Now…let’s bury a Kikuyu


Let’s say, for the sake of argument (although around here we don’t argue), that this was 1872 and you were a Kikuyu (Yes, including you, Momanyi). Let’s say that you suddenly started coughing and after a few days you developed a fever and your cough got worse and soon thereafter you started coughing blood. Then one day, your eyes just rolled back into your skull and you died right there on a mat in your darkened thatched house. Your body is found by your kith and kin who are just back from tilling their shambas; they walk in and find you cold on that mat, dead as a dodo. They grab their chests in shock and mutter, “Ngai fafa!” then they call the village elder who reluctantly leaves his muratina and shuffles over to your boma, children and hen getting out of his way, where he proceeds to feel your cold forehead and exclaims, “Ngai fafa” then mutters a short prayer peppering it consistently with “mwadhani.” Later, he, together with the village medicine man, will then pronounce you dead, officially.

Word will spread and there will be murmurs all over the shocked village, some extolling your virtues and some even shedding a few tears – mostly men, not the women. This was 1872 after all, when the Kikuyu men were weak and downtrodden and their communities were largely matriarchal. Which meant the women sent their men to fetch water, roll the mat after they had slept (equivalent of spreading the bed), wash the dishes, wipe the baby’s ass with leaves, milk the cows and beat them up when they tried being smartasses. In those days, if you were a Kikuyu and you were beaten by your wife everybody in the village knew that you were beaten but nobody would laugh at you because all men were being beaten. In fact, if you were the man who married a woman who didn’t beat you up, you sort of felt out of place. You felt that she didn’t love you enough and other men talked about you behind your back “Look at poor Njoroge, his wife just looks at him like he is sunset, never raises a hand at him”.

This was before all the Kikuyu men (with exception of Nyeri men who were too terrified to stand up against their women) gathered under an avocado tree one day at dusk and in hushed tones said ENOUGH! “A ya andû aka nî matûûrîte ihinda iraihu mûno. Rûciû thaa ithatû ûtukû no nginya mikonyo îhutithanio. Karanja, nîûkwenda uteithio na ûcio waku?” and then went ahead and made all their women preggers at the same time and beat the shit out of them one evening just after dinner, successfully regaining their power.

Can you imagine if the Kikuyu men hadn’t gathered under that avocado tree to plot to take power away from their women? There would be no Kikuyu’s stepping on crates of beer under tables in bars. Quiet as mice, that’s what they would be. They would huddle in corners at bars and go home at 9.30pm every day, chewing gum to get the smell of booze off their breath. No kikuyu man would be able to say anything on Facebook or go on national TV to comment on anything, no matter how learned they were because we would not take them seriously when they showed up with black-eyes and busted lips because Njeri wa Chege thupped them a good one last night.

It would also be easy to identify Kikuyus, apart from, of course, their gaudy shirts. If you saw frantic grown-ass men at Kencom stage rushing home to cook before their women got home, they would be a Kuyu. But this would foster brotherhood from men of other tribes. All these senseless and rabid inter-tribal, dick-comparison contests that occur on Facebook would not happen because why fight someone who is already being beaten at home? We would be our brother’s keeper. There would be an unspoken rule on the road that if you saw a car overlapping during evening rush hour being driven by a man, all men would let these overlappers back into traffic because we would know those are kuyu men only trying to beat a curfew. Brotherhood. Empathy.

You know how sometimes you are working late and you develop a problem with your computer and you call Macharia your IT guy from jobo at 7pm to help you out? And whereas normally he would pick your calls all jubilant with a cheery, “Wewe jaluo!” or “Githee, sema?” this time he would be whispering into the phone, telling you, “Boss, that problem can wait, acha I will fix it kesho. I’m in the digs feeding the toi.” Then just before he hangs up you’d hear his wife say: “Utaachana na huyu Mluhya mlevi, sasa ako kwa bar, eh? Anakusaidia na nini, huyo Mluhya…”

And you’d hear Macharia saying in a whiny voice, “Huyo ni Otoyo, ni mjaluo, sio Mluhya…na ako kazi, sio bar…. Ingîkûheneria kîî nyina wa Githendu. Wendete mbaara ûû ñikî?…”

The next day you’d buy him lunch.

