Kavirondo

Last updated

Kavirondo is the former name of the region surrounding Kavirondo Gulf (now Winam Gulf) as well as of two native peoples living there under the regime of British East Africa (The "Nilotic Kavirondo" and the "Bantu Kavirondo"). Broadly, this was defined as those who dwelt in the valley of the Nzoia River, on the western slopes of Mount Elgon, and along the northeast coast of Victoria Nyanza.[ citation needed ]

Contents

Suggested etymologies of the name "Kavirondo" include

(Both putative origins may be doubtful).

A more plausible etymological origin of the name Kavirondo, is from the Kalenjin language "Kap-Kirondo" meaning "The place of Reeds" denoting the reeds by the Lake Victoria. Historian Alfred T. Matson explains in fair detail the obscure origins of the name and its first usage at the dawn of British rule in East Africa. [1]

Origins and divisions

Kavirondo is the general name of two distinct groups of ethnic groups, the Bantu speakers and the Nilotic speakers. The Bantu appear to have been the first comers. The Nilotic ethnic groups, probably an offshoot of the Acholi, appear to have crossed Lake Victoria to reach their present home, the country around Kavirondo Gulf. Of the two, the Bantu now occupy a more northerly position than their neighbors, and are practically the most northerly representatives of that race (Hobley). The Nilotic Kavirondo in their turn had their wanderings arrested by an irruption of Elgumi people (themselves probably of Nilotic origin) from the east.

The Bantu Kavirondo are divided into three principal types: the Awa-Rimi, the Awa-Ware and the Awa-Kisii. Their Nilotic neighbors call the Bantu Kavirondo Jo-Mwa (singular: Ja-Mwa). The generic name for the Nilotic tribes is Jo-Luo (singular: Ja-Luo), but the Bantu Kavirondo call them Awa-Nyoro. The two groups have many characteristics in common.

The Kavirondo have many tribes, divided, Sir H. H. Johnston suspects, totemically.

Culture and society

Bantu Kavirondo women working a field, early 20th century. In wildest Africa - the record of a hunting and exploration trip through Uganda, Victoria Nyanza, the Kilimanjaro region and British East Africa, with an account of an ascent of the snowfields of (14596313249).jpg
Bantu Kavirondo women working a field, early 20th century.

A characteristic feature of the people was their traditional nakedness. Among the Nilotic Kavirondo married men who are fathers wore a small piece of goat-skin (Sembe), which though practically useless as a covering was worn according to ethnic etiquette. Even among men who have adopted European clothing this goat-skin must still be worn underneath. Contact with whites has led to the adoption of European clothing by numbers of the men (who were better travelled), but the women (who were less travelled), more conservative, remained in nudity or the scanty covering which they wore before the advent of Europeans. Among the Bantu Kavirondo married women wear a short fringe of black string in front and a tassel of banana fibre suspended from a girdle behind, this tassel having at a distance the appearance of a tail. Hence the report of early travellers as to a tailed race in Africa. The Nilotic Kavirondo women wear the tail, but dispense with the fringe in front. For dandy they wear a goat-skin slung over the shoulders.

Some of the Bantu tribes practise circumcision, the Nilotic tribes do not. Patterns are tattooed on chest and stomach for ornament. Men, even husbands, are forbidden to touch the women's tails, which must be worn even should any other clothing be wrapped round the body.

The Kavirondo are noted for their independent and pugnacious nature, honesty and sexual morality, traits particularly marked among the Bantu tribes. There are more women than men, and thus the Kavirondo are naturally inclined towards polygamy. Among the Bantu tribes a man has the refusal of all the younger sisters of his wife as they attain puberty. Practically no woman lives unmarried all her life, for if no suitor seeks her, she singles out a man and offers herself to him at a reduced price, an offer usually accepted, as the women are excellent agricultural laborers. The Nilotic Kavirondo incline to exogamy, endeavouring always to marry outside their clan. Girls are betrothed at six or seven, and the husband-elect continually makes small presents to his father-in-law-elect till the bride reaches womanhood.

It is regarded as shameful if the girl be not found a virgin on her wedding day. She is sent back to her parents, who have to return the marriage price, and pay a fine. The wife's adultery was formerly punished with death, and the capital penalty was also inflicted on young men and girls guilty of unchastity. Among the Bantu Kavirondo the usual minimum price for a wife is forty hoes, twenty goats and one cow, paid in instalments. The Nilotic Kavirondo pay twenty sheep and two to six cows; the husband-elect can claim his bride after half payment; if a woman dies without bearing children, the amount of her purchase is returnable by her father, unless the widower consents to replace her by another sister. The women are prolific and the birth of twins is common and considered a lucky event, which is celebrated by feasting and dances.

