How to Bury a Luo | Bikozulu

How to Bury a Luo

Mozambique
Funeral for gold miner from Sotuh African mines who came home to die in Xai-Xai Mozambique. AIDS in MOZAMBIQUE 2005 Peter Bregg/Maclean's

A luo will die. In spite of all the grandiosity and showboating and all the jokes that luos peddle to feel important and entitled and invincible, jokes about them not dying but “passing on” or “retiring to glory”, death remains spectacularly unmoved by those gags. They still die, eventually. And death doesn’t even send them a memo a day before so that they can slip into their bespoke Ozwald Boateng suits or have, in their manicured hands, a short glass of their favourite single malts when they die. They just go. Death does to luos what death does to everyone else; death kills them, unapologetically, swiftly, laboriously and, sometimes, brutally. Death doesn’t care.

So maybe you knew this luo. Maybe he was your friend. Maybe you played golf together. Or worked in the same department. Or grew up together and lost your virginities to the same bird (let’s call her Zuhura). Maybe you did biashara together, supplying tissue paper to the government and robbing it blind while at it. Maybe you married best friends. Or both went to Maseno. Or you met in jail (him in for drunk driving, you for selling fake Kenya Bureau of Standards seals). Or maybe you are dating him and someone close to him is dead. And now you have to attend the funeral. Now you have to go to Nyanza.

But you are scared. Scared because you have heard weird things about luo funerals. You’ve heard that they shave people during funerals (not true) and you are thinking, “there is no way no jango bringing a scissors to my weave. Nuh Ahh. Unless that goddamn scissors cost more than my hair, they aint!” Or maybe you heard that they sleep with the dead (bullshit). Or make holes through the fence to bring in the casket in the boma. (True, in some cases). Or that they wear the dead a hat (only if they are going to a party later). And that they eat. And eat. And eat. (True!) Which poses a problem for you because you are currently detoxing.

But you have to go, because it’s important to go. We call it to “yuago” someone. To cry with someone. To mourn with them.
This is a guide on how to navigate a luo funeral. I don’t think Kisii’s need much help with this because they are as dramatic as luos are. Luhyas are basically our neighbours and relatives that shit rubs off. Plus no amount of eating at funerals can really shock a Luhya. Kambas might struggle with the cultural shift a bit, but not too much because Kambas, with the biting poverty and hunger have been numbed to the horrors that death accord. So ideally this guide is largely for the coastarians and our friends from Central. These guys and the “Others”, which are merus and, well, the rest of the indigenous tribes of Kenya that number around a million or less.

Unfortunately for you, to grieve with a luo you have to travel to the luo. In future, as a rule of thumb, you have to ask a luo where they come from before starting a friendship. As a general rule, and for your own sanity, do not befriend luos that come from those far-flung areas. It’s costly when you have to go to a funeral in their shags. I’m talking about places like Kabuoch, Olambwe Valley, Rusinga, Mfangano, Karateng. These are places that you drive to for so long until the road suddenly gives up. Then you drive some more in a thicket until your car suddenly gives up.

You know you are far deep in luo-land when a horde of shrieking and excited half naked luo children run after your car, wanting to touch it. By this time you will be too tired and too hungry to bother lifting your android phone to Instagram this moment. And whatever you do, don’t ask your hosts “aren’t these kids supposed to be in school?” It’s brash. It’s also none of your business. But should you feel you just have to (because you are one of those NGO types yoked with humanitarian piousness) you will be told, deservedly, that, “Luo children are born learned, they only go to school to calibrate their brilliance.” And you would have deserved that answer.

By the way, still on this far-flung business, there is a theorem I’m turning over in my head; that the further a luo comes from an electric line, the more obnoxious and loud he is.

The journey
Leave your Toyota IST behind. If it struggles to Olei Polos it won’t ace luo-land. You know how when people are planning on attending a luo funeral and you ask a jango if their roads in Kabondo Kasipul are OK? That’s like asking a man if he is good in bed. Most jangos will glorify the state of their infrastructure in shags: “Roads?” they will say, “of course, surely, what kind of a question is that? We have tarmac right up to the granary! There is lots of tarmac, we can even pack for you some you bring back to Narobi.” You will pack something all right; you will pack your bumper in the boot when the roads are done with you.

For all the perils of this kind of travel, luo-land is beautiful. It might not be scenic as Central Kenya, but it’s beatific in a very earthy way and a very modest salt-of-the-earth kind of way. You will go to places that seem to have successfully resisted the hand of time.

As you drive, huts run back alongside the road, huts and trees and goats and guys burning charcoal or shovelling sand and cattle and herds boys with ashen knees, leaning on sticks. It’s a tableau that totally relaxes you, opens you to a world of stoic, pride and endurance. Maslow’s sat on a stone in Nyanza when he dreamed up the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you are lucky and you happen to drive alongside the lake you will see how it shimmers in the sun like a million diamonds and you will struck at how a sun-soaked place like this can stir some much in you.

Nyanza wasn’t blessed with meadows and a soil bearing basket of life, but you won’t see its true silver lining if you insist on comparing it with where you are from. So as you transverse the land, headed to the funerals, look around, soak it all in. Open your mind, yes, but most importantly open your car windows and kill your AC and let the smells of Nyanza waft in. You will smell dried millet, hooves in the dust, a month-old promise of rains, drying cow-dung…A purged smell. Nyanza smells of earth that has refused to birth again. But let it all in your car and take a lungful of it. Keep a bit of Nyanza in your lungs if it doesn’t have space in your heart.

Over a year ago I did a story in Nyeri and the Arbadares area chasing the many waterfalls of Arbadares. For a week I was transversed Kikuyu-land. I went to places where they had never seen a luo in real life, except Raila and Kajwang in the newspapers, which I can assure you are wrong misinterpretation of luos because we really can sing better!

