The Abamarama community of Western Kenya
Abamarama people are among the seventeen sub tribes of the Luhya Community.
Abamarama people are found in Kakamega County of the former Western Province.
Just like many of the Luhya Sub tribes, Abamarama people are believed to have originated from Egypt, North Africa but later on migrated up to East Africa entering Kenya via Uganda.
According to the current Chairman of Abamarama people, Mzee Francis Olukaka aged 78 who was among the people who fought for Kenya`s independence, Abamarama people moved from Egypt crossing many African countries until they arrived in Tororo, Uganda.
His explanation is seconded by Mzee Benjamin Kapatta Omusinde who further emphasizes that from Egypt, Abamarama people walked along River Nile until they arrived in Uganda settling at Tororo.
Later while in Tororo they migrated towards Western Kenya settling in Siaya at a place called Alego Kaugaki.
Mzee Moses Omwaka says when they arrived at Alego Kauagaki, they were welcomed by Luo people who had already settled in the area.
However, all did not go well at Alego Kaugaki after Abamarama discovered that they were staying with uncircumcised people. Mzee Omwaka says Abamarama associated uncircumcised people with dirt and therefore chose to migrate.
He further reveals that bearing in mind that Abamarama were circumcising their boys, Luo people were very much afraid thinking that Abamarama people would turn against them and circumcise them forcefully.
That made Luo people become very uncomfortable with Abamarama hoping that they would move to other parts.
To Luo people`s happiness, Abamarama people migrated from Alego Kaugaki heading to their current place in Kakamega County.
Despite the death of Adam Mundu who led them from Egypt, Abamarama migrated following River Yala until they arrived at their current settlement.
From Egypt, Abamarama were led by among others prophets such as Mukolwe, Mumbia, Muchelule, Weinda, Lusia who guided them on several issues among them during wars, drought, outbreak of diseases among others
Among Abamarama, the big clans included Abashirotsa, Abatere, Abashieni, Abamanyulia, Abalukhoba.
However, were descendants of Wetere who was assimilated by Abamarama.
According to Mzee Olukaka, when Abamarama arrived at their current place, they found two people with their families staying there, that is Wetere and Museta.
Wetere and Museta welcomed Abamarama warmly without any fight as it was the case in some other places where Abamarama had to engage in war before settling.
Mzee Olukaka says Wetere and Museta were very understanding and cooperative. The name Butere according to Mzee Olukaka came from the name Wetere who was staying at the place and whose descendants form Abatere clan among Abamarama people.
In Wetere`s and Museta`s neighborhood, there stayed Batsotso people who did were not happy with the arrival of Abamarama peole.
Following the bitterness from Batsotso, war erupted between the two sub tribes. By that time, Batsotso people had a fierce fighter by the name Ndunde who had killed very many people who would try to intrude into their territory.
Despite Batsotso having that strength, Abamarama put up a spirited fight with an aim of driving away Batsotso for them to settle, acquire pasture for their livestock, practice farming.
In the war, Abamarama managed to eliminate the fierce fighter Ndunde. Mzee Olukaka says after Abamarama had sent away all the Batsotso Ndunde being among them up to their current place, Ndunde did not accept the fact that they had been defeated and therefore he chose to ambush Abamarama with an aim of killing most of them but unfortunately, he was nabbed and killed.
Mzee Olukaka says initially, Abamarama used to dig very deep trenches around the homestead where they would put weak sticks and dried banana leaves on top of it to hide it from the enemy.
It is believed Ndunde fell in the said trench on his way to attack Abamarama and that it where he was speared from killing him instantly.
Among Abamarama, there is a saying that goes; Olukalushira lwera Ndunde meaning the action of Ndunde returning killed him.
You can also read, Circumcision among the Tachoni community
Just to note, there are other historians who have a different view on Abamarama.
In Prof. Gideon Were book, 1967 the Professor says the collapse of the Chwezi Empire in Uganda, Wamoyi made Abamarama to migrate to Tiriki with his three sons, Wanga, Khabiakala, and Eshifumbi.
It is recorded that Wanga moved to Imanga as a result of family differences, Eshifumbi moved to Emahondo with his descendants becoming Abamakoya and Abamuyira. Angulu who was Wanga`s nephew moved to Butere forming Abamakhuli and Abashiambitsi, Abakhongo, Abaseta.
Abamarama believed in a supernatural being called Were whom they worshiped and prayed to whenever they needed his intervention.
According to Mzee Okwaka, there was a sacred place where Abamarama peole gathered to offer prayers to their gods.
Abamarama people planted traditional trees called Chifubu at the sacred place and also placed three traditional stones at the same place.
Chifubu were planted around the three stones under the instructions of elders. Abamarama gathered at the place as early as 5. a m for morning prayers as the sun was rising.
However women especially those ones who were still undergoing menstruation were completely not allowed at the sacred place of prayers.
Mzee Omusinde says if in any case they would allow any woman at the sacred place for prayers, then it meant she was a pure, respected old woman who had reached menopause age.
In addition Mzee Omusinde says, occasionally, an old woman would be allowed at the place of prayer whenever they were conducting a ritual.
When they were conducting very special prayers, an elderly woman would be invited at the place where she will be required to prepare a traditional meal to be served at the place.
A cock would be killed by just hitting its head several times on the three stones at the sacred place of prayer.
Mzee Olukaka says they would not slaughter the cock but instead hit its head on the three stones as the elder offers special prayers to the gods.
The woman would only prepare the traditional Ugali from millet flour then leave the sacred place of prayer as elders continue with prayers.
