Kuria people

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Kuria
Kurias singing and dancing.jpg
Total population
260,401 (in Kenya)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Tanzania
Languages
Kuria
Religion
African Traditional Religion, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Kisii, Luhya, other Bantu peoples

The Kuria (also known as AbaKuria, as they prefer to call themselves) are a community of Bantu people who inhabit Kenya.

History of the Abakuria and the origin of the name 'Kuria'[edit]

The people now known as Abakuria are of diverse origins and clans. Before the twentieth century, they did not refer to themselves as the Abakuria but by their various clans, or by the "provinces" from which they came. The Kuria people known as the Abakuria live astride the Kenya - Tanzania border in South Nyanza on the Kenyan side. They are divided into clans

(Ibiaro) which some researchers refer to as Sub-tribes but they are not real sub-tribes as the differences among the clans are minor. The laws and
practices are the same and the language is also the same among all clans with minor variations.
Each clan inhabits a geographically defined area. That is the clans are localised. Each clan is divided into sub-clans called Ibisaku; into generation
- sets known as amakora which are only eight (8) and the same in all clans; and into age-sets referred to as ichisaro. Every clan has its own council of
elders (inchama) who controlled the clan (ikiaro - single) as political and religious leaders. The Abakuria believed in taboos and superstition and they
generally feared punishment from the inchama for not observing the taboos. The punishment could be either death or barrenness or other misfortunes.
The Abakuria customary law is made up of rules and practices accepted and sanctioned by the community. The custom was full of do's and don'ts
(taboos/superstitions) called imigiro. Even the Marriage laws were full of taboos and superstition and there was automatic punishment for breaking
these imigiro. Hence the laws were followed so strictly both before and after colonization, because after colonization the Abakuria went back to their
original life and were not influenced by westernization. The strictness made the Abakuria Marriages (Oboteti) so binding to an extent that divorce was
something almost impossible. Their marriage was potentially polygamous like any other Customary Marriage in Kenya. Marriage was valued so much, as one way of family sustenance and continuation. As such everybody had to marry and get married. Even someone who was naturally incapable of marrying on his own like the lunatic, the dead, the cripple (irigata) among others, there was a way of ensuring that there was a wife in his name. There was also a way of caring
for the barren or childless through marriage so that their houses could not extinguish.There was no singlehood as a marital status to adults and as such even the divorcees had to remarry and every man had to marry inorder to establish his own home (Umugi goe). Also every woman had to be married to establish
her own house (Inyumba yae). Umugi and Inyumba had to be sustained that is had to continue growing in whatever cost. All these factors led to certain
marriages like ghost marriage, female to female (busino) and others. The stigma and disregard attached to divorcees, and given the fact that
everyone had to marry, made people stick into marriages however frustrating or bad some of them were.

Abakuria in the Present Day[edit]

The homeland of the Abakuria is between River Migori to the east and the eastuary of River Mara to the west. The area stretches from Migori District, Kenya on the east to Musoma District, Tanzania on the west. To the south their land borders Transmara District in Kenya and the Nguruimi area in Tanzania. To the north is Lake Victoria, with a small corridor occupied by the Luo and some other Bantu peoples.

The Abakuria are found both in Kenya and Tanzania. In Kenya they live in Kuria East (headquartered in Kegonga) and Kuria West districts (headquartered in Kehancha). In Tanzania they live in Serengeti, Tarime, Musoma town, Musoma rural, Bunda and some parts of Mwanza districts. Mara as a province in Northern Tanzania has mostly been occupied by the Abakuria since recent times.

The immediate neighbours of the Abakuria are the Maasai, Ngurueme, Zanaki, Ikoma, Luo and Suba.

Socially, The Abakuria are divided into several clans which live both in Kenya and in Tanzania. In Kenya, the are 4 clans found: the Abagumbe, Abairege, Abanyabasi and Abakira. In Tanzania there are 13: the Abapemba, Ababurati, Abakira, Abamera, Simbete, Abanyabasi, Watobori, Abakunta, Wiga, Kaboye, Abakenye, Abagumbe and Wasweta, Abatimbaru, with other minor clans.

The Abakuria are traditionally a farming community, mainly planting maize, beans and cassava as food crops. The cash crops grown include coffee and maize. Tobacco has over time been phased as a cash crop among the people. The Kuria also keep cattle and in times past, this used to lead to inter-clan and/or inter-tribal clashes over cattle rustling.