That’s how it would have been and Kikuyu women have done a great disservice to this country by opening their legs, falling pregnant and ceding dominance. You ladies, owe the nation an apology.

Anyway, back to the hut in 1872. Your body, now stiff from rigor mortis, would be wrapped in skin and carried on a wooden stretcher deep into the forest, in complete silence, where they would leave your ass out there and head back home in time for a dinner of githeri under the flickering light of a three-stone stove. And that would be it for you, sir. Wild animals would sniff you out there in the forest and then devour you up – including your lousy lungs ravaged by TB. Koma thaayû  mûndu wa nyûmba. Na ûgîtûhandîre mîangà îngîhûnia njogu.

And that’s how Kikuyus buried their dead; with little fanfare and even less emotion. Not so much has changed in 2015 it seems.

We buried my father-in-law two weeks ago. Cancer. This was the second Kikuyu burial I was attending. He was an exceptional man my FIL; very sober headed, always very curious and accommodating. When I met him for the first time, when I had gone to ask for his daughter’s hand, he had a chance of saying no because this was his only daughter and no doubt he would have preferred to hand her over to a nice young man from the house of Mumbi and keep that bloodline pure, instead he accepted me, a man from the land whose sons can’t properly pronounce what they love the most; fish. A man from the land where men don’t (supposedly) cut their foreskins. A male who isn’t a muumo. Isn’t that what it boils down to, cut or un-cut? Instead he was courteous and respectful and he saw past my forehead and said “That boy is OK” and with that, all ducks got into line because he was that guy who made a decision and everybody got in line. Which made him my ally, and so I had to pay my last respects accordingly, and bury him.

So I gathered a few close friends of mine, a few cousins, an uncle and even my old man who came down from shags and we all went to Muranga to pay our last respects.

The first thing that strikes you when you go for a Kikuyu funeral is the lack of tears. You have to understand, where I come from when we bring the body home it’s compete bedlam! Utter chaos! People meet the convoy kilometers from the boma and run alongside the hearse, chanting, waving leaves and sometimes running with cows. People wail; women, men, children, dogs, chicken, birds, goats…everyone! Wails rent the air. If it weren’t for the casket, it could well be a political rally.

So it was shocking for me not to see or hear a single person cry. The missus cried thrice, when the news was broken to her in the morning, at the morgue and during the eulogy. I never saw her brothers cry. She told me one of them cried at the morgue, but I didn’t see it with my own eyes. Apparently, Kuyus “cry on the inside”. People stood in huddles at the morgue, looking somber, but no tears. In Nyanza it’s not uncommon to be accused of killing the diseased if you don’t cry. This guy could have fallen off a ladder and broken his neck, but if you don’t shed a tear people will look at you like you killed him.

It was even more surreal for us to go to the boma and find silence waiting. Mourners trooped into the boma in total silence. If it weren’t for the casket, it could have been the coffee farmers Sacco members, going in for a quarterly meeting to discuss the price of fertilizers. Another thing; there were no villagers hanging loose. No idlers. In Luoland there are many people who come to funerals just to chill out. They are there just for the company. They also look forward to funerals because it’s the only time they are going to drink sodas. There was none of that character in this funeral – only the people who were affected showed up. The rest of the village went about their business of feeding cows and taking care of their shambas. Death in Kikuyu-land is a brief and solitary affair.

Then I noticed that they don’t open the casket. The body is only viewed at the morgue and once they shut it, that’s it folks. They will only view the body in shags by special request from those who didn’t view it at the morgue. They might as well be burying Bugs Bunny in that coffin for all they care. Us, we open the damned thing up, because we have to confirm if you are being buried in decent shoes.