Although I never felt any sort of animosity from the folk I ran into, I never quite felt their warmth either, only civility but mostly curiosity. But luos deep in the boondocks are truly warm folk, that hot sun thaws the coldest of hearts. And luo-land is the only place in Kenya where you will travel deep inland and speak to anyone in English, anyone at all, and you will be answered back in English. True story, Gang. Pick a cassava farmer, or a herd’s boy and ask him where Mbita Health Center is and they will retort, “ You took the wrong turn two kilometres down that road, my good friend. What you need to do is swing this bebi around (the baby here is your car) and do a kilometre until you get to a T-junction then turn right. Are we together, class…?” (They picked that “are we together class” from their brief session in primary school and always insist on using it in every sentence.) What’s my point?

English is more than just a language for luos; it’s a natural instinct. (Hehe)

The Funeral
You have finally landed in luo-land. You remembered to carry your mineral water, torch, kikoi and mosquito repellent. Be warned; If you are really light, people might stare at you. If you are really light and have a big ass, people will definitely stare at you.

In luo funerals people don’t cry, they wail. There will be lots of wailing. Most will be tearless wails, it’s like watching a muted TV. You have to remember that crying in funerals in luo-land is less about grief than it is about clan politics. Close members of family of the deceased have to cry to show their unified grief, those who don’t will be victimized for not mourning enough. And that story can be held against one and talked about for many moons and generations! There is a lot of underling politics in funerals; most of them have nothing to do with the deceased. So ignore the crying and worry about where you will sleep.

You won’t get a warm bed and scented candles in your room, that I can assure you. In fact, you won’t get a room. Rooms are reserved for the elderly in the family and the visiting in-laws. You will sleep in the car. Or on a tree, because you are a bird (…see what I just did there…no? OK). Or you will sleep on your chair. It’s called a wake for a reason. If there is a local lodging, your host might book for you a room, one of those lodgings with mismatched slippers. Don’t ask for hot-shower. Should there be no lodging you can be sure that a church choir will keep you company the whole night. And, no, there are no night-runners!

The Casket.
What might shock you is the fact that the luo might open the coffin during viewing. Some people will cry and place their hands on the dead. Some might cry while “talking” to the dead. (“I’wewa ma’ kata oriti yawa, Atieno?”). It’s purely pseudo-cultural. Totally harmless and insignificant.

During my mom’s funeral the Missus walked to where I was sulking under a guava tree and interrupted my thoughts with a weird question: What will you guys do with the table?

What table?

The table the coffin is on.

Ah, that table! I chewed on my maize thoughtfully then when I couldn’t come up with an answer, I lengad that story.

Well?

Well what?

The table, Biko, what will happen to it?

You want it? (Hehe).

She glared at me.

Look, the table will remain as is. I said.

Remain as is where?

Where it belongs. In the verandah.

So people will eat

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from it as usual?

Uhm, yes. Well…only those who are hungry.

She looked genuinely worried. The worry turned into terror. I was sure she would leave me as soon as we landed back in Nairobi.

And that’s the thing. As an adult who has attended numerous luo funerals this is something that has never occurred to me. What happens to the table is not something I had thought of, but first time at a luo funeral and from all the things she could have noticed, the table jumped at her! I bet she thought/ thinks we are quite strange. Who can blame her? Certainly not the table!

Such cultural peculiarities will arise. You will notice something that seems strange to you but only because you come from Nyeri, or Kerugoya.

The gravediggers
The night before burial, gravediggers- strapping young luo men, shirtless and high on illicit brew – will dig the grave under the soft glow of a lantern. The banter that ensues by the graveside is hilarious! You know the way guys become famous for doing lame luo stand-up jokes on Churchill Live? Now picture a group of guys who are not acting, who haven’t rehearsed their punch lines but just churn such serious original jokes in mother tongue, complete with the accent. The expression “#dead” was coined from guys laughing so hard at these jokes until they fell in those open graves. This is where you will find me spending my night at funerals, because it’s an unending comic relief without commercials.

Cows and goats will die in a luo funeral. That’s just how it was written. There isn’t githeri or ngwace, so you will have to make do with meat and ugali and fish. Nobody will touch the vegetables because in shags vegetables are for the poor. Sodas are in high demand. Especially Fanta. Eat when you can because you don’t know when else you will eat. Dress appropriately, especially if you have a large ass and you are light. This isn’t the fashion high tea. Don’t show off your belly ring. No short things. No tight things. But you can rock a floppy hat if you want; just make sure you cock it to one side, because really, Frank Sinatra encouraged all to cock their hats because “angles are attitude.”

You know you are dressed scandalously when all the men want to fetch you a seat, or food or a phone number (theirs.) And there will be that young man who attended KU’s satellite campus in Migori who will offer to show you around so that you can see how the locals are “switched on to the usage of biogas as an alternative energy.” It’s not the biogas, silly. It’s your ass.

You will be struck at how wasteful our funerals are. How arduously long they are. How unnecessarily expensive they are. You might wonder how, in such poverty-stricken homesteads, they can still afford to splurge and stretch thin on already meagre resources. We, the younger generation, wonder too but nobody really can change this overnight because funerals aren’t just a family affair, it’s a community affair organised by the elders and the church members. We don’t get to vote.

The end
The saddest part of luo-funerals isn’t when the body is lowered in the grave. The saddest, most anguishing part is the days after the burial, when everybody has gone back to the city and to their lives and the homestead, now only left with/for with the bereaved, sit still and silent. This is the time an ominous uncertainty of the future hang over the homestead. This is the time it all sinks in.

This is when the bereaved come to the realization that that they have to deal with their pain alone. It’s a dark dark excruciating time; so dark even the animals in the boma hang their heads in sorrow and the dew on the leaves take forever to evaporate, which makes them look like they are weeping too. This is the time to visit a luo and mourn with him, not when the mourning is clouded in funeral politics and razzmatazz.

