Kuria people

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Kurias singing and dancing.jpg
Total population
313,854 (in Kenya)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Tanzania,  Kenya
Traditional religions, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Kisii, Luhya, other Bantu peoples

The Kuria people (also known as the AbaKurya,[2] are a Bantu community in Tanzania and Kenya. Their homeland is bounded on the east by the Migori River and on the west by the Mara River estuary. Traditionally a pastoral and farming community, the Kuria grow maize, beans and cassava as food crops and coffee and maize as cash crops.[3]


The homeland of the Kuria is between the Migori River on the east and the Mara River estuary on the west, extending from Migori County in Kenya on the east to Musoma Rural District in Tanzania on the west. On the south, their land borders Transmara District in Kenya and the Nguruimi area of Tanzania. On the north is Lake Victoria, with a small corridor occupied by the Luo and other Bantu peoples.

The Kuria are found in Kenya and Tanzania. In Kenya, they live in the Kuria East (headquartered in Kegonga) and Kuria West districts (headquartered in Kehancha). In Tanzania, they live in Serengeti and Tarime Districts, Musoma Urban and Rural Districts, and Bunda District. The Kuria have recently settled in Tanzania's Mara Region.

Their neighbours are the Maasai, Kalenjin (the Kipsigis in western Transmara), Ikoma, Luo and Suba. The Kuria are divided into several clans, which live in Kenya and in Tanzania. In Kenya, there are four clans: the Abagumbe, Abairege, Abanyabasi and Abakira. Tanzania has 13 (the Abapemba, Ababurati, Abakira, Abamera, Simbete, Abanyabasi, Watobori, Abakunta, Wiga, Kaboye, Abakenye, Abagumbe and Wasweta, Abatimbaru), in addition to other minor clans.

The Kuria are traditionally a farming community, primarily planting maize, beans and cassava as food crops. Cash crops include coffee and maize. The Kuria also keep cattle.

Etymology, demographics and history[edit]

The name "Kuria" seems to have been applied to the whole group by early colonial chiefs, mainly to distinguish them from the other Luo peoples along the southern shore of Lake Victoria (who were known as Abasuba). According to major Kuria clan tradition (including the Abanyabasi, Abatimbaru, Abanyamongo, Abakira, Abairegi, Abakenye, Abanchaari, and Abagumbe), their ancestor was Mokurya. His descendants migrated from Misiri, and after many years of wandering along Lake Victoria they reached present-day Bukurya. According to this tradition, the Kuria have been divided into two families: the Abasai (from Mokurya's elder wife) and the Abachuma, from his younger wife.

In another view of the name's origin, between 1774 and 1858 Kuria people lived on Korea Hill (north of the Mara River in the Musoma district of present-day Tanzania). The region's inhabitants became known as "Korea people" after the hill, which evolved into "Kuria hill". During the colonial period, the Kenyan Kuria called themselves Abatende (after the Abatende clan in the Bugumbe region); the Tanzanian Kuria continued to be known by their totems. Around the 1950s, the name Kuria gained wide usage. Mijikenda, Abaluyia and Kalenjin also became generally accepted as ethnic names during the 1940s and 1950s, when they sought political recognition from Kenyan colonial authorities.

The Kuria people may not have a common origin, although a number of clans claim to have come from Egypt. Kurian culture is an amalgam of several heterogenous cultures. Among the Kuria are people who were originally from the Kalenjin-, Maasai-, Bantu- and Luo-speaking communities. Between AD 1400 and 1800, during migrations into Bukurya, the foundation was laid for Kuria cultural and political development. Early inhabitants of Bukurya were Bantu and Nilotic speakers, who brought their distinct cultures; the predominantly-agricultural Bantu came into contact with Nilotic pastoralists. This combined agriculture and pastoralism, with nomadic tendencies. Kuria agriculture resembles that of the Abagusii and Luo, and their cattle-keeping has borrowed practices from the Maasai, Zanaki and Nguruimi.

Before the mass mobilization during the Ugandan-Tanzanian War (1978-1979), though the Kuria were only about 1% of Tanzania's population, they made up over 50% of its soldiers (then-President Julius Nyrere was from that tribe). Following the power and plunder of war, their postwar return to comparatively humble civilian life -- heavily armed -- led to crime, inter-communal violence, and power shifts. In particular, it exacerbated the widespread, longstanding Kuria tradition of cattle thefts and raids, which, in modern times, has expanded into widespread, intense, organized and commercial criminal activity -- and concurrent vigilantism.[4][5][6][7]

The 2006 Kuria population was estimated at 909,000, with 608,000 living in Tanzania and 301,000 in Kenya. Anthropological research in 2012 estimated the population of the Kuria in Kenya at about 650,000, and the Tanzanian population at about 700,000.