We sat under tents. Avocados hang over our heads. It was silent except for the rustling of banana leaves, the distant mooing of a cow and the occasional sound of a bodaboda blaring kikuyu music tearing down the dirt road behind us, setting off a car alarm in the process. At this point I lean to my pal, Vincent and whisper over the screaming car alarm, “Er, baas, kina Karanja are on your moti, you might have to budget for new side mirrors next month,” and he stares intently at the funeral program, trying hard not to laugh.

The MC runs a tight ship. He spoke in Kikuyu for a while until someone whispered that there were jaruos in the crowd. With a quick apology, he switched to Swahili, sometimes forgetting and going back to Kyuk. We didn’t mind.

The program is brief and no time is wasted on long speeches. In my shags, people demand to talk. We are talkers. Everybody wants their 15minutes with the microphone and sometimes not being allowed to eulogize is seen as gross disrespect and is something that can cause a rift in relationships for generations to come.

Kikuyus are baffled with our drama at funerals, given, but they on the other hand, need to explain why they insist on taking all those pictures at funerals. It’s ironic that kuyus will run their funerals like clockwork, but still manage to carve out half of the funeral time to taking pictures of themselves by the coffin. It puzzled me. “Arata othe a mûtiga irî moke haha mbere mahûrwo mbica.” The MC will call the deceased’s children to go forward and take pictures, next would be his in-laws, then the people who called him uncle, then his parents, then friends of his sons, then friends of his daughters, then his grandkids, then his friends, then his great grandchildren, then his chama members, then the people who he worked with in Kilgoris, then the folk he owned a big stake with in Kitale… Everybody will take a picture! In fact the only people who don’t get an opportunity to take pictures with the casket is the deceased debtors. And here I thought Kisiis love pictures!

I wondered where they would take all those pictures. How will the photographer know which group is which? Will the images be emailed or printed out and delivered by post? And when you finally receive your much awaited picture of you standing next to the coffin, what will you do with it? Do you frame it? Do you keep it in an album, showing visitors who come to yours, saying, “hha ndarûgamîte hakuhî na ithandûkû rîa guuka wangu. Aarî njaamba mûno guukaguo”. Is there a specific album just for pictures taken next to caskets? Because I’d assume that by the time one reaches 40-years old they would have buried quite a few relatives.

Fine, we wail at funerals because we are melodramatic and attention seeking, but why do Kikuyus take pictures with the coffin?  Eric Mwangi, please explain this concept to me like I’m a luo.

I asked some pal of mine about this and after looking at me weirdly (yes, because apparently it’s odd when you don’t take pictures with a coffin!) she said indignantly, “We take pictures so that we can remember the deceased!” I snorted. So, I asked her, “You guys don’t open the coffin, don’t cry, bury not more than a week after the death, giving every indication that you want to get over and done with this quickly, and yet you take numerous pictures to “remember” the deceased?”

Then there were the hats. I will submit that there will be more hats at a Kikuyu funeral than any other funeral. Kikuyus and their hats. Does a hat maketh a Kikuyu? Do Kikuyus sleep in their hats? My father-in-law wore hats all the time. His eldest son loves this particular blue hat. I know of some Kuyu pals who won’t step out of the house on a Saturday without a hat because it contravenes a code of hut-uct. When a man steps out in a particular hat, can you tell automatically if he is going to the garage or to the bar? You know the way our women know that if you wear a particular shirt you will be coming back home late? Is it the same thing? What does a hat mean for a Kikuyu? I won’t even ask you to explain those godfather hats; I suspect that might be a very long story that needs a whisky and a lot of time. I’m talking about those hats that chaps step out in over the weekends and at functions. You will see these hats and they aren’t even good looking hats; most are inconsistent with the profile of the wearer and the weather, but they remain loyal to those hats which makes me  suspect that the hats are more than just fashion accessories, they are metaphors. But of what, dear Kikuyu friends, what?

Then there is the food. Before writing this section I sat down and asked myself what everyone who has written about Kikuyu food has asked themselves; how do you write about Kikuyu food in a tasteful way? (Hehe, see what I did there?)