Origin of the name 'Kuria'[edit]

The name Kuria seems to have been applied to the whole group by the early colonial chiefs mainly to distinguish them from the other Luoised groups along the southern shores of Lake Victoria who were known as Abasuba (a name which at times also included the Abakuria proper).

The Abagusii state that their ancestors originally came from "Misiri" and that they migrated with the ancestors of the Abakuria, Abalogoli, Ababukusu, and Abasuba and that they lost contact with these people in the Mount Elgon area. The Abagusii and Abalogoli followed river Nzoia Valley which eventually took them to the northern shores of Lake Victoria probably between AD 1500 and 1560. At this early stage there doesn't seem to have been significant differences between the Abagusii, Abakuria, Abalogoli and Abasuba among others. Their distinctive names and identities appear to have developed much later when they had separated into their present homelands.The origin of the name Kuria is a thorny point in Abakuria history. The major Abakuria sub-tribes such as Abanyabasi, Abatimbaru, Abanyamongo, Abakira, Abairegi, Abakenye,Abanchaari, and Abagumbe have traditions to the effect that their ancestor was Mokuria (or Mukuria) who lived in "Misiri". His descendants migrated from "Misiri" and after many years of wandering on the other side of Lake Victoria, they eventually reached and settled in the present Bukuria.

According to this tradition, the Abakuria have been divided from time immemorial into two families: the Abasai of the elder wife of Mokuria and the Abachuma of the younger wife. But this tradition does not explain how the Abakuria people got their generation sets, such as Maina, Nyambiriti, Gamnyeri on the Abasai side, and Mairabe (Norongoro), Gini, Nyangi on the Abachuma side. These generation set names are also found among other people such as the Ababukusu, Kalenjin, Agikuyu, Aembu/Ambeere and Ameru. It is therefore most probable that the early Abakuria people who brought the generation set system into Abakuria society were a splinter group from a much larger community living in the area of Mount Elgon from which the Kalenjin people, a section of the Ababukusu and the Agikuyu clusters emerged. Paul Aseka Abuso in his book A Traditional History of the Abakuria has written thus: Abakuria section of the Abagumbe, Abapemba, Abaasi and Abasonga also state in their tradition that they travelled together with the ancestors of the Kikuyu among other people from Misiri to Lake Baringo in the Kenya Rift Valley where they finally separated. Although Kikuyu history does not corroborate this point it looks as if at one time the ancestors of these people originally lived together in some area north of Mount Elgon. Perhaps the people known as Sirikwa mentioned above were part of that larger ancestral community — or possibly their descendants. This is not yet clear.

The other view of the origin of the name Kuria is as follows. Between about 1774 and 1858, some of the Abakuria people were living in Musoma district in the present Tanzania and were settled in a hilly area north of the River Mara then known as Korea hill. The inhabitants of that area in time became known as Korea people after the name of the hill, which eventually changed to Kuria hill whereby the people became known as the Abakuria. The divergent views on the origin of the name would explain why the name had not gained wide acceptance among the Abakuria even at the beginning of the last century, as people still largely identified themselves by the sub-group names. During the colonial period, it was the name Abatende (after the Abatende clan in Bugumbe area) rather than Abakuria, which was in common use among the Kenya Abakuria. Those living in Tanzania continued to be known by their totems. It is only in about the 1950s that the name Abakuria gained wide usage. In a similar manner the Mijikenda, Abaluyia and Kalenjin became generally accepted as collective ethnic names in the 1940s and 1950s, at a time when in Kenya they were seeking political recognition by the colonial authorities.

The Abakuria people appear to have sprung from too many directions to have a common historical origin, although a number of clans claim to have come from Egypt. The culture of the present Abakuria therefore is an amalgam of many different cultures which may originally have been opposed to each other in content and practice. Among the Abakuria today are found people who were originally from the Kalenjin, Maasai, Bantu and Luo speaking communities.

Between AD 1400 and 1800 when migrations into Bukuria took place, the foundation was laid for the future Abakuria cultural and political developments. Early inhabitants of Bukuria came from both Bantu and Nilotic speakers who brought into Bukuria their peculiar cultures. Predominantly agricultural Bantu came into close contact with predominantly Nilotic pastoralists. Thus a blend of cultures took place among the early inhabitants of Bukuria from the start by combining agricultural practice with pastoral pursuit as well as tendencies towards nomadic life. Today elements of Abakuria agriculture is much like that of the Abagusii and the Luo while in cattle keeping they have borrowed the practices of the Maasai, Zanaki and Nguruimi.

