Kikuyu circumcision - Traditional Music & Cultures of Kenya
This page is part of Jens Finke's Traditional Music and Cultures of Kenya, now with would spend several years in the service of the entire people to defend and protect, Circumcision, therefore, was necessary for maintaining relations with. The Kikuyu (also Agĩkuyu/Gikuyu) is the largest ethnic group in Kenya. They speak the Bantu . Children in the community had a link to God through their parents and that .. Today, music and dance are strong components of Kikuyu culture. The Kikuyu tribe is a Bantu tribe that neighbors the Embu, Kikuyu woman When it comes to food, music, marriage ceremonies and everyday family life, most.
In it, she lives together with her children and yet-to-be-married girls. The Kikuyus believe in their creator, God who they call Ngai and also in the spiritual presence of their ancestors.
The people are also superstitious, with many of them retaining some practices like the taboo against whistling, unlucky numbers such as 10, and so on. However, the majority of Kikuyus are now Christians. They also love tea which is served with most meals. The Kikuyus are known for their industrious nature. Their main economic activity is agriculture which is introduced to the children at an early age. They grow many crops including bananas, sugarcane, millet, maize, beans and vegetables.
Besides agriculture, the Kikuyu people have great taste in artefacts and art like statues carved by use of hands, jewellery made of beads and African sarongs which they sell locally and internationally.
They also embrace music and dancing which they also use to preserve their history.
Different dances have symbolic meaning like warrior dances, dances of love, dances for welcoming and so forth. With it comes the lifting of the taboo on pregnancy, and usually marriage is swift to follow. A sexual as well as a social act although the circumcision itself is done in privatethe circumcision marks a woman's assumption of her female identity, allowing her both to procreate, and to take part in traditional rituals and traditional governing councils.
It is also the time when initiates are instructed in the rules and regulations of their society, and their responsibilities within it.
Christian missionaries and other Westerners have invariably looked down on circumcision, of both men and women but especially of women, as being repugnant. Given the Christian belief that the body is the temple of God, this apparent act of mutilation was seen - and still is seen - as sacrilege.
And thus, with their typical open-mindedness, the ceremonies that surrounded circumcision were condemned by the missionaries to be heathen and anti-Christian. It was not so much the cutting of the clitoris that outraged them, but the excision of the labia and other parts which were prevalent before colonisation, and which were viewed as being abhorrent and barbaric in the extreme, and as an unwarranted mutilation of a woman's body.
The term female genital mutilation itself FGM bears this up, as does the paradoxical absence of the term 'male genital mutilation'. The Christian campaign against female circumcision For more on this, see the section on Christianity The protestant missionaries who first settled in Kikuyu terrain were generally very much against female circumcision unlike the Catholic or Orthodox churches, which interfered little in local societyand by the late s and s many missionary organisations, notably the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, were actively trying to suppress it.
This was done by insisting that converts to Christianity had to denounce the practice by signing or thumb-printing a written declaration. Otherwise, they were told, they could not become Christian.kikuyu traditional singers
This led to great controversy, as many converts believed that the practice had nothing to do with their being Christian, and that its suppression was an affront to their culture and traditions. The problem was that the missions also provided schools, and the education they provided was essential if a Kikuyu was to have any hope of paid employment, which had been made necessary by the colonial policy of herding the Kikuyu into overcrowded 'native reserves' and later the 'protected villages' where traditional agriculture and herding was barely a means for survival.
Nonetheless, a large number of converts decided that they could not abandon female circumcision, and instead set about establishing new churches and schools which were independent of the missions in this, they were helped by the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
There, they could practice Christianity with the liberty of their traditional practices, and would also gain the education they needed for employment. Their independent status, incidentally, also helped pave the way for the fight for national independence in the s. Their stance against the colonial attitude about circumcision made them a focal point against colonialism.
In was in these independent schools that the ideologies of nationalism and self-government developed. Mau Mau and circumcision The relationship between Mau Mau and circumcision is often cited, but rarely covered in full.
Of course, circumcision was an aspect of traditional life which was threatened by the colonial administration. But some Mau Mau took this a step further, considering that anyone who had not circumcised, or who refused that their children be circumcised, was an enemy of Mau Mau, and thus of independence.
The Music and Culture of the Kikuyu Tribe - FSU World Music Online
As a result, a number of uncircumcised girls were forcibly circumcised by Mau Mau, and many others many more then the colonists killed by Mau Mau were executed for their beliefs: A digression If you'll forgive my digression, I would like to state my own position about female circumcision.
I would like to begin by emphasising the Christian notion that ideas and practises contrary to traditional Christian beliefs are not so much different, but 'anti-Christian'. Unfortunately, it is the belief of many missionaries that they are involved in a spiritual conflict that has characterised so many missions in Africa, notably in Kenya. In fact, if you take a look at the Caleb Project's websiteat the bottom of some of their profiles you'll see the phrase: This is personally what I find repugnant, irrespective of what one might feel about female circumcision.
For the ultimate consequence of this 'warfare' is the destruction of the society that is being converted, and with it the loss not only of one or two 'barbaric' practises, but the loss of the values, traditions, music and structures of the entire society. Sadly, instead of working to construct or suggest alternatives, the most vociferous commentators on female circumcision simply state their opposition, without taking much time to consider the context in which clitoridectomy takes place, and its broader meaning and significance within those societies.