I had warned my dad that there might not be food at the burial; because Kuyus don’t prioritize food in funerals like we do, so please don’t catch feelings if you aren’t fed, I told him. He – and any luo really – knows that folk HAVE to eat at funerals. In fact, in Nyanza people will judge how well you sent someone off by how well they ate at that funeral. When you hear someone say, “ne orit’wa maber a liend Omullo,” they simply mean they were fed well at the funeral. I suspect it’s even worse at Luhya funerals. But in luo funerals, we eat. In fact it’s only at a luo funeral that an outside caterer (yup, who has time to cook mediocre food?) will ask you, “Excuse me sir, would you prefer red or white meat?”

Anyway, as luck would have it there was food. Of course in Luoland this would not be called food, it would be called a snack. There was steamed rice, githeri (of course), mukimo (it’s only natural) and some boiled cabbages (I refuse to comment on Kuyus and cabbages again) and lastly there was a stew which basically had meat and warus and carrots all floating in this massive sea of broth. Let’s all just agree that kikuyu food is unimaginative and move on, shall we?

We ate in silence, just happy that at least there was food. It could have just been mukimo alone for all we cared. Talking of which, I later asked my dad if he enjoyed the mukimo and he asked, “which one was it?” Hohoho.

[Side note: Here is how lowly we – the luo – think of cabbages; we call it “Kabich.”  If you took that name and marinated it overnight with spices from Asia and deep-fried it the next day, it would still taste of disdain.]

At the end of the program we made our way to the graveside. Oh, by the way, I hope I’m not giving the impression that we ate before burial, because we ate after the burial it’s just that I thought I’d leave the burial for last.

So we all went to the gravesite and one look at that grave and I was like, Whoa! Who dug that grave, Tullow Oil? That grave was deep – about 9-feet! Here is how funny and different we all are in terms of culture; so I ask this chic by the gravesite why they dig the grave so deep and she says, it’s not deep! And I say it is deep and we can go on and on like that for days. But here is how you know a grave is deep; when folk stand about a meter away from the edge. If you have fear of heights you shouldn’t go to the gravesite of a Kikuyu. And because of that Kikuyus should stop using the expression, “six feet under,” because your graves are not six feet deep!

The saddest part of a Kikuyu funeral to me wasn’t even the fact that they didn’t cry, or that they didn’t serve sodas, not even that they took advantage of the dead to amuse themselves with pictures, it’s how it ended. By the end of the evening the tents were pulled down, the public address system was packed up and everybody left for Nairobi or wherever they had come from. If you went back to that boma the next day, there would be NO indication that there was a funeral the day before. Whereas, luos will hang around funerals for days after the burial, eating and idling about, Kuyus pack up and go before sunset. Grief will be left for the aggrieved. Death is treated with contempt. Death is not allowed to disrupt life too much. Life is for the living.

And it’s easy to stand here and call other people weird because they pierce their nipples or grow hair in their armpits or remove their teeth or eat monkeys but is it only weird when you look at it from your own socialization?

Because we are all weird; we are all different. A left-handed person isn’t weird because he eats using his left hand, is he? And you don’t even have to understand why people do what they do, you don’t even have appreciate it or explain it – all you can do is respect the difference. (But still, if someone could just explain that picture biashara…I’d be eternally grateful.)

I’d like to visit a Kalenjin and a Kisii funeral, though. I hear Kisii’s cry in shrill soprano voices at funerals. Even grown men. Especially grown men. I’d kill to see that.

RIP Mr. Kimani.

Ps. Special thanks to Crazy Nairobian and Shiku Mombasa for helping me with the correct Kyuk translations in this piece early Sunday morning when they would have been catching up on sleep.

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  1. A beautiful piece……what beautifully diverse cultures we have…we should learn from each other instead and live in harmony for ever and ever….

  2. Hahahahahaaaa…. Leave the Kikuyus and their mukimo alone..ati which one was it?!

    Though Kamba and Kikuyu funerals aren’t that different. Except for maybe the depth of the graves.

  3. Nice read as always Biko. I have attended one too and i also wonder what’s all about with the picture taking thing! The catch phrase….Apparently, Kuyus “cry on the inside”. Hahaaaaaa!