Your presence counts then. Plus you will get a warm bed and matching bathroom sleepers.

Luo funerals have become the butt of many jokes and rightfully so. Maybe things will change, and things have to. But for now, the luos send off their dead the way they lived their lives; colourfully, loudly and with intemperance.

Ps. I just realised I mentioned a Zuhura up there and forgot to tie it to the story again. Anybody here in High School wants to take a stab at it?

[Photo credit: PhotoSensitive]

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210 thoughts on “How to Bury a Luo”

  1. SalsaS88 says:

    One of the best pieces since Sabina Joy :-) hadn’t thought about the table and now I’m frowning seriously at the funerals in shagz, pray, what does happen to those tables?

  2. Kelly says:

    Mr. Zulu good job. Looks like the writer’s block is finally over.

  3. Chiconthrift says:

    Every bit written here is true, very true!

  4. waluvengo says:

    made my day…

  5. Kim (@2FingersKenya) says:

    Well done, think you have captured the event very well!

  6. Eng Mwangi says:

    Daily Mail and Metro should be sending interns to you for calibration of their creativity.

    Hapo kwa biogas nimeshout AMEN!!!

  7. timo says:

    ‘Luos don’t cry, they wail’ lol…reminded me abt a man I’d seen on telly during Orwa Ojode’s burial. This is a beautiful article.

  8. Liz says:

    Well articulated and very very true about Luo funerals , you have a subtle way of telling people off, (NGO types yoked with humanitarian piousness, and lame luo stand up jokes on Churchill, kuwa mpole) anyway, I have attended two burials in Nyanza and everything about them was grandiose. I remember at one of the funerals of a young boy who had an accident in the dad’s Mercedes Benz, the dad while addressing mourners said (in a heavy Luo accent) that he didn’t understand how and why his boy died yet the car was not mechanically challenged. Recently, I lost a friend who was buried at Lang’ata and I didn’t understand why yet it seems luos value burying their dead in their ancestral homes. Luo land is beautiful, I liked Gem.

  9. size 10 says:

    Very hilarious and true!! I’m a Brown Okuyu and I once attended a Luo funeral. It was dramatic to say the least. you have made my ribs ache Biko.

  10. Philip Ogola says:

    The piece echoes a true reflection on my Luo Kinsmen

  11. karimi says:

    Now it’s like I’ve already been there. Eloquently descriptive.

  12. Mark says:

    Wow! The Biko we know. Now, about Zuhura….

    Zuhura
    You know you have encountered Zuhura when you find your things being auctioned. For then, Zuhura was a goddess- a goddess with the appetite of a black widow. Aptly captured in a poem with no pretensions of being one in whatever way.

    Zuhura, daughter of a goddess
    With an improperly done face, but a generous ass-et
    When she walks by, men turn to get a second, third look
    Accidents happen, vehicles driven into ditches.

    Yet, it was her voracious appetite that introduced you to worldly affairs. You and a hundred other boys from the neighbourhood. She was the first one that ever let you touch her breasts; fondled wouldn’t be technically character. Various dates, same bushes. Then your imagination soared; fervid with expectations, you imagined her to be Cleopatra.

    Zuhura, daughter of a goddess. A minor goddess. A goddess forgotten in the annals of history. A goddess of no consequence. Yet she did beget a goddess who unflowered a whole village.

    more@ http://www.zurikiki.com

    • Sly says:

      Hmmm…so that is Zuhura, excellent piece Mark. Biko, a Nyerian/Kerugoyan would definitely make firewood of that table the very next day

  13. atinti says:

    Every bit a reminder of where I’m from. Must share this with my mum

  14. Barbara says:

    After quite a while, a good piece! But Biko, this darkness of death of late…..ai! we know we will die but you keep reminding us at the beginning of every piece!

    • Olive says:

      Barbara,true. He’s writing too much of death stuff. Remember ‘like a thief in the night?’

  15. JBonyo says:

    Good read…you needed to have mentioned the place of the ropes used to lower the casket into the grave. Before the commercial funeral organizers came to being with lowering gear, the ropes it is alleged were stolen and used by thieves. All they needed to do was to place the rope across the door and the victim would sleep like the dead.

    • Carolyne says:

      Wa! Really? Thats crazy!

    • Philo says:

      And the chicken given to the crew of the hearse? Ever wondered if the chicken ever ended on the crew’s dinner table. There is a joke that most crew, out of fear of the chicken would throw it away along the way only for some naughty Okuyus along the Nakuru-Kisumu road to catch and sell back to Kisumu bound travelers

  16. Oti Owino says:

    The part about grave diggers, that is the place to be. I must be there at any Luo funeral. it’s more comic when the deceased was ‘one of them’. Apparently there has to be some 5 litre jerrycan of Really Potent Chang’aa before the digging begins, regardless of whether the deceased was a bishop or Imam. (unless of course church elders do the digging- which they wont.)

  17. Edgar says:

    You are really good – really good! Just re-lived all the funerals i have attended to at “dala” and also the reason i do not attend our ”liete” -

  18. Tee says:

    i was once a victim of a luo borrowing my car, the equipment was never the same, so was the friendship………. i now understand.

  19. Benjaps says:

    Did you have to do that to Zuhura? Do you know who Zuhura is by the way? Ask around pal, ask at the very heart of the city centre…

  20. Tom says:

    Brilliantly written. This part reminded me the week after we buried my mum some years back: The saddest part of luo-funerals isn’t when the body is lowered in the grave. The saddest, most anguishing part is the days after the burial, when everybody has gone back to the city and to their lives and the homestead, now only left with/for with the bereaved, sit still and silent. This is the time an ominous uncertainty of the future hang over the homestead. This is the time it all sinks in. -

  21. jacquie says:

    Fantastic Piece…. and its gwaci, not ngwace :) :)

  22. okumu says:

    for real what happens to the table? Nice piece though! Kudos!

