Kikuyu elders initiate 90 boys into adulthood in traditional rite

They entered Mount Kenya forest on November 5 as boys and came out as men 15 days later after undergoing a traditional Kikuyu rite of passage as the community seems to be going back to its roots after years of initiating boys in hospitals.

After two weeks, the 90 boys had been circumcised and went through the second phase of life — initiation.

The first phase is birth, then initiation, followed by marriage and lastly death in reference to the community’s beliefs, culture and tradition.

On Saturday at 11am, a group of Kikuyu elders dressed in traditional attire, led the young men aged between 13 and 15 years from where the circumcision rituals were conducted.

During the 14 days, no woman was allowed to move closer or have sight of the ritual site as they were blocked about kilometre away until the boys recovered.

The boys were handed to the doctors and elders by either their fathers, uncles or a man from their village.

According to senior elder Kariuki Kabui, the move was to dignify a fatherly figure in the society and maintain male privacy.

Named Kwimenya Age set (Cognizant), the young men were re-united with their families amid heavy rainfall — a day that is special and for festivities in the community.

The young men’s transition from childhood to adulthood begins at a ceremony — open for all — full of songs and dance.

Women entertain the new adults with traditional songs after welcoming them back with five ululations.

They had to endure pain and cold in the forest where temperatures ranged between 13 and 20 degree Celsius amid tight security from armed Kenya Forest Service rangers.

Looking calm and comfortable, dressed in white T-shirts and having all shaved their hair, the young men sat as they were reminded of the lesson they were taught during induction.

In a fortnight, the young men were imparted with knowledge and skills in various aspects of lives. This lessons involved slaughtering of a sheep for ceremonial and sacrificial purposes and how to greet their mothers, fathers, grannies and peers.

At 11.30AM the senior elder referred to as Muthamaki (king) led the attendants in traditional prayers which involve facing Mount Kenya where the community believes their God lives.

All facing the mountain, men and boys lift their hands up but women just follow the devotions quietly, nonetheless they all keep on reciting Thai thathaiya Ngai thai (May God’s peace prevail).

“We have new warriors in our community. May God of our forefathers and God of Gikuyu and Mumbi bless them and give them energy to defend the community and its property,” said Mr Kabui.

More than 200 parents had applied for their sons to be accommodated in the ritual but 110 were turned away because the facility that was offered by Mount Kenya Eco-Resource Centre could not house such a high number.

“Hundreds of people sought to have their sons initiated here but the facility is very limited. Last year we had a group of 60 boys named Mwiyuro (flood) age set but this year the number increased to 90. We hope to expand and accommodate more people,” Mr Kibui said.

Mr Kabui revealed that the boys took oath of keeping away from criminal activities or engaging in school unrest.

“We want to end the cases of unrest in schools and ensure that we are bringing up persons of good morals. We are arresting the situation following increased number of youths engaging in crime,” he said.

The elders offered nine sheep which were slaughtered at the camp and feasted on by the young men.

Mr Kabui rushed to explain that the elders are not running away from Christianity but rather safeguarding their tradition.

At the same time, business boomed for photographers as attendants engaged in photo sessions to commemorate the big day.

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