Among the Bantu Kavirondo the mother of twins must remain in her hut for seven days; among the Nilotic Kavirondo the parents and the infants must stay in the hut for a whole month. If a Bantu mother has lost two children in succession, the next child born is taken out at dawn and placed on the road, where it is left till a neighbor, usually a woman friend who has gone that way on purpose, picks it up and takes it to its mother who gives a goat in return; a somewhat similar custom prevails among the Nilotic tribes. Names are neither masculine nor feminine, and a girl often bears her father's name.

The Kavirondo bury their dead. Among one of the Bantu tribes, the Awa-Kisesa, a chief is buried in the floor of his own hut in a sitting position, but at such a depth that the head protrudes. Over the head an earthenware pot is placed, and his principal wives have to remain in the hut till the flesh is eaten by ants or decomposes, when the skull is removed and buried close to the hut. Later the skeleton is unearthed, and reburied with much ceremony in the sacred burial place of the tribe.

Married women of the Bantu tribes are buried in their hut lying on their right side with legs doubled up, the hut being then deserted. Among the Nilotic tribes the grave is dug beneath the verandah of the hut. Men of the Bantu tribes are buried in an open space in the midst of their huts; in the Nilotic tribes, if the first wife of the deceased be alive he is buried in her hut, if not, beneath the verandah of the hut in which he died. A child is buried near the door of its mothers hut. A sign of mourning is a cord of banana fibre worn round the neck and waist.

A chief chooses, sometimes years before his death, one of his sons to succeed him, often giving a brass bracelet as insignia. A man's property is divided equally among his children.

While some tribes live in isolated huts, those in the north have strongly walled villages. The walls are of mud and formerly, among the Nilotic tribes, occasionally of stone. Since colonization by the British the security of the country induced the Kavirondo to let the walls fall into disrepair. Their huts are circular with conical thatched roofs, and fairly broad verandas all round.

A portion of the hut is partitioned off as a sleeping-place for goats, and the fowls sleep indoors in a large basket. Skins form the only bedsteads. In each hut are two fireplaces, about which a rigid etiquette prevails. Strangers or distant relatives are not allowed to pass beyond the first, which is near the door, and is used for cooking. At the second, which is nearly in the middle of the hut, sits the hut owner, his wives, children, brothers and sisters. Around this fireplace the family sleep.

Cooking pots, water pots and earthenware grain jars are the only other furniture. The food is served in small baskets. Every full-grown man has a hut to himself, and one for each wife. The huts of the Masaba Kavirondo of west Elgon have the apex of the roof surmounted by a carved pole which Sir H. H. Johnston says is obviously a phallus. Among the Bantu Kavirondo a father does not eat with his sons, nor do brothers eat together. Among the Nilotic tribes father and sons eat together, usually in a separate hut with open sides. Women eat apart and only after the men have finished.

Though a peaceful people, the Kavirondo fight well. Their weapons are spears with rather long flat blades without blood-courses and broad-bladed swords. Some use slings, and most carry shields. Bows and arrows are also used; firearms are however displacing other weapons. Kavirondo warfare was mainly defensive and intertribal, this last a form of vendetta. When a man had killed his enemy in battle he shaved his head on his return and was rubbed with medicine (generally goats dung), to defend him from the spirit of the dead man. The Awa-Wanga abandoned this custom when they obtained firearms. The young warriors were made to stab the bodies of their slain enemies.

In the colonial era the Kavirondo are on the increase due to their fecundity and morality. Those who live in the low-lying lands suffer from a mild malaria, while abroad they are subject to dysentery and pneumonia. Epidemics of small-pox have occurred. Native medicine is of the simplest. They dress wounds with butter and leaves, and for inflammation of the lungs or pleurisy, pierce a hole in the chest. There are no medicine-men: the women are the doctors. Certain of the incisor teeth are pulled out. If a man retains these he will, it is thought, be killed in warfare. Among certain tribes the women also have incisor teeth extracted, otherwise misfortune would befall their husbands. For the same reason the wife scars the skin of her forehead or stomach. A Kavirondo husband, before starting on a perilous journey, cuts scars on his wife's body to ensure him good luck.