  23. Magunga says:

    My neighbor died when i was in class eight. He was an okuyu. They did a viewing ceremony for his friends to pay their last respects before he was burried in Molo. My mother showed up- and since she is waaay lighter than me, some people began to ask if I was the adopted one.
    She wailed until her lungs began to complain. We never heard the end of it until we moved to another estate.

  24. Peter Outa says:

    Out of this world. Truly entertaining. I love the culture

  25. zack says:

    “And luo-land is the only place in Kenya where you will travel deep inland and speak to anyone in English, anyone at all, and you will be answered back in English”, This very true, even grannies are more fluent in queens language than swahili

  26. Joe Mugendi says:

    Sometime ago, a classmate and a dear friend died. I attended his burial, and i got to witness much of this at Oyugis. When the body arrived in the compound, a deafening cacophony of wails ensued. Luos mourn their dead with a passion i had never witnessed. I remember suddenly feeling unworthy to say i was mourning my friend. We, the guys from Central and eastern, tend to mourn with an obstinate dignity. The women might wail, but its childs play compared to what i saw at Oyugis.

    In Central, most men will remember their macho side during funerals, and cling to it. A steely gaze, a furrowed forehead, and low tone are often the only signs to betray grief.

    Thanks Biko, this post made me remember my friend.

  27. Mike says:

    You will pack something all right; you will pack your bumper in the boot when the roads are done with you.

    An absolute cracker of an article! You killed it in this one…

  28. Linda k says:

    Biko, you just had to put the English story there, hehe I have enjoyed the piece, laughed quite a bit , needed that

  29. Julius says:

    The kind of literature that can cause you an orgasm at the desk. Damn!!!

  30. Victor Ooko says:

    The best article I have read so far this year.I will be popping in for some bit of this dose Bwana Biko!Thats for sure!

  31. MumBi says:

    Nice one. Hilarious. Took an okuyo back -almost like the funerals were yesterday. Kweri kweri rakini, Luo land is some beautiful “salt-of-the-earth” land.. very beautiful!

  32. Wambui says:

    I feel like I’ve taken the trip there (in my non IST car), attended the funeral and grieved with the family. Now I totally understand where #DEAD comes from… LOL!

  33. Score says:

    Band Perry-If I Die Young

  34. Pablo West says:

    absolutely wonderful! http://www.pablowest@ovi.com

  35. wamuyu mwangi says:

    Good work Biko. Very well put together.

  36. Miss Chai says:

    that last paragraph – the end – made me tear a little… nice read though. makes me want to travel to nyanza albeit for a happier occasion.

  37. Ronjey says:

    This is true and funny. Not all cases the same though and Id not want this burial culture to end…then what will make us different? Jowa!!!
    swing this bebi around, LOL

  38. Odhiambo says:

    I don’t know how I managed to read this to the end! My lungs need something to regenerate after all the laughing.

  39. Rey Liz says:

    nice peace Biko. its very true but..i hail from Kabuoch bwana nowadays we have stima omerah! The bit you forgot is the burial day and a day after when now mourners celebrate with a so-called ‘disco matanga’ where local ladies are sold for ‘simon’ (50cts) each to dance with an ‘armed’ village boy(s). one bob is for a bit lighter ladies who knows how to seductively expose their bright brown teeth in the name of smiling..otherwise known as ‘lando’…..

  40. Miss Dee says:

    Loved it.

  41. Fidel says:

    True…True…truth!

  42. mmnjug says:

    Another lesson learnt today.

  43. kate says:

    After a really depressing day… thanks Biko for the laughs.
    “Luo children are born learned, they only go to school to calibrate their brilliance -LOL…I HAVE TO USE THAT!!!!..LET ME….

  44. cute says:

    i really did miss your writing.. awesome piece.. you did tickle my ribs

  45. Danny Wasonga says:

    I buried my grandfather last week and trust me, it was exactly like this.

  46. Victor Were says:

    The further a luo comes from an electric line the more abnoxious and loud he is

  47. central beauty. says:

    Now I believe i have been to Nyanza and back..that place is damn far . During Christmas i leave Nairobi to Nyeri and my friend to Siaya.I eat,narrate about my entire year in nrb, sleep,(journey was tediou..lol) wake up, visit neighbors and remember i left my good novel in Nrb…just as i’m getting to the city again,it’s when my friend is seeing his mum!

  48. Benzer says:

    Now I want to go to Nyanza; and not necessarily for a funeral (God forbid).
    Wow piece, this one.

  49. Mogute says:

    One of those articles that i wouldn’t mind re reading the sense of humor is top notch Mayo!!!

  50. KagichaGirl says:

    The table! I can see my sister’s face asking about it. Priceless. You write so beautifully Biko. Always a joy to read your work.

  51. Juliet says:

    Cracking read!

  52. jesiliam says:

    loved it.

  53. Naomi says:

    “Although i never felt any animosity from the folks i ran into,i never felt their
    Warmth either,just civility and curosity”….this,i find,is very true,

  54. The Real G says:

    But Biko yawa, you left out the fun part of the funeral- disco matanga. Kose jokendu do not stick around for the disco matanga? Where old people binge the night away while the youngsters make love in the bus that brought “JoNairobi”????

  55. Nyanchwani says:

    If it was to be a New York Times review, it would have gone along the lines of, ‘it is rambunctious, unputabledown…his best ever to date, only bettered by the one on knickers or the one a fool had to jump fire. Worth every minute of my night’s sleep.

    For sure, funerals in Western Kenya must be reexamined, we tend to be extravagantly wasteful, we have kept the nigger who owns Garden Square in business literary.

  56. Mwanaa Reginah says:

    its not biogas, its Your Ass, silly, hehehe, my ribs

  57. Gideon says:

    Now i see you are back Biko. Splendid!