  4. Biko Zulu you make my life interesting, I always long for your articles! PS my husband will give me talaka ya kwanza if he reads this, he thinks am mad about you! Nice piece!

  5. we ladies from Mount Kenya do hereby apologize for “opening our legs, falling pregnant and ceding dominance” 😀 lol! Thanks for making my afternoon Biko! and pole to the missus for the passing on of the great icon Mr. Kimani

  6. When i draft my will, i will add “only kuyos allowed at my funeral”. Theirs seem simple, straight forward. Though i have never understood why people who barely spent time with the deceased insist on giving speeches about someone they barely knew. Then the wailing wah! All in all its a good piece. Big up to the diverse cultures in our homeland.

  7. Ha ha ha 😀 Biko, you cracked me up on a piece about a burial, God forgive you. (jk) 😀
    …by the way, so Tullow oil might be in that business too? Aki ya nani, biashara ni biashara!! 😀 😀

  8. Very well written Biko. Wangu Wa Makeri, I am sure, is still turning in her grave. You forgot to mention what the corpse is wrapped in while being taken for disposal, er, abandonment.

  9. Ok Biko.You totally killed me.I’m a Nyerian and whoever did the translation for you needs a shrink.This is the kind of balm we need to soothe those walking around with tribal boils.Keep it up and may your FIL rest peacefully.

  10. Brilliant Story! Seamless connection between past and present Kikuyu funeral rites. And as you have put it so well, understanding each others differences goes a long way, but respecting them goes even further!

  11. This piece makes me want to write “only Kuyus allowed at my funeral” in my will (when I draft one). Theirs is so simple and straight forward. One thing about funerals the really gets me thinking is why people who never spent time with the deceased are allowed to give a speech about someone they barely knew. Then there’s the wailing in Luo funerals wah! All in all big up to the diverse cultures in our homeland.

  12. “Then there is the food. Before writing this section I sat down and asked myself what everyone who has written about Kikuyu food has asked themselves; how do you write about Kikuyu food in a tasteful way? (Hehe, see what I did there?)”

  13. During Fidel’s burial, my kiuk friends on Facebook were complaining, inboxing why we drag funerals for so long. What they didn’t understand is that after the burial, there is disco matanga. Where we invite Osogo Winyo and Otieno Aloka to come and perform.

    Ours is not just a funeral bwana, it is a celebration of life.

  14. Soo true! My grannie passed on in 1999 and we lived with her in Kitale. We basically travelled the whole night with the body, found the villagers already prepared and waiting for us by 7.00am and by 12.00 “wageni kutoka kitale” were fed and in the mat ready for the return journey. A luhya friend of my mums was baffled that she didnt cry and was busy serving people as opposed to just sitting helplessly and crying once in a while.

  15. ‘….Us, we open the damned thing up, because we have to confirm if you are being buried in decent shoes…’ Very hilarious piece, Biko. You never disappoint. And by the way I also do always wonder why my people insist on taking pictures during funerals. It’s almost eerie…

  16. This post is about a burial and I end up laughing so hard tears roll down my cheeks. RIP Mr. Kimani.I also want to know about the photos.

  17. Rûciû thaa ithatû ûtukû no nginya mikonyo îhutithanio. LMAO!! For anyone who doesn’t understand that statement, “Tomorrow, at 9pm, the navels must touch each other.”

    1. The photos are put in an album for the family to see those that came and possibly those that didn’t (I can’t tell you often I have heard some say “an hatirì handû ndìrona ng’ania haha” meaning there is nowhere I can see so and so in the photos) to honor the mûtiga-airì’s life.

    2. This one made my day. Funny that in this age, we still have people who can express themselves so well in their language without sounding vulgar

  18. RIP Mr. Kimani.
    This piece left me with mixed reactions, its sad for the family, but again am so cracked
    by the humor,cultures are cultures, we are very different.
    Kaleos are like kyuks, we wail we tear up quietly and we dont dwell on the dead,
    infact the fear of dead bodies is exceptional.