Before the population had increased very much, it appears that a number of the Abakuria communities developed independently without many interactions with the others. Many of those who lived at the foothills of such places as Gutura, Maheta and Gwasi tended to carry on with their mode of life as if there were no other people around them. During the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, more and More immigrants settled into the region and whether they liked it or not, the earlier communities were forced to interact with the new arrivals or at any rate to confront them. Some of the newcomers were aggressive and would not let their neighbours live in peace as they engaged in raiding for cattle and at times fought for dominance in the region. This meant that the small family clusters that had hitherto lived peacefully in the region shifted location and internal migration and resettlements were a continuous and repetitive process within and around Bukuria. In this way new social groups were formed. Many of these new societies were often swelled by splinter groups running away from other broken-up communities as a result of disruptions of war and raids. The Abamerani, for example, are said to have swallowed up many other clans.

In 2006 the Kuria population was estimated to number 909,000, with 608,000 living in Tanzania and 301,000 in Kenya. The latest (2012) anthropological research estimate the population of the Abakuria in Kenya to be about 650,000 and those of Tanzania to about 700,000.

The Kuria people were mainly pastoralists in the pre-colonial era but currently the Kenyan Kurians lean towards crop production and the Tanzanian Kurians learn more towards pastoralism. The Abakuria are said to have abandoned Pastrolism after they were forced to do so by the Germans when they landed in the modern-day Northern Tanzania. The Kurians in the Serengeti district are distinctly pastoralist. Details on how Abakuria started crop production and abandoned pastrolism will be available as a researcher is currently working on the same.

The Kuria are closely related to the Kisii people of Kenya both in language and physique among other cultural practices and beliefs.

SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ORGANIZATION

[2] The Abakuria people appear to have sprung from too many directions to have a common historical origin, although a number of clans claim to have come from Egypt. The culture of the present Abakuria therefore is an amalgam of many different cultures which may originally have been opposed to each other in content and practice. Among the Abakuria today are found people who were originally from the Kalenjin, Maasai, Bantu and Luo speaking communities.

Between AD 1400 and 1800 when migrations into Bukuria took place, the foundation was laid for the future Abakuria cultural and political developments. Early inhabitants of Bukuria came from both Bantu and Nilotic speakers who brought into Bukuria their peculiar cultures. Predominantly agricultural Bantu came into close contact with predominantly Nilotic pastoralists. Thus a blend of cultures took place among the early inhabitants of Bukuria from the start by combining agricultural practice with pastoral pursuit as well as tendencies towards nomadic life. Today elements of Abakuria agriculture is much like that of the Abagusii and the Luo while in cattle keeping they have borrowed the practices of the Maasai, Zanaki and Nguruimi.

Before the population had increased very much, it appears that a number of the Abakuria communities developed independently without many interactions with the others. Many of those who lived at the foothills of such places as Gutura, Maheta and Gwasi tended to carry on with their mode of life as if there were no other people around them. During the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, more and More immigrants settled into the region and whether they liked it or not, the earlier communities were forced to interact with the new arrivals or at any rate to confront them. Some of the newcomers were aggressive and would not let their neighbours live in peace as they engaged in raiding for cattle and at times fought for dominance in the region. This meant that the small family clusters that had hitherto lived peacefully in the region shifted location and internal migration and resettlements were a continuous and repetitive process within and around Bukuria. In this way new social groups were formed. Many of these new societies were often swelled by splinter groups running away from other broken-up communities as a result of disruptions of war and raids. The Abamerani, for example, are said to have swallowed up many other clans.

In 2006 the Kuria population was estimated to number 909,000, with 608,000 living in Tanzania and 301,000 in Kenya. The latest (2012) anthropological research estimate the population of the Abakuria in Kenya to be about 650,000 and those of Tanzania to about 700,000.

The Kuria people were mainly pastoralists in the pre-colonial era but currently the Kenyan Kurians lean towards crop production and the Tanzanian Kurians learn more towards pastoralism. The Abakuria are said to have abandoned Pastrolism after they were forced to do so by the Germans when they landed in the modern-day Northern Tanzania. The Kurians in the Serengeti district are distinctly pastoralist. Details on how Abakuria started crop production and abandoned pastrolism will be available as a researcher is currently working on the same.

The Kuria are closely related to the Kisii people of Kenya both in language and physique among other cultural practices and beliefs.