The Kuria people were primarily pastoralists during the pre-colonial era. The Kenyan Kuria lean towards crop production, and the Tanzanian Kuria tend towards pastoralism.[8]

Culturally, the Kuria people practice circumcision for both male and female until today considering modern practices. [9] Globally, 30% of men are circumcised, mostly for religious reasons.1 In many African societies, male circumcision is carried out for cultural reasons, particularly as an initiation ritual and a rite of passage into manhood. The procedure herein referred to as traditional male circumcision is usually performed in a non-clinical setting by a traditional provider with no formal medical training. When carried out as a rite of passage into manhood, traditional male circumcision is mainly performed on adolescents or young men. The self-reported prevalence of traditional male circumcision varies greatly between eastern and southern Africa, from 20% in Uganda and southern African countries to more than 80% in Kenya. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a traditional harmful practice that involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated.[10] In addition, every year, an estimated 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation, the majority of whom are cut before they turn 15 years old.


Wooden tools
English Kuria Use
Stool igitumbe chair
Bed obhoree sleeping
Pestle ihuri thrashing millet, cassava
Bowl igitubha utensil
Hoe inkuro weeding and digging
Bow obhotha weapon
Arrows imigwi weapon
Shoes imityambwi dancing
Woven-straw utensils
English Kuria Use
Storage basket egetong storing flour
Harvest basket irikang harvesting Millet
Serving basket ekehe, ekegaro serving food
Door shutter egesaku shutter
Granary iritara grain storage
Ornaments obhogeka worn by girls and women
Container ekerandi, egesencho serving water, milk
Straw orokore beer drinking
Leather, skin, and clothing products
English Kuria Use
Cowhide iriho bedding
Goat- or calfskin egesero clothing
Decorated cowhide or goatskin engemaita, embotora ceremonial women's clothing
Treated goatskin igisiriti girls' and women's clothing
Shredded skin amacharya worn by boys during initiation
Thong urukini, irichi tying cattle or firewood
Shield ingubha warfare
Hood, crown ekondo warfare
Pottery products
English Kuria Use
Water pot esengo ya amanche water storage
Milk pot ekenyongo milk storage
Ugali pot inyakaruga cooking cornmeal porridge
Smoking pipe ighikwabhe smoking tobacco
Flour pot enyongo ya bhose storing flour
Vegetable pot iririghira cooking


Animals or birds
Kuria English
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
Action or fortune
Kuria English
Mokami milkman
Motegandi/mohagachi builder
Murimi farmer
Nyantahe from container[clarification needed]
Muya beauty
Mohoni salesman
Motongori first harvester
Mtundi food provider
Matinde land tiler
Waitara granary
Mataro/machera/mogendi traveller
Moseti hunter
Mbusiro seeding grain
Clans or tribes
Kuria English
Mwikabhe/Ikwabhe Maasai
Mtatiro Tatoga
Mogaya Luo
Mgusuhi Kisii
Nyabasi from Nyabasi
Mtimbaru from Butimbaru
Mystical/abstract names
Kuria English
Nyanokwe God
Wainani Jinni
Mgosi from the 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
English Kuria
Earthquake kirigiti
Lightning nkobha
Rain wambura/nyambura
Famine wanchara/nyanchara
Harvest magesa/mogesi
Flood nyamanche

Common words[edit]

Kuria English
Amang'ana general greeting
Mbuya ohoyere How was your day?
Tang'a amanche ghakunywa Can I have (drinking) water?
Nuuwe ngw'i What is your name?
Omosani friend
Omogheni guest
Omokhebhara a pagan
Umwitongo a foreigner
Omosacha male
Omokari female
Umwisekhe young lady
Umumura young man
Kharibhu welcome
Okoreebhuya thank you
Umurisia uncircumcised male
Iritoka car (from English "car")
Isukhuuri school (from English "school")

Kuria is related to the Gusii language.


  1. ^ "2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census Volume IV: Distribution of Population by Socio-Economic Characteristics". Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  2. ^ "Ethnic groups in Kenya". memtrick.com. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  3. ^ https://www.asiliaafrica.com/blog/the-tribes-of-east-africa-kuria-people/
  4. ^ Boke, Maisori Christine: research project: "Conflict And Cooperation In Southwestern Kenya: A Case Of Kuria-Maasai Relations, 1979-2010," 2019, University of Nairobi, Dept. of History and Archaeology, retrieved September 25, 2020
  5. ^ Fleisher, Michael L.: "Kuria Cattle Raiders: Violence and Vigilantism on the Tanzania/Kenya Frontier," 2000, 4th edition: 2003, University of Michigan Press Ann Arbor, Michigan, pages 83–88
  6. ^ Fleisher, Michael L., 'War Is Good for Thieving!': the Symbiosis of Crime and Warfare among the Kuria of Tanzania," Winter 2002, Africa, Vol. 72, No. 1, retrieved September 23, 2020
  7. ^ Shadrack, Jaba: Dissertation:"The Private Security Industry in Tanzania: Challenges, Issues and Regulation," October 2011, University of Dar-es-Salaam, retrieved from Academia.edu September 24, 2020
  8. ^ Bwiyere, Frahiday. "Mara People Community Organization". Crime Expert. Frahil Publishers, Nairobi. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  9. ^ Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/dec/23/fgm-in-kenya-girls-are-being-paraded-openly-in-the-streets
  10. ^ WHO: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation

External links[edit]