  58. Kareena says:

    I was caught between laughing, sadness and reflection.This piece whipped up a lot of emotions in me…. thanks. Am definitely proud of my motherland.

  59. evansowiddo says:

    pompous piece just like luo funerals, good work Biko…..when i grow up i wan to write just like you!

  60. NameAfline says:

    WOW

  61. Diana says:

    Brilliant! Though you forgot to mention the “miel” or dance on the night of the burial. This shocked some friends from the mountains at a recent burial at our home. They could not understand how the funeral turned into a disco on the night of the burial. I tried to explain that we have to celebrate the life of the departed through it does go to extremes sometimes. That’s just the way of the Luos!

  62. Ja'lam says:

    Beautiful, very soon, event organisers will be taking over our funerals, complete with power point presentations.

  63. Stella says:

    Awesome work Biko, your descriptions are the literary equivalent of 3-D. Don’t ever leave us again yawa we might not survive it, you hear?!
    From one of the “others”.

  64. Charles says:

    “Kambas might struggle with the cultural shift a bit, but not too much because Kambas, with the biting poverty and hunger have been numbed to the horrors that death accord.”

    I assume you know that they are numb because you have taken the time to speak to some of them? Or is that a statement you threw in there just for the sake of a few laughs. Interesting how you can be so insensitive to the plight of your fellow Kenyans. The casualness of that statement is extremely disturbing and disappointing.

  65. Chrispines says:

    Forgot to mention that not anyone starts the grave! The grave starter is entitled to new blanket and a new jembe.
    This is all the responsibility of the widow (Zuhura) as the case might be.
    Relatedly un-married daughters aren’t buried in the homestead.

  66. Shix says:

    You will be struck at how wasteful our funerals are. How arduously long they are. How unnecessarily expensive they are. -
    So true! I went for a Luo funeral once and almost mistook it for a wedding. I couldn’t get over the extravagance!

    The scenery was beautiful.. Well worth the drive.

  67. yungdun says:

    Hilarious how a luo kid is born learned and only goes to Class to calibrate their brilliance, hahaa…. Nice read man. But stop putting us in speculation. Lets be assembling at the parade every monday morning,

  68. wams says:

    Very good work……mixed emotions. I have never thought about the table part your Missus was really shocked.

  69. karanja kamande says:

    excellent article you have a way with words that brings out hilarity out of the normal things of life and in this instance Luo funeral. Seeing as i have married nyarkarachuonyo I have been schooled!!!

    • bikozulu says:

      You are officially my brother-in-law. Welcome to the village.

    • Joe Mugendi says:

      Boss, Biko offered a priceless lesson here. Full of vivid imagery and his uncanny ability to take a stab at common things and make them funny. However, you have to get off from behind your shiny Ipad or whatever, and head there.

      Experience is the best?

  70. Kodo says:

    Biko ‘ja’Zulu-Kendu Bay writes what interrupts your program of the day. “It’s not the biogas, silly. It’s your ass.” it’s culturally modernistic to be courteous though!

  71. sam says:

    the only objective than can describe your wittiness is still undiscovered!!Great article man..

  72. Liz says:

    Wow. Wow. Wow!!! It’s always a pleasure to read you Biko. You write so effortlessly. I am in awe.

  73. Tech Man says:

    This is the closest i have been to a Luo funeral or luo land..A clap for you Jackson.

  74. Waci says:

    Nice article Biko!
    And yes, the first time i attended a funeral of a friend in Busia, i wanted to run faaar! No one had prepared me. In central, first we bury you mostly within the week you die, viewing is at the mortuary only. By 3pm we have or are lowering you to the ground….
    So you can imagine my shock at the Bukusu funeral. First it took forever for the burial to happen, then when we got there it took so long and everyone was wailing except us. Aki we looked as if we had killed the poor guy.
    I think one of our friends explained….i hope they did..

    • pundi says:

      I went for a makumbusho in kakamega…I am still in awe.
      The 4 omingli bands (is that correct) carrying on a loudness competition. The dance races through the compound and houses in the compound.
      The ribald humour of the relatives, in presence of all ages and sexes.
      The wholesale slaughter of animals. The different cooking arrangements and menus- for nairobi people, for this clan, for that clan, for village. The eating of the innards the night before. The carrying of food in paper-bags. The loaves in sacks, the busaa in drums and biggest fattest pots, carried on a sack, to a hole in the ground.
      Sleeping in shifts. Sleeping 6 to the one mattress. The multiple generators running through the night. The music all night. The shouting and abuse when a generator runs out of fuel.
      The bottles of whiks and casks of wineses, mmmmhh!
      The hunt for water to wipe your boogas the next morning….the vitality of life in the celebration of death.
      Amazing experience. Sounds

  75. Bobbitto says:

    Very creative read this but the disco-matanga deserved a whole paragraph complete with the ‘DJ’ who mixes from two dvd machines, his bare-foot ‘groupies’ and Ahuja speakers that sound worse than a squeaking bout between two crows fighting over a worm!

  76. Waci says:

    Priceless ==> “Luo children are born learned, they only go to school to calibrate their brilliance”

  77. Gish says:

    Having been to Kisumu- Migori- Serare a number of times either to visit family and once for a funeral. Western people are warm, very willing to help and the trips are always worth it.

    Great post.

  78. Evelyn says:

    It was long but really could not stop reading!

    “Luo children are born learned, they only go to school to calibrate their brilliance..”
    Now that made my day

  79. ja Olambwe Valley says:

    Very true, my ribs are paining !

  80. Emmazile says:

    LOL….i cant feel my ribs.Great read Biko..

  81. ngina okeyo says:

    The proverbial table always almost resumes normal duties….nice article …..!

  82. Anyango says:

    ..what about the drama, a fight, or something that will try to upstage the main event. You captured it to a T. I love your writing!