Ancestor names (ichidonko)[edit]

Kuria also name their children after the names of the ancestors (Abhakoro). Such naming will occur if the wish of the dead grandfather or mother requested to be named a boy or girl. That is why there is mwita for both girls and boys. Some for sake of love one would like to name the ancestors as a sign that the ancestor has been reborn. A child can have two names one for obhotangi and another for endoko. My son is Chacha because he is a first born and he is called Monata a name after my grandfather. The other cause of naming ancestors will result when the child is sick or misfortunes come to a family and they seek omogabho/omoraguli to find out the problem. The omoraguli will advise to name a child an ancestor whose spirits have been troubled by the family. When naming the child, the family will be required to sacrifice (kumwensa) a goat or a cow depending on the wish of the spirits and the magnitude of the problem. Similarly names like Nyamohanga, Ryoba, Magaigwa, Nsato, Sabure, Wankuru, Ng’oina, Wanchoka, Mwikwabhe are named after the spirits. That is why when Kurias were baptized their native names were rejected because they were assumed to be associated with the spirits (Evil spirits?).

Wakuria generations (Amakora)[edit]

Wakuria have developed a generation system which place every individual in a generation group. There are two sets of generations

The first set is called Monyasae and the other is Monyachuma.

The Monyasae has a four circle generations as follows:

Abasae—Abanyamburiti—Abagamnyeri—Abamaina

The Monyachuma has also four circle generations as follows:

Abachuma—Abangorongoro—Abagini—Abanyangi

The generations identifies an individual in the Kuria society. For example, a child of a Mosae from the monyasae generation circle will be a munyamburiti and will give forth to Omogamunyeri. No one is allowed to marry a child of the same generation. One generation circle is considered to last 25 years. A complete generation circle is hundred yearS. By knowing your generation you can easily calculate the age of your parents and grandparents. In the case of a mugamunyeri, his or her father is a Mnyamburiti.

By using the generation system you can even know when a major event took place by associating the event and those who witnessed the event if their generation is known e.g. Uhuru, Second World War etc.

Circumcision[edit]

Change from childhood to adulthood is an important Kuria ritual which transform individual to another stage of life. The change known as saro is a passage to adulthood. Every boy or girl must pass through saro to be recognised as an adult; otherwise, he is Mulisya or Mosagane.

When one is circumcised he/she is placed into an age-set (esaro). It is not the purpose of this issue to describe the circumcision process but to emphasise the importance of the ritual. In Kuria society one is recognised by the age set group. All people circumcised at the same time are given an age set (saro). When a girl is married her age set group is changed to that of the husband if their saro are different. No one is allowed to marry children of same saros, All ceremonies are done on the basis of saro or amakora. One will not be allowed to marry or married if he has not gone through circumcision. In modern times boys are circumcised in hospitals and it is slowly being accepted but looked down as an inferior process. A real mkuria should face a mosali get circumcised without a wink.

Traditionally, circumcision was done at the age around 13 years, but this differed significantly from one clan to another. The Abairege had most of their men circumcised at 15–18 years and above. However, this has changed to the onset of puberty. To this date, various organisations are working to ensure the tradition of female genital mutilation is aborted. Also, due to increased spread of HIV/AIDS organisations advocate for care during circumcision rituals. Many families are opting to take their children to hospitals and the traditional circumcision experts have now opted to use individual razors for each person during circumcision. After the cut, the boys or girls that have undergone the practice are normally led back home by fellow villagers amidst singing and dancing and money is pinned onto their shukas. The shukas are one-piece coloured sheets that the circumcised tie around themselves so as to let the blood drip freely to the ground. Once circumcision has taken place, according to tradition, the boy or girl is deemed ready for marriage.

Tools made by Kurians[edit]

Wooden tools made by Abhabhachi (carpenters)

English Name Kuria Name Application of the tool
Stool Igitumbe Used as chair
Bed Obhoree Sleeping
Pistel Ihuri Thrashing millet, cassava
Wooden bowl Igitubha Utensils
Wooden hoe Inkuro Weeding and digging
Bows Obhotha Weapon
Arrows Imigwi Weapon
High wooden shoes Imityambwi Dancing shoes for sururu

Straw tools and vessels made by Abharuki (Weavers)

