Bottomline: Female genital mutilation has been fought by the government for ages. However, elsewhere it is a source of pride and status
“Occasionally at dusk it’s seen shaking in sheer immensity threatening to fall forcing elders to be summoned to gather at the hill side, offer animal sacrifices mostly goats as they prayer to the gods in order to spare their people ” Thomas, a resident , speaks of the great rock in awe.
Seemingly, that’s a cue for me to tour this great rocky green terrain renowned the fertile expanses of open farmland and variety of livestock. Respect to them is as natural as air to the lungs. In the heart of this land embellished by rocky landscape exists a cascade of events intertwined within their tradition, The Kuria tradition.
Getting a cast of the Baraka hills, it’s a serene atmosphere with birds singing melodiously, mooing of cows ,once in a while reverberated laughter of children playing. Climbing up the hill isn’t a bed of roses, a little hooking on the face by branches, stumbling atop the jagged rock and penetrating the knee high height of grass and wild flowers till you emerge into the light of an eye catching site of three huge rocks lying in layers, in between they are supported by small pebbles, the top most rock is the largest; half of it ‘overhangs’ on the other side of the hill.
Residents believe it can fall anytime. Balancing on the site requires the solemnity of toting kids lets you fall and die or if lucky escape death by enduring severe limb breakage. It’s a win lose situation. Its erratic nature left me giving credence that truly God is a God of wonders.
In retrospect, in the old days passage from childhood was upheld with much respect. Various celebrations marked by removal six lower teeth, piercing of ears, circumcisiom alongside other rituals depending on the tribe were signs to mark this rite.
The month of November beckoned the commencing of circumcision ceremonies in Kuria land. The belief of female circumcision ppularly known as female genital mutilation is slowly being abandoned by this community. On the other side of the rocky terrain I meet about six ladies, probably enjoying the cool breeze,they resemble each them, all are adorned in lessos, colorful caps with some cash pinned on them alongside a decorated walking stick.
Skeptical at first, I try greetings in a fake Kuria accent with the intention of creating rapport which works perfectly. Slowly a relaxed atmosphere is created, as we cheerfully indulge in girl talk one of them offers to narrate to me how they faced the knife.
“It’s a ceremony we yearn and wait for with bated breaths, we do it willingly but with key concern that failure would mean future problems in marriage or worse still not finding Mr. right for most of our men respect and value circumcised women” The two hour journey to womanhood commences at dawn with jubilation all the way to ‘Ngubaru’ ; the initiator.
The kind of joy we have makes it a stone throw distance away. Once in our birth suits and hands tied at the back, the organ in question receives justice. Thanks to civilization and diseases Ngubaru uses one scalpel per person. Yes it’s painful many scream throwing tantrums, but it’s only a test of ‘the strength of woman hood”. The journey back home is a trek too but this time we receive presents accompanied with songs of praise from families and friends. Back home, we are the Sogone; great women of the land treated with respect and that’s our pleasure.
As she finishes in a monotone other girls can be heard ululating from far, am made to understand that they are just from facing the knife. Female genital mutilation has been fought by the government for ages. However, elsewhere it is a source of pride and status.
A fortnight earlier screams, chants and ululations whose sole meaning was sincere approval of brave male warriors about to take part in Saro; male circumcision ritual, had become a nuisance in the backyard. The long trek commences at wee hours of the morning usually around 3 am, on the way the troop of young, well armed men engage in chants to boost their ego as they pass dark leering figures accentuated by weird sounds in the darkness.
Each initiate must have a barua (an invitation note from the ngubaru) and a stripped black shuka which one would adorn after circumcision, a cap with pins where presents would be attached and a shield which signifies a true Irigene – male Kuria warrior. Real test of a real warrior is the actual removal of the fore skin using a scalpel coupled with the trek back home amidst pain, bleeding and endurance of the scorching sun.
Though many upheavals have taken place in various traditions, my November adventures make it lucid that there is still a continuous quest to give birth to the long lost cultures.