Of dances, the Kavirondo have the birth dance, the death dance, that at initiation and one of a propitiatory kind in seasons of drought. Their music is plaintive and sometimes pretty, produced by a large lyre-shaped instrument. They also use various drums.

The Luo women use small beads attached to pieces of brass for ear ornaments. Like the aggrey beads of West Africa these beads are not of local manufacture nor of recent introduction. They are ancient, generally blue in color, occasionally yellow or green, and are picked up in certain districts after heavy rain. The natives believe they come down with the rain. They are identical in shape and color to Ancient Egyptian beads and other beads obtained from trade with peoples from ancient cities in Balochistan, in modern Pakistan.

Religion and beliefs

They appear to practice a vague ancestor worship, but the northern tribes have two gods, Awafwa and Ishishemi, the spirits of good and evil. To the former, cattle and goats are sacrificed.

The Kavirondo have great faith in divination from the entrails of a sheep. Nearly everybody and everything are ominous of good or evil to the Kavirondo.

They have few myths or traditions; the antbear is the chief figure in their beast-legends.

They believe in witchcraft and practise trial by ordeal.

Economy

The Kavirondo are essentially an agricultural people: both men and women work in the fields with large iron hoes. In addition to sorghum, Eleusine and maize, tobacco and hemp are both cultivated and smoked. Both sexes smoke, but the use of hemp is restricted to men and unmarried women, as it is thought to injure child-bearing women. Hemp is smoked in a hubble-bubble. The Kavirondo cultivate sesamum and make an oil from its seeds which they burn in little clay lamps of the ancient saucer type, the pattern being, in Hobley's opinion, introduced into the country by the coast people.[ citation needed ]

The Kavirondo keep cattle, sheep, goats, fowls and a few dogs. Women do not eat sheep, fowls or eggs, and are not allowed to drink milk except when mixed with other things. The flesh of the wild cat and leopard is esteemed by most of the tribes. Among the Bantu Kavirondo goats and sheep are suffocated, the snout being held until the animal dies. From Eleusine a beer is made.

The Kavirondo are plucky hunters, capturing the hippopotamus with ropes and traps, and attacking with spears the largest elephants. Fish, of which they are very fond, are caught by line and rod or in traps. Bee-keeping is common, and where trees are scarce the hives are placed on the roof of the hut.[ citation needed ]

Traditional Kavirondo industries are salt-making, effected by burning reeds and water-plants and passing water through the ashes; the smelting of iron ore (confined to the Bantu tribes); pottery and basket-work.

Sources and references

Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Joyce, Thomas Athol (1911). "Kavirondo". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica . 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 701.

Related Research Articles

Luo peoples Several related groups in central Africa

The Luo are several ethnically and linguistically related Nilotic ethnic groups that inhabit an area ranging from Egypt and Sudan to South Sudan and Ethiopia, through Northern Uganda and eastern Congo (DRC), into western Kenya, and the Mara Region of Tanzania. Their Luo languages belong to the western branch of the Nilotic language family.

Samburu people

The Samburu are a Nilotic people of north-central Kenya. Samburu are semi-nomadic pastoralists who herd mainly cattle but also keep sheep, goats and camels. The name they use for themselves is Lokop or Loikop, a term which may have a variety of meanings which Samburu themselves do not agree on. Many assert that it refers to them as "owners of the land" though others present a very different interpretation of the term. Samburu speak the Samburu dialect of the Maa language, which is a Nilotic language. The Maa language is also spoken by other 22 sub tribes of the Maa community otherwise known as the Maasai. Many Western anthropologists tried to carve out and create the Samburu tribe as a community of its own, unaffiliated to its parent Maasai community, a narrative that seems to have sunk into the minds of many Samburu people today. There are many game parks in the area, one of the most well known is Samburu National Reserve. The Samburu sub tribe is the third largest in the Maa community of Kenya and Tanzania, after the Kisonko (Isikirari) of Tanzania and Purko of Kenya and Tanzania.

Kalenjin people

The Kalenjin are a group of Southern Nilotic peoples indigenous to East Africa, residing mainly in what was formerly the Rift Valley Province in Kenya. They number 6,358,113 individuals as per the Kenyan 2019 census. They are divided into 11 culturally and linguistically related tribes: Kipsigis, Nandi, Keiyo, Marakwet, Sabaot, Pokots, Tugen, Terik, Sengwer, Lembus, and Ogiek. They speak Kalenjin languages, which belong to the Nilotic language family.