English Name Kuria Name Application of the tool
Basket Egetonga Storing flour
Harvesting Basket Irikanga Harvesting Millet
Food serving basket Ekehe, Ekegaro Utensils
Straw door shutter Egesaku Door shutter
Granary Iritara Store grain
Straw ornaments Obhogeka Worn by girls and ladies
Guard container Ekerandi, Egesencho Serving water, milk
Drinking straw Orokore Beer drinking straw
English Name Kuria Name Application of the tool
Cow hide Iriho Engebho Drying floor bedding
Goat/culf skin Egesero Wearing as clothing
Decorated cow/goat skin Engemaita, Embotora Worn by ladies during ceremonies
Treated goat skin Igisiriti Worn by ladies and girls
Shredded skin Amacharya Worn by boys during initiation
Thong Urukini, irichi To tie cows, fireword
Shield Ingubha War gear
Hood, Crown Ekondo War gear (outfit)

Pottery products made by Abhabhumbi (potters)

English Name Kuria Name Application of the tool
Water pot Esengo ya Amanche Water storage
Milk pot Ekenyongo Milk storage
Huge Ugali pot Inyakaruga Cooking Ugali
Smoking pipe Ighikwabhe Tobacco smoking
Flour pot Enyongo ya bhose Flour pot
Vegetable pot Iririghira Cooking pot

Kuria names derived from events and various conditions[edit]

Kuria people also name their children according to an event which took place during the birth of a child. Some of the events are natural occurrences such as:

  • Earthquake (Kirigiti)
  • Lightning (Nkobha)
  • Rains (Wambura/Nyambura)
  • Famine (Wanchara)
  • Harvest (Magesa/Mogesi)
  • Floods (Nyamanche)

The list is not exhaustive.

The following list is some of the Kuria names and their literal meaning. Note that all names have deep spiritual relevance and meaning and can be interpreted differently according to circumstances and objectives as discussed earlier. This is a sample list, Wakuria have many more names than expected. It is not Chachas and Mwitas only.

Kuria names derived animals or birds[edit]

Nyamburi   =   Goat
Nyang’ombe   =   Cow
Gaini   =   Bull
Nyangoko/Magoko   =   Chicken
Wangwe   =   Leopard
Wandui   =   Lion
Nyanswi   =   Fish
Tyenyi   =   Animal
Machage   =   Zebra
Nchoka/Waichoka   =   Snake
Nguti   =   Dove
Sariro   =   Eagle
Mang’era   =   Buffalo
Nyanchugu   =   Elephant
Wankuru   =   Tortoise
Kehengu   =   Rock rabbit
Ngocho   =   Parrot
Ng’wena   =   Crocodile
Magige   =   Locust
Kinyunyi   =   Bird

Names after action or fortune.

Mokami   =   Milkman
Motegandi/ Mohagachi   =   Builder
Murimi   =   Farmer
Nyantahe   =   From Container
Muya   =   Beauty
Mohoni   =   Salesman
Motongori   =   First Harvester
Mtundi   =   Food provider
Matinde   =   Land tiler
Waitara   =   Granary
Mataro/ Machera/Mogendi   =   Traveller
Moseti   =   Hunter
Mbusiro   =   Seeding grain

Names after clans/tribes

Mwikabhe/Ikwabhe   =   Maasai
Mtatiro   =   Tatoga
Mogaya   =   Luo
Mgusuhi   =   Kisii
Nyabasi   =   From Nyabasi
Mtimbaru   =   From Butimbaru

Mystical/abstract names

Nyanokwe   =   God
Wainani   =   Jinni
Mgosi   =   From North
Wanyancha   =   From West/Lake
Mirumbe   =   Mist/Fog
Sabure   =   god of the Wanchari
Melengali   =   Sunlight
Nchota/Nsato   =   Mystical snake
Matiko/Butiko   =   Night
Ryoba/Rioba   =   Sun

Commonly used words in Kuria[edit]

Amang'ana   =   general greeting
Mbhuya uhoyile   =   How was your day.
Tang'a amanche ghakunywa   =   Can I have water (drinking)
Nuuwengw'i   =   What is your name.
Omosani   =   friend
Omogheni   =   guest
Omokhebhara   =  a pagan. A foreigner is called umwitongo
Omosacha   =   male
Omokali   =   female
Umwisekhe   =   young lady
Umumura   =   young male
Kharibhu   =   Welcome
Okoreebhuya   =   Thank you
Umurisia   =   uncircumcised male
Iritoka   =   car (from English "car")
Isukhuuli   =   school (from English "school")

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Population and Housing Census". knbs.or.ke. Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. 2011. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Bwiyere, Frahiday. [google.com/+FrahidayBwiyere "Mara People Community Organization"] Check |url= scheme (help). Crime Expert. Frahil Publishers, Nairobi. Retrieved 2013/08/15.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)