    This is a great piece

  19. Surprisingly those photos ends up dusty and tattered. No one looks at them thereafter. Food preparations was passed on to generations, blame it on Wa Makeri…. yes those days before men sat under an avocado tree. Nice read…

    1. Lisa, i have noticed a particular ‘culinary trend’ in my hometown Kiambu which has been passed on the same way, cooking stew which comprises of waru, big slices of carrots and Michiri…..the njahi cooked with ripe bananas is a real treat!!

  20. growing up we had a photoman, i know its photographer but photoman is the only word to perfectly describe him, and back then photos were events, they still are, taking photos are events, and thats why we take them religiously.

    1. Good to know we weren’t the only ones who knew him as ‘The Photoman.’ And by the way he always rode a blackie.

  21. Biko, we take pictures because its important that we remember…the deceased, the burial place and those who came to condole with us.
    If photos had been taken at Dedan Kimathi’s burial we wouldn’t have the questions we do… ‘is he buried inside Kamiti near the left avocado tree behind Block D’… you know!

  22. hahahahahahahaha oh dear old Biko,ati ‘how do you write about Kikuyu food in a tasteful way?’,,,,you simply don’t.

  23. For arguments sake Mwadhani and Ngai fafa are associated with the Christian God. In 1870’s they called him Mùrungu, Mwene Nyaga. He was after all, based in Kírínyaga (Mt. Kenya). I’m also guessing that Shiku came up with kuhùtithia míkonyo thing.

    1. @NJOORO Iam from nyeri huko remote kabisa nad i’ve heard that story being given.Nowhere was that phrase mentioned.

  24. This post made my ribs ache. “you don’t even have appreciate it or explain it – all you can do is respect the difference”>> On point

  25. Great as usual. Particularly :Then just before he hangs up you’d hear his wife say: “Utaachana na huyu Mluhya mlevi, sasa ako kwa bar, eh? Anakusaidia na nini, huyo Mluhya…”

  26. 1. The kikuyu sentences are impeccable and hilarious, especially the Mukonyo part…yani i was all under the table laughing especially when it dawned on me what it meant….
    2. The article has clearly depicted a true Gikuyu funeral, awesome read. i was actually laughing until i realised its about your FIL, and am like, “Ngai, haki Biko!”
    3. Now everyone who reads this will assume (rightly perhaps) that we Kikuyus have deep sentiments with avocados and ‘kabich’…’s not unusual to find us eating githeri (with alot of broth), avocado and blueband ya kadogo.
    4. The godpapas are ours for life….those and the ‘sengenge ni ng’ombe’ yellow ones are our favs!!! 🙂
    5. My query, while people are mourning in Nyanza, why do they run with cows? O.o
    6. Urrgh, the pictures!!!! i have mine when i was solemly standing next to my mum’s brown coffin….i dislike them…..not good for memories!!

    May bwana Kimani find peace in the world he has departed too.

  27. Very entertaining article. I have laughed so hard this afternoon.

    In my family we bury you by 1300hrs because people have to go milk the cows and take the milk to the nearest KCC collection point. RIP to Ithe wa missus waku.

  28. Eeh, magunga, hio kali….thats why as Biko says, you guys open the casket to make sure he is burried in the right kind of Viatus?? eeh,gathee, nie dingehota!!

  29. Rûciû thaa ithatû ûtukû no nginya mikonyo îhutithanio…this one had me on the floor. Your translators deserve a bigup! Valid question about the photos – I know for a fact most family members cannot bring themselves to look at them long after the funeral. Well written Biko, as always.

  30. And here I was about to thumb you up on those Kikuyu lines!!

    Good read as always. You do realise those who wail and cry in Luo/Luhya burials are not even from the aggrieved families but mere outsiders

  31. I dare you to criticize culinary skills of a Njeri or Ciku, am assuring you there will be no marital bliss if you happen to stay with one as a wife. But all said and done aren’t we all unique in our own special ways. Our parents laboured to see us through school so that we can be accommodative. So let us just embrace them even if the subject all the edibles to boiling.