It must be understood that it's very difficult - and misguided - to attempt to separate circumcision itself from the other practices that surround it. They are active politically. They have been influential in the politics of East Africa, especially Kenya, where the bulk of them live. He took the name Kenyatta from a Maasai beaded belt in honour of his Maasai family. Kenyatta was a major figure in the fight for independence and was influential in the Mau Mau uprising against the British.
Kenya became independent in under Kenyatta's leadership. Changes In the s and s, the Kikuyu suffered greatly under the regime of President Daniel arap Moia Tugen Kalenjin whose government depended largely on a coalition of mostly Nilotic ethnic groups in Kenya.
The Kikuyu, being the largest single ethnicity in not only Kenya, but all of East Africa, were considered a threat to the power block leading Kenya fromwhen Jomo Kenyatta died and Moi became President. Because the Kikuyu people had been so close to the centres of colonial power, they had experienced significant advantages in the move to independence and in the early independence government led by Kenyatta. The Moi government continued to increase repression and persecution of the Kikuyus and their former cultural and political allies who were seen as a threat.
They were gradually dispossessed and pressed in private and business life as a guard against their rivalry to the primarily Nilotic block leading Kenya in the Moi era. Kikuyus commented openly that "the government was at war with the Kikuyus.
Many Kikuyus are found in academic and business positions in South Africa, as well. Backlash In the late s, when Moi surprisingly stepped down after intense social unrest and violence protesting the government, corruption and conditions in the country, a new government came into power, appointing an old Kenyatta colleague, Mwai Kikaki as President.
In its turn his government became repressive and corrupt, leading to protests and violence, especially after a contested election in Kikuyu businesses and homes all over the country were attacked by various vigilante groups as ethnic violence broke out all over the country in an unprecedented disruption of Kenyan society and economy and a complete breakdown of the political system. International arbitration finally resulted in a coalition government and significant changes in the Kenya constitution in mid Traditionally, boys and girls were raised in a different manner.
Girls were raised to work in the shamba farmwhile boys were expected to care for animals. Much has changed as Kikuyu sought education for both boys and girls and there is quite a liberal sharing of various tasks between the genders, especially in urban areas.
Many rural Kikuyu are very poor and everyone works for the benefit of the farm and the improvement of conditions for the next generation. Girls are responsible for taking care of a baby brother or sister and also for helping the mother with the household chores. This still tends to be the case even in urban families who cannot afford to hire a maid.
Education Formal education is a priority for most Kikuyu families, even in the rural areas. Now it is common to provide full education for both boys and girls. Both men and women are now found in virtually every area of business and professional life.
Rural families are closer to the traditional pattern. Story and Song The youth are still often taught through stories and other traditional teaching methods.
Like most cultures of the world, oral "literature" is a treasure, with their oral history, legends and traditional stories. Like many other African peoples, the Kikuyu value proverbs and riddles. Rhetoric and verbal games are both entertainment and skill development. One source comments on this oral cultural treasure of the Kikuyu: It is sung in a duet and the players are in a competition.
The duet is strikingly different than the normal singing of the Kikuyu performed by a soloist and a chorus. The poem is learned by heart. A decorated gourd rattle accompanies the singing. One gicandi may consists of stanzas. There is a vigorous Kikuyu recording industry, for both popular and gospel music, in their pentatonic scale and western music styles.
Age Grades Traditionally there was a circumcision ceremony for boys and girls by age grades of about five-year periods. All of the men in that circumcision group would take an age-grade name. Times in Kikuyu history could be gauged by age-grade names. It is thought that the early Thagicu, one of the ancestral groups of the Kikuyu, borrowed this system from Cushitic and Nilotic peoples.
However, we see this same kind of structure among the Nguni people of Southern Africa, such as the Zulu. We still see this age-grade system, organizing newly-adult men into a warrior class and the graduating warriors into junior elders, among the Kukuyu's neighbours the Maasai.
This practice of circumcision for boys is still loosely followed, but it is a family matter and is done in hospital nowadays. Some men still prefer to be called by their age-grade name, but as the people have expanded geographically and in number, and as rapid cultural change occurred, the age-grade system has basically died out. The female circumcision which caused early divisions in Christianity has lost some of its emphasis among Evangelical Christians. It is still practiced widely among those with traditional beliefs and Roman Catholics.
It is still officially discouraged by most churches. Younger generations and more urban families have abandoned the practice. Traditional Beliefs The Kikuyu traditionally were superstitious and today they retain some practices of traditions held over from the old times. For instance, some Kikuyu still honor some traditional superstitions such as a taboo against whistling. The traditional belief was that this would call malicious spirits. Only a few old people would still have this actual belief.
The Kikuyu believe the number 10 was unlucky, so even though their legend says Gikuyu had 10 daughters, they always say nine. When counting they used to say "full nine" instead of the word for ten.
Nowadays this term is still used sometimes by old people or in a joking manner. The real word is still retained, ikumi. It was likewise considered bad luck to speak openly about the coming birth of a child, because it was thought evil spirits might take the child. Even now they are sometimes troubled by the European practice of baby showers and mention of the expected date of birth, and especially the idea of choosing or mentioning the expected baby's name before birth.