At the sacred place of prayers, Abamarama people were led by a chosen elder who or had to meet certain conditions.
First the elder had to be a pure Marama person born from Abamarama, married and with children.
He could not be a person born of a mother who had gotten any child before marriage commonly known as Nashikoko among Abamarama.
Integrity was put in great consideration before one was put in such a position according to Mzee Olukaka.
“The leader was taking care of many people, offering advice, making decisions that would impact on the community and therefore, he could not be a person whose integrity was questionable,” explained Mzee Olukaka.
Whenever Abamarama people experienced any calamities such as persistent drought, famine, diseases among others, the religious leader of Abamarama people would organize for special prayers to appease their gods and truly according to Mzee Omusinde of Abamarama people, the problems would cease completely.
Abamarama people did not only organize special prayers when they were faced with calamities but also when they were celebrating after winning in any war, good harvests among other good things.
“After harvesting season, Abamarama thanked their god for the harvest by organizing special prayers where they would offer their special thanks to their supernatural being then later enjoy a great feast,” said Mzee Musa.
According to Mzee Olukaka, the ceremony to thank god for the good harvest was very important because other than just bringing together Abamarama people, it set the best practice of people appreciating for anything given however little it would be.
Among Abamarama peole, there were people with special gifts that were supernatural in nature who performed them for the benefit of the whole community.
There were blacksmiths, prophets, circumcisers among others just like other many of the Luhya Sub Tribes.
Bukusu people for instance have ten specific uncanny powers that result into Mediums (Bafumu), Diviners (Baliuli), Blacksmiths (Babasi), Circumcisers (Bakhebi), Prophets ( Bang`osi), Rainmakers ( Bakimba), Priest Councillors (Besimbo), those who performed miracles (Be Kamaya), Drum beating (Babapa Efumbo), those who went through induction rite (Baliche).
Just like Bukusu people who did not embrace the spirit of night running, Abamarama people believed that the spirit of running out at night was a very bad spirit which they rebuked whenever it was reported among the community.
Abamarama people believed that such a spirit was not experienced among them initially but it only appeared in the community when they started intermarrying with other tribes.
To them therefore anyone who is a night runner among Abamarama might have inherited the spirit from his or her mother’s blood.
Even though Abamarama people hated night runners, they would not harm him or her whenever they nabbed him. Abamarama people believe that if you injure a night runner and his or her blood drops in your homestead, the spirit will stick to your family meaning either yourself or your children will become a night runner.
Abamarama people are believed to have inherited the rite of circumcision from Egyptians where they trace their origin from.
Mzee Olukaka says Abamarama people started practicing circumcision long time ago when they were still living in Egypt.
Circumcision among Abamarama people is a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood.
Just like Bukusu, Tachoni, Abamarama people circumcise boys aged between eleven to fifteen years every even year in the month of August.
The last time they circumcised their boys was in the year 2014 and therefore they will be circumcising again this 2016 in August.
Among Abamarama, the young boys to be circumcised will be assembled in the homestead of one of the elders before the circumcision day.
Note that the homestead where the boys will be assembled for circumcision must be a respected home in terms of integrity. The old man to look out of the young boys must be of exemplary behavior as Abamarama were afraid of their children being taught bad behavior.
Before the material day of circumcision, the initiates will move around the village singing and dancing as they collect presents from their relatives.
They will continue with songs and dance for quite some time before circumcision day.
Families of those boys have to take food for their boys every day to the homestead where they have been assembled.
On the material day, the elder will bring boys outside one by one to face the knife. Boys will get out of the house naked then face the knife as their elderly relatives watch. It should be noted that only circumcised men would be allowed to witness the as boys are circumcised.
As a boy is circumcised, he is taken behind the house bleeding then the next boy is taken out of the house and the process continues that way until all the boys are circumcised.
After circumcision, boys are taken to the house and treatment kicks on immediately.
Among Abamarama people, there was a special herb called Ingwe which was used to treat the circumcised boys.
According to Mzee Omusinde, Ingwe was very effective in treating the initiates although it would be so painful depending on the person who picked it.
Abamarama people believe if a person who goes to pick Ingwe decides to punish the initiates, he will approach the herb while making noise, hitting it with other sticks before picking it.
Mzee Musa says if one does so then the herb is applied by the initiates, they will experience the worst pain.
That is the same story among Bukusu people who initially were using traditional herb called Enguu.
Initiates would be taken to the river to bath where water was sprinkled on their private parts as the care taker finds out if they were healing well.
The person who takes care of the newly circumcised boys among Abamarama people is called Shibuliete, the elder where the boys stay is called Omutilindi while the girls who bring food for the initiates are called Abachengeche.
After the boys have healed completely, a ceremony is organized for them to go back home but before setting off, they would walk around the village dancing and singing with palm leaves tied around their heads while wearing sisal skirts, Biyula.
They will go to market centres where they will be given several presents.
At about mid night, all the initiates will set off for their homes and on the arrival they will sit around the granary where new clothes will be brought to them.
A cock will be slaughtered and a very big feast organized to welcome the young man at home.
The boy`s circumciser will then conduct a final rite on the boy where he will instruct him to lick the knife that was used to circumcise him.
As the circumciser instructs the boy to lick the knife, he will be telling him to be brave, be ready to face the world, fight for the betterment of his own life and that of the community.
He will also advise him to be productive and impregnant any lady he finds on his way who is not his relative.
The boy will then set free to start a new living as a grown up person