    • joh_nnos says:

      Yeah,there’s always a situation. Un-finished (or worse unpaid) bride price is always the most common.

  83. Kamurita says:

    In case no one has mentioned it yet, your article is FULL OF WIN!! Mr. Zulu. Good work! Keep them coming.

  84. Tush says:

    I read until you stereotyped Kambas as poor. That is going too low my brother

    • bikozulu says:

      Someone up there pointed out that it was tasteless. And I can see why. Hoewever, no offense was meant, that’s never been my objective here, Tush.

  85. jush says:

    This is true. Funny how South Africans also spend on food like the the luos and they all try to make a fashion statement
    West Africans also behave the same with lots of food and wailing. Nice piece though

  86. Njoroge says:

    ” We have tarmac right up to the granary” hahaaa nice read Biko!

  87. Nessa says:

    Yes,teacher,we are together hehe with the birds in the trees!

  88. Libby says:

    Excellent,hilarious,witty piece! I’m glad you’re back Jackson,it’s always a pleasure reading your posts:)

  89. Robheart_ says:

    Hahaha this is a witty well coined piece of art- if it were to be bought, I’d be the highest bidder- are we together class? lol

  90. NameYobesh Onsomu says:

    Vey captivating & moving anecdote.

  91. Mama T says:

    The best piece of writing have read in a very long time!
    Honest, engaging, funny!

  92. Nyauyoma says:

    Had me reaching for tissue…my folks would love to read this

  93. Luva Luiceman says:

    hahahahaha!

    No, seriously you’re the best. You know like, the ‘bestest’ best.

  94. Magaribina says:

    Do you know that there is a place somewhere in the farthest corners of ‘South’ called Wuoth Orumo (literally ‘the journey is over’ in case your translating skills have forsaken you) I haven’t been but I understand its about 2 hours away from the farthest point a car can travel.

    Also, one of the best wailers I ever met was a great-aunt. She perfected the Funeral Marathon which is essentially a run-and-wail where you somehow cover 42 km within the confines of a half-acre boma. She did not believe in running alone so would commandeer anyone who was unfortunate enough to be within reach and force them into a sprint-and-wail till she spotted her next co-runner. Did I mention she was in her seventies last time I saw her in action? Sadly she died before we thought get some Olympic officials down to verify what records she had set during her wailathon.

  95. Marricela says:

    Very true, When put with such comic relief it makes me really laugh.Experienced it 1st hand and man the end sucks!

  96. Ongre_ says:

    Great piece..I come from Kisii and totally related to this..it is not crying…it is wailing!!

  97. Belinda says:

    I like this part most…..

    ……… Maybe you married best friends. Or both went to Maseno. Or you met in jail (him in – See more at: http://bikozulu.co.ke/how-to-bury-a-luo/#sthash.etKxg6jE.aNV930Hg.dpuf

    Maseno School so be it!!

  98. Sebah says:

    The facetious jabs you throw at some rather seriously issues is amusingly creative…..a great pressure release-valve in literature!

  99. Biko's future editor says:

    I definitely saw what you did there with the bird on a tree:-) One of my best reads from you thus far. Editorial services Biko…hehe

  100. Toni says:

    Great hilarious read. Except for this extremely offending line “Kambas might struggle with the cultural shift a bit, but not too much because Kambas, with the biting poverty and hunger have been numbed to the horrors that death accord”

  101. Iwittness says:

    I am Kamba. Our next door neighbours in Mombasa where I grew up were Luo. When I was about 6 years old, both the parents died in an ugly accident as did one of the family’s nieces. The relatives convened at the home for about a week before ferrying the bodies to the village for burial. That’s the closest I’ve ever come to a Luo funeral. But to this day it remains the clearest memory of any funeral from the many I have witnessed. The wailing, the relatives talking to (i.e admonishing) the absent deceased, the FOOD! The experience was so powerful that when my grand dad passed on some years later I remember wailing at the funeral as I had seen the relatives of my Luo neighbours do. Needless to say, that drew a lot of curious stares from the folks at my rural village.

    Great post Biko. You brought life to death itself.

  102. Kara says:

    witty and deep at the same time. Top of your game Biko as usual.

  103. Kanya says:

    hilarious …my ribs are in pain

  104. Krista says:

    Biko, you forgot disco matanga.

  105. Ruthie says:

    I love the article or blog
    The last bit made me weep and weep and weep because I could relate

  106. ukweliusemwe says:

    Excellent just superb!

  107. Ndaga says:

    Telling it as it is. Fact is that we celebrate the lives of all kinsmen and women who cease to live, and we do it with pomp and colour.

  108. janabi mutua says:

    Wao! Biko, this is great,you made my day! especially ‘Luo children are born learned,, they only go to school to calibrate their brilliance ‘

  109. dominic says:

    This is one piece of literature i would advise anyone to read….Hilarious in a very unique and creative way……

  110. Lynette Kamau says:

    As usual you never disappoint, good article.

    I went for a funeral in Nyanza recently and coming from Central, it was an interesting experience compounded as a long weekend of travel and cultural appreciation.

  111. Savvy says:

    Kisii funerals follow the same script, except maybe a little less extravagant. It will depend on the wealth of the bereaved though.. the extravagance and level of wailing.

  112. Nkatha says:

    you’ve made death and funerals sound hilarious and Fun! now all wanna be nairobians will forego blankets and pack their 1sts off to Nyanza Funerals!

  113. Sheila says:

    Good read as always.”The expression #dead was coined from guys laughing so hard at the jokes until they fell in the open graves.
    Hillarious and mind opening to those who haven’t attended luo funerals

  114. ms. Sunshine says:

    *happy dance* Biko is back !! Now that you have put to words all I have experienced since I moved to the lakeside city,I have proof for the doubting Thomases..

