kenya, making them the largest ethnic group in Kenya”. Kenya has a diverse tribe and Kikuyu happens to be one of the sixties indigenous tribes. 

What does Kikuyu mean? The word ‘KIKUYU’ originated from a Swahili word, ‘Gikuyu’, which is derived from the word ‘mukuyu’ which means, ‘olive tree’. Hence, Agikuyu in the Kikuyu language means, “children of the olive tree.” Therefore, they offer their worship to their god, Ngai at the sycamore or olive tree called Mugano tree in their language. 

The Kikuyu believe in a Supreme creator called Ngai or Nwene-Nyaga. The god is believed to have resided on Mount Kenya and had created the first Kikuyu community, providing them with all the resources needed for life. History has it that Ngai created the first set of beings, (Gikuyu and Mumbi) and had given the land of Kikuyu to them. It is also believed that Ngai comes to inspect the earth once in a while. He bestows blessings and metes out punishment to the disobedient. Whenever Ngai comes to visit the earth, it is believed that thunder signifies his presence and lightning is his weapon that he uses to clear the way when visiting sacred places. 

Mumbi gave birth to nine daughters and no male child. History has it that Gikuyu went to meet with Ngai at the Mugano tree, which was their place of worship to request that his daughters be married. Ngai instructed him to make some sacrifices and that his daughters should be present with a stick that depicts their height. After making the sacrifices, he was told to go home with his daughters and thereafter come back alone. He did as was instructed and on returning to the tree the following day, he met nine men who were each of his daughter’s height and were willing to marry his daughters. The nine daughters got married and gave birth, of whom emanated the nine clans of Kikuyu. The clans were not restricted to any geographical area, they lived side by side. And political power was exercised by the ruling council of elders for each clan. 

The Kikuyu is a strong entity. They had preserved their political powers from external influence. This means that the nation had not been subdued before, they were never slaves nor made raids for the capture of slaves. Historically, records have it that the Arabs who tried to venture into Agikuyu land met instant death. How funny!. They were farmers by profession and shrewd business people. 

The fertile land around the slopes of Mount Kenya to the north of Nairobi is basically owned by the Kikuyu. They were a force that agitated for the independence of Kenya with the likes of Jomo Kenyatta, Koinange WA Mbiyu. Today, because of their entrepreneurial skills, the Kikuyu can be found almost in every part of Kenya. They are known throughout Kenya as hard workers and good money managers. Therefore, they are easily one of Kenya’s wealthiest people and own a majority of the nation’s businesses. Due to their vast spread, Kikuyu is one of the major languages in Kenya after Swahili which is Kenya’s official language. So, you can easily learn the language, and you will be adored by the locals of the town. What a unique culture and unique people!

Timileyin Prosper

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