Mbuti people Indigenous pygmy groups in the Congo region of Africa

The Mbuti people, or Bambuti, are one of several indigenous pygmy groups in the Congo region of Africa. Their languages are Central Sudanic languages and Bantu languages.

Kisii people

The Abagusii is an East African ethnic group that largely and inevitably originate from the Neolithic Agropastoralist and hunter/gatherer inhabitants of present-day Kenya particularly former Nyanza and Rift Valley provinces of Kenya of the same stock as the ancestors of the modern Nilotes, Omotics and Cushites as well as the ancient East African hunter/gatherers similar to Ogiek. However, a minority of the Abagusii are believed to have been assimilated from the Luhya and Olusuba speaking Suba people (Kenya) that are believed to have migrated from the West of Lake Victoria that is present-day Buganda and Busoga hence originally from Central Africa. The Abagusii are closely related to the Maasai, Kipsigis, Abakuria, and Ameru of Kenya. They also have close linguistic relationship with Ngurimi, Rangi, Mbugwe, Simbiti, Zanaki and Ikoma people. However, a lot of evidence from studies of East African Bantu languages and anthropology suggests that the Abagusii and the mentioned related tribes emerged from the neolithic Agropastoralists and hunters/gatherers of East Africa believed to have come from the North of Mt. Elgon. The Abagusii traditionally/natively inhabit Kisii County and Nyamira County of former Nyanza Province of Kenya as well as parts of Kericho County and Bomet County of the former Rift Valley province of Kenya. The Abagusii are also found in other regions of geographical Western Kenya including former Nyanza Province such as Homa Bay County, and the rest of Luo-Nyanza as well as the rest of Kenya through recent migrations in post-colonial Kenya. There is also a significant diaspora population of Abagusii in countries such as United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa among other countries within and outside Africa. The Abagusii speak Ekegusii language which is classified together with the Great Lakes Bantu languages. However, the inclusion of Abagusii in the Bantu language group is a subject of debate given that studies on East African Bantu languages have found the Ekegusii together with Kuria, Simbiti, Ngurimi, Rangi and Mbugwe languages to be far distinct from the typical Bantu in terms of structure and tense aspect. Mogusii is culturally identified as their founder and patriarch. The Abagusii are however, unrelated to the Kisi people of Malawi and the Kissi people of West Africa, other than the three very distinct communities having similar sounding tribal names. The traditional occupation of Abagusii in pre-colonial Kenya included hunting and gathering, pastoralism/herding and cereal, fruit (pumpkin) and root crop farming forms of Agriculture with pastoralism being the dominant occupation of Abagusii in pre-colonial Kenya. Today the Abagusii have adopted other forms of agriculture through interaction with the European colonists that introduced new crops and new cultivation methods to Gusiiland and Kenya as a whole with the same applying to the other African countries/communities. Some of these factors have ensured farming to be the most dominant economic activity among Abagusii as opposed to pre-colonial Kenya where they were pre-dominantly pastoralists and hunters and gatherers.

Luhya people

The Luhya are a group of 19 distinct Bantu tribes in Kenya that have a common origin and are politically united in the mid 11th century. They number 9,823,842 people according to the 2019 census, being about 14.35% of Kenya's total population of 47.6 million, and are the largest ethnic group in Kenya.

Bukusu

The Bukusu people(Bukusu Babukusu) are one of the seventeen Kenyan tribes of the Luhya Bantu people of East Africa residing mainly in the counties of Bungoma and Trans Nzoia. They are closely related to other Luhya people and the Gisu of Uganda. Calling themselves BaBukusu, they are the largest tribe of the Luhya nation, making up about 34% of the Luhya population. They speak the Bukusu dialect.

Turkana people

The Turkana are a Nilotic people native to the Turkana County in northwest Kenya, a semi-arid climate region bordering Lake Turkana in the east, Pokot, Rendille and Samburu people to the south, Uganda to the west, and South Sudan and Ethiopia to the north. They refer to their land as Turkan.

The Kuku are a tribe of the Karo people from South Sudan. They inhabit the agricultural lands of Kajokeji County in Central Equatoria State. The Kuku speak a Bari dialect, also called Kuku.