  115. Ben J says:

    Ha ha… It’s not the biogas, silly. It’s your ass. I’d love to see this biogASS lady. Biko you are a genius

  116. chief gwonda says:

    this one i only needed to share coz it was wrth

  117. MizThunderthighs says:

    This. This has made my afternoon. And my day. And, let’s just be honest, pretty much my week too. I fear I may have fractured a rib from all the laughing! XD

  118. Akiru says:

    You’ve outdone yourself Biko. Awesome.

  119. Eddie says:

    My Grandpa died recently and I could envision everything Biko has said here complete with church choir,witty and drunk gravediggers and being your Western neighbour of course a lot of wailing and shrieking, the token village mad man/woman, and food. Lots and lots of food. Totally enjoyed the piece Mr Zulu. Go easy on the Kaoz though, their “harsh life” and here I mean dry Kathonzweni,precludes anyone from making fun of their misery.

  120. GathoniMash says:

    Nice Piece Biko.

    The comments are a mini-blog!

  121. GathoniMash says:

    About the Kamba statement.
    Guys! Let it slide! Biko put up a piece before the elections about boiled cabbages and nyama and everything hehe! during a visit to central.
    Anyway, he was unifying all of us, so, i dnt see him as the type to be tribal.

  122. Onyango Olondo says:

    What a piece of art! Awesome

  123. mirriam says:

    Ati Biko #dead# came from wapi hehehhe.. i almost got kicked out of the office today while reading this, it is quite hilarious

  124. PK says:

    Biko. Comparable to none. MHI dropped a talent here. All the best though.

  125. Hilary says:

    Biko, I’m surprised none of you usually opinionated fans point out the typos and errors that mar a great, very well written piece. It’s the little things bwana omera! Proof readanga ndugu! And if this makes me the party pooper, ng’wonson yawa uru!

  126. RAZMATAZ says:

    Hello!! Am here a mono in the high school, I dreaded high school but this is a high school I forever want to be a student!! got here thanks to a friend who shared this story on FB, its been 48 hours since and I read all the previous post of BIKO, the guest writers articles, and YES the hilarious comments of the high schoolers ..mind you I work full time swear am not lying!!! Yes when you go BIKO and you never go BACK!!Please More posts!!!

  127. Ndunge musau says:

    Too funny! Yawa only thing is that comment on the Kambas is what the English call a ‘sweeping statement – ‘ take a drive to Ukambani!.

  128. claire says:

    Coming from Central and having attended a Luo funeral recently, the article completely resonates. One thing I really admired, is that Luos mourn. They don’t pretend to sniff and sob politely.
    As for eating, eish! it was a feast. All the same still got much love for Luopeans.

  129. General Zod says:

    “..sleep on a TREE, because you are a bird.” General Zod thinks this particular joke was wasted on your readership.

  130. Rees says:

    Awesome piece!

  131. Katya says:

    Biko!!! Awesome piece and hilarious.

  132. Miss. Mwobobia says:

    Great read…Now you need to visit Meru, see what you come up with

  133. Edgar says:

    Luo people are good,they are warm & dont judge you by what car you drive..

    • SalsaS88 says:

      Really Edgar…have you heard this ‘story’ of a Luo, went for Ramogi night at Carni saw ‘Proboxes ‘ and NZE’s and went like …begin Luo accent ‘ I thought it was LUO night not OKUYU night’ close Luo accent.. :-)

  134. Gathoni says:

    Ditto on mismatched slippers. I wore those at Chez Albert in Siaya once. Great article!

  135. Terminator says:

    Those luo gravediggers…
    Brilliant piece Biko

  136. Macharia says:

    Biko, I sure don’t know what you get high on! These things you write are awesome!! Remarkably beautiful and detailed.

  137. Zippy says:

    Made my day …. but forgot to write about the night Disco.

  138. onest gambler says:

    Just like your statement in defense of luo children education.you were born a writer Biko,you just went to school calibrate the art of writing.

    This is the piece man.

  139. Munee says:

    Great read…wish someone had warned me before I went for a Luo burial in January. I really did experience some culture shock…

  140. Esther Neema says:

    ha ha ha ha, you are really really funny. Loved the story.

  141. Openo Pesh says:

    ati iwewa ma kata oriti yawa, Atieno….hehehe! why did it have to be a lady hehehe…I have been re-reading this article for the last 3 days!

  142. Martha says:

    Another brilliant article. Thanks for enlightening many of us. Kudos

  143. nyaran says:

    They will have to put Luo funerals in the Lonely Planet. Thanks for the truth in the end. (Not saying that the rest isn’t true.)

  144. ChotAnyenya says:

    Biko as other people have commented, please rewrite one paragraph on disco matanga. Otherwise, great read indeed!

  145. George says:

    awesome piece…Cant wait for the next one…I will take a drive to Luo land one of this days…

  146. Akwi says:

    A good read, one I have had in awhile.

  147. Akwi says:

    A good read! Great work..

  148. Korsakov says:

    Nice piece. You always kill it.

  149. Maish says:

    Great piece!
    I went to kisumu for the first time last year and was amazed by kisumu’s night life! I also had some ugali and tasty fish at dunga beach while watching the sunset (that was epic) !
    The most memorable part was when I witnessed some suspected thief who was being chased around kondele by a group of young men armed with all kinds of crude weapons stop, pick a rock, throw it at his attackers. The rock hit one of the attackers so hard that he fainted!!
    http://www.markmaish.com

  150. jyoki says:

    Like someone up there has pointed out up there,you brought life to death itself,it is very beautiful.I was laughing all through.About Zuhura,only you can you do it.
    Thoroughly entertained!

  151. sera says:

    Biko,

    You are superb!!! Soooo creative.. and addictive. Keep it up.

  152. Kevin says:

    A nice piece Biko. However, I think you need to proofread your work next time before you post it. It is one area most writers ignore yet it matters a great deal to your audience. Keep it up all the same.