  32. nice read Biko, one day we shall wake up and never write or talk about kuyus and their food. We love our cabbage just the way Luos love their fish…. I am still trying to understand the hat thing myself.

  33. I think the elder would have peppered the prayer with “mwene nyaga” instead of Mwathani, and finished with “Thayu”

  34. Salute to your Gikuyu(yeah,thats the name of our language)consultants.They would make Ngugi wa Thiong’o envious.Nice piece that left me laughing at the idiosyncracies of the House of Mumbi.

  35. Thanks biko. I have laughed. I never thought taking photos by the coffin could be seen as weird…. are you sure you don’t? How else do you remember the day? Lol. Great read.

  36. “Instead he was courteous and respectful and he saw past my forehead and said “That boy is OK” the.reference to your forehead in any story never ceases to amaze me! Lol My condolences to you and your family.

  37. The idiosyncrasies have been brought out, debated on, created enmity, brought out the laughter tears but never in this way in ONE piece! Laughing when reading about a burial, seriously? Lol!. Still laughing…Lord help me not to remember any of this and do a Vincent next time I attend a mundu wa nyumba burial.

  38. This is very true….I read this and remember my cousin’s burial we left her so fast, thou I felt like goin back to keep her company…

  39. Biko you’ve made made my day. I’ll forgive you for some boring piece you did on your Xmas. This one though, brilliance.

  40. Hahaha. … thiz so true! And that’s why after burial guys Mit ( andu a Nairofi) @ the nearest local n have one as they wait for food coz we are not allowed to eat at burials. ..

    1. In my village they don’t just have one. They compete to clear the stock in all the bars at the centre. My dad used to do that at other peoples funerals and sure enough, when his time came, his friends were off to the races as soon as the spades were down!!

  41. Funniest piece I’ve read in a long time. My best part…… “Er, baas, kina Karanja are on your moti, you might have to budget for new side mirrors next month,” and he stares intently at the funeral program, trying hard not to laugh…
    Having said that I think in the midst of all the humor this piece would very well come in handy for a Sociology student.
    Great piece Biko.

  42. “Talking of which, I later asked my dad if he enjoyed the mukimo and he asked, “which one was it?” Hohoho.
    [Side note: Here is how lowly we – the luo – think of cabbages; we call it “Kabich.” If you took that name and marinated it overnight with spices from Asia and deep-fried it the next day, it would still taste of disdain.]”
    You have made my evening. Asante boss.

  43. nice read, am okuyu myself but was also surprised by the many photos the people of our origin murang’a take am sure that culture has faded away in kiambu

    1. Actually no it hasn’t – we still take copious amounts for photos in Kiambu – its alarming. I mean even selfies…

  44. That bit about kina Karanja being on your pals vehicle left me in stitches. I love what you do. For any person I meet who thinks blogging is uptown, lame or a waste of time my one word response is always Bikozulu. Keep making reading enjoyable

  45. May comfort be your portion as you all mourn Mr. Kimani. God be with you. I’m sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you. (And not just because that is what people say.)

    I read your articles religiously, rarely commenting. This one though; it got me thinking. We buried my grandparents some time back and nobody has ever watched the videos or gone over the photo albums. We all don’t have the heart. Mourning the dead in Kikuyu land takes years and years. So while we aren’t expressive in our ceremonies surrounding death, we shall still be reflecting and asking ourselves questions and mourning in various ways five years later. It is a process.

    Thank you for this piece. Very funny and very objective. It is nice to have an outsider looking in. PS: Kikuyus can cook. You clearly haven’t been to the functions run by the ‘right’ ones. You know, the ones who hire a catering company, a proper events company, a cleaning company and set up a fund towards the deceased’s family upkeep for at least two years.

    1. very true…………..the mourning is in the silence……….and tell him Kikuyus can cook a good meal without cabbage!

  46. And some falling down /fainting irima-ini… Get out of town funny as always! Oh and the “thurakus”/ safari ants always showing up at the irima.. Lol

  47. USure is interesting when you see your culture through someone else’s eyes.
    And how drab it comes across-no action.

    The first couple of paragraphs #1872 et al. They feel forced upon the story. Distant.

    The picture biashara, I also don get..

    Belated condolences to you and your family.

  48. People meet the convoy kilometers from the boma and run alongside the hearse, chanting, waving leaves and sometimes running with cows. People wail; women, men, children, dogs, chicken, birds, goats…everyone! Wails rent the air. If it weren’t for the casket, it could well be a political rally.

    Hilarious..the dogs and the chicken and the children…

  49. I was shocked when I attended my friend David Macharia’s mum funeral. We weren’t fed not even offered a cup of tea. At least you had a snack at your FIL. Then we (including David) came back on the hired bus before sundowner! I shall forever be traumatized being as I am from luhyaland. And yes the funeral service was mostly in Kyuk but I was younger then & didn’t see things through tribal eyes! As for Luo funerals…I can relate since we share so many things. I just love the fanfare!

  50. Just what the doctor ordered! I have never laughed so hard even as I attempted a partial translation for my daughter … Right from the “īhutithanio of mikonyo” duly accompanied by the considerate offer to help Karanja. We are the same kind of different 🙂

  51. For some reason Biko,those photos have to be printed out,taken back to the deceased’s immediate family who will then distribute them to their ‘owners’…Ya ciana cia Muthoni,ya tata wa Kinagofu,ya andu a Kitale and so on…those that remain,never make it to any album

    Hihiii,anyway nice read, and I see where Kim came from

      1. hahahaha! aki stop it Biko am in tears. Andu and Andi have no realtion at all. Aki am dead

        Andu means watu, aunty in kiuk is tata. LMAOing

      2. Haha Biko I love how you get your way with words…Mahugu hope you get it… Andu doesnt mean Aunty so you better revise your conclusion on Kim.

  52. Biko, I think we take pictures at funerals to while away the time. There is nothing else to do at this functions really.

  53. Excellent piece. We buried my uncle in Nyeri not too long and my wife who is from the Coast could not understand why we suddenly packed up and left after the funeral. Strange thing, I had never noticed it till then…lovely piece

  54. Only you Biko can make an article about funerals so hilarious a person gets confused whether to laugh or be somber. Great read as always

  55. Mwadhani is in Luo it should be Mwathani……I remember at my mom funeral I heard some ladies comment ”Áiritu ake ni marira muno”(Her daughters have cried so much), I think Kiuks take the literal meaning of let the dead bury the dead. And ooh we didn’t take photos……….. a great piece though,

    1. great read…hehehe..apologies from the us “Kikuyu women have done a great disservice to this country by opening their legs, falling pregnant and ceding dominance.”
      I will surely reread this piece!

  56. Chagga’s from TZ are way very similar to Kyuks,especially the hats,hats and moustache,elders must have these two…..a gudu one!!………#

    1. those are my thoughts and being as it was his father in laws funeral its a bit unsettling…. well written as always though..

    2. Not really village girl. It is a very uncanny thing that writers no matter where they are, will be struck by details that you and I will simply shrug off…

  57. Karanja, nîûkwenda uteithio na ûcio waku?” This had me loling all the way to the loo. Kindly be giving us a disclaimer to empty our bladders before we commence reading some of these pieces.

    Now my two cents:…i am kiuk. pure bloodline kinda. shaggz muranga.
    Our funerals are worse. We bury by 2pm…are fed by 3pm. 4pm exactly, gari ciothe cia nairobi cigakura (all nairobi bound vehicles leave). No one remains even immediate family members.

    Our food has never had stew or kabich. Funeral food where i come from is mchele njeri (has nyake, carrots, and kiasi pilau masala) and mokimo and tea. So from where am seated and going by kawaida standards, your FIL’s funeral meal was a delicacy.

    Lastly, any Nairobians coming for the funeral, always pass by the local on their way, order for nyama fry/ boil and mokimo….and are back by roughly 4pm to kula it.

    That is a kiuk funeral from my muranga side.

    However tears are always there, maybe not