Alur people

Alur are a Nilotic ethnic group who live in northwestern Uganda and northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They are part of the larger Luo group.

The Dholuo dialect or Nilotic Kavirondo, is a dialect of the Luo group of Nilotic languages, spoken by about 4.2 million Luo people of Kenya and Tanzania, who occupy parts of the eastern shore of Lake Victoria and areas to the south. It is used for broadcasts on KBC.

Daasanach people

The Daasanach are a Cushitic ethnic group inhabiting parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan. Their main homeland is in the Debub Omo Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region, adjacent to Lake Turkana. According to the 2007 national census, they number 48,067 people, of whom 1,481 are urban dwellers.

Charles William Hobley, CMG — known as C. W. Hobley — was a pioneering British Colonial administrator in Kenya. He served the Colonial Service in Kenya from 1894 until his retirement in 1921 and published a number of monographs on a variety of subjects.

The Ikoma are an ethnic and linguistic group based in Mara Region in northern Tanzania.

Hadza people

The Hadza, or Hadzabe, are an indigenous ethnic group in north-central Tanzania, living around Lake Eyasi in the central Rift Valley and in the neighboring Serengeti Plateau. There are, as of 2015, between 1,200 and 1,300 Hadza people living in Tanzania, however only around 400 Hadza still survive exclusively based on the traditional means of foraging. Additionally, the increasing impact of tourism and encroaching pastoralists pose serious threats to the continuation of their traditional way of life.

Xhosa people Ethnic group in South Africa

Xhosa people are a Nguni ethnic group in Southern Africa whose homeland is primarily within the modern-day Eastern Cape. There is a small but significant Xhosa-speaking (Mfengu) community in Zimbabwe, and their language, isiXhosa, is recognised as a national language.

The endingidi or is a type of bowed string instrument native to Uganda. The endingidi has one string, extending from the neck to a cylindrical sound-box or resonator made of wood or cow horn. A piece of hide is stretched over the top of the cylinder and is fixed to the sound-box with wooden pegs, thorny spines or nowadays also with metal nails. The hide used is usually that of the monitor lizard but also of young goats and sheep or even of the python. The hide is soaked in water for a whole day before being stretched over the sound-box. The neck consists of a straight wooden stick inserted through the walls of the sound-box at about 2 to 3 cm from the top. At the top of the neck a hole is bored at 4 to 6 cm from the end into which a tuning pin is inserted vertically. The string is secured to this pin in such a way that the string can be wound round the pin in a similar way as with a violin. This allows the string to be tightened, so tuning the instrument. The string runs across the sound-box via a bridge and is fixed to the other end of the neck. The string is made of fibre or animal sinew, but nowadays it is more often of nylon. The arched bow consists of a thin flexible twig, to which a string is attached, usually of the same material as the string of the instrument itself. To give the bow more grip on the string of the instrument, resin is rubbed into the bow string. The resin is often attached to the side of the sound-box so the player can easily rub resin on the bow as he plays.

Mru people

The Mru, also known as the Mro, Murong, Taung Mro, Mrung, and Mrucha, refer to the tribes who live in the border regions between Myanmar (Burma), Bangladesh, and India. The Mru are a sub-group of the Chin people, a few of whom live in western Myanmar. They are also found in the northern Rakhine State. In Bangladesh, they reside in the Chittagong Hills in southeast Bangladesh, primarily in Bandarban District and Rangamati Hill District. In India, they reside in West Bengal.

Thimlich Ohinga National Monument of Kenya

Thimlich Ohinga is a complex of stone-built ruins in Migori county, Nyanza Kenya, in East Africa. It is the largest one of 138 sites containing 521 stone structures that were built around the Lake Victoria region in Kenya. These sites are highly clustered. The main enclosure of Thimlich Ohinga has walls that vary from 1 to 3 meters in thickness, and 1 to 4.2 meters in height. The structures were built from undressed blocks, rocks, and stones set in place without mortar. The densely packed stones interlock. The site is believed to be more than 550 years old.

The Kalenjin people are an ethnolinguistic group mistaken to be a tribe in Kenya, though they are actually a collection of tribes indigenous to East Africa, with a presence, as dated by archaeology and linguistics, that goes back many centuries. Their history is therefore deeply interwoven with those of their neighboring communities as well as with the histories of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Ethiopia.

References

  1. Matson A.T., 'Kavirondo Misnomer' unpublished manuscript, Cambridge University Library (Matson Papers)