  153. Korobe Ekiru says:

    give this Biko guy a medal…must say it has supplemented my CUSTOMARY LAW classes

  154. @nyamweyaJ says:

    Zuhura daughter of the moon if i can remember well

  155. Khandi khandi says:

    At Luhya funerals there is always a mad guy who somehow finds his way to the funeral from the market where he is always stationed (most villages especially in western have a certain mad man who is a permanent fixture and who has even marked his territory). This guy pulls all-nighters with the mourners at the funeral bravely singing songs about all the bad things that the deceased did…i guess he is the only one who is allowed to say these bad things since all we ever hear at funerals is aaaaaall the nice things about the deceased.

    Biko you’ve done it again! Good one.

  156. Mimmar Jemmy says:

    Biko;
    Nice piece,-as always.
    write often.i missed u

  157. S. says:

    I love your blog Biko.

  158. Verha Genaro says:

    Reading this at 4 am in the morning thanks to insomnia. I couldnt stop laughing. “You’ll pack alright,you’ll pack your bumper in your boot after the roads are done with you”.
    You are a brilliant writer.

  159. Wanjiru Maina says:

    Clearly, Luo funerals are quite dramatic. I never understood the wail. At least now I do.

  160. Willie says:

    Growing up the table where the casket was placed used to scare me.

  161. paulo says:

    no amount of eating can shock a luhya? hehehe,

  162. clint obura says:

    nice read like your descriptive language. dnt knw if mine will suffice. please take a look http://twistedkenyan.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/treasure/

  163. Benard Roosevelt says:

    Biko this is great I have laughed out our weaknesses and learned the lesson you brought out at the end of it. Well said and as a luo and a writer too I couldn’t wish you did better. You left out more but covered it well though the table he he he the table?. Keep it up man.

  164. Wuod nyaseme says:

    excellent article, I have always liked the grave digging nights and I enjoyed that uji at the wee hours of the morning as the digging and chatting continues It keeps yu awake and warm and urinate a lot when the day breaks.but never forget the drunken commedian who keeps making fun of the dead man and everyone laughs more than the jokes deserve and some throw droplets of acidic saliva at you when the bacteria have done a great job in their mouths after drinking a packet of bond 7 or maber, or changaa’…..when laughing uneccessarilly…

  165. wangui kahiro says:

    intriguing…jst perfect Biko. so amazingly True.

  166. Laura says:

    Great piece Biko. My Father passed on a week ago. And I had made my okuyu friend read the piece just days before… now he thinks you wrote it for him. ION, there is a guy who used to goyo tho(beat death) at every funeral called Kuon Bel. Sadly, he died some years ago. noone to goyo tho at this one… Great read this one

  167. Laura says:

    The piece is great.. I forced my okuyu friend to read the piece then my father ‘passed on’( yes. passed on. he wouldn’t have had it any other way) a fee days later. Now the friend thinks you wrote the piece just for him. He thinks that he knows everything about funerals in Gem. We had a guy(Kuon Bel) . he used to ‘goyo tho’( beat death) kwa rungu at home. Sadly, he passed on too… we still wondering who will beat death next week. Great piece though…

  168. Jere says:

    wow, i felt like i was reading your blog for the first time.
    tight

  169. Rhodes says:

    …this is a nice piece… a cool dance around death.
    I also enjoy the funny tales around the fire in nandiland – my roots. People have fallen into the fire but we have never coined the hashtag #burnt. if you see it in the future, then dont hustle so much to think of its source.

  170. Browneyed girl says:

    Therapy. At the end of a long day I needed this. Coming from Gusii land I can totally relate. I attended a funeral once in one of those back of beyond locales in Luo land. I swore that if i was ever hiding from the police id go there. No one would ever find me. Or so I thought until you’re ‘It’s not the biogas. It’s your ass’ statement. #RealityCheck! My grandma passed on when I was young. I have never forgotten the Luo mourner who started wailing a kilometre away as she approached the homestead … We thought someone else had died. She came post burial so went straight to graveside, threw herself on the ground, wailed and rolled and wailed and rolled. Then when satsfied, gathered herself and came to say hello. My young mind thought she was cuckoos. Everyone else just carried on and waited for her to calm down. In Gusii and I believe all of Western there’s a ceremony around selection of the burial site. Should it be next to so and so’s grave or behind it? Where should the head face?? Then the closest male relative strikes the earth first when grave digging begins … like a ceremonial laying of stones by politicians at CSR projets. Then of course the disco matanga. In Gusii it’s a celebration of life …. and to fend away grave thieves who apparently will dig up fresh corpses for rituals. *shudder*.

  171. Ujo says:

    I come from Lambwe Valley in South Nyanza, and God, that place really is far. When I was younger it took one and a half days journey travelling from Nairobi, we would take a bus from Nairobi, two matatus thereafter, a bicycle and walk the remaining 3 kilometres. I actually grew up knowing this to be normal for everyone, and found it queer how our friends from Central took only 2 hours. Theirs seemed to lack ‘authenticity’ because it was too near Nairobi.

  172. seth okeyo says:

    ..amazing story …but too hilarious hehe

  173. Peekay Blue says:

    lous’ never have funeral, probably just a send off party the same way okuyos do when one of them is going to USA to study they have the whole village at the airport.. Great piece though, and that table is a great memorabilia.

  174. El Scorpio says:

    I really enjoyed this one on many levels, it was informative and entertaining :)

  175. Awi Rawlings says:

    Hahahahah…its a good one. But you forgot to mention the part where the local Councillor wannabes or “politicians” start their politicking. Invariably, they always “We were with Jakom last week in Nairobi and…”. And it is always the climax when everyone sits up straight in his chair. Congrats!!!

  176. Jacob Owaa says:

    hahahahahaha packing the tarmac for those going back to Nairobi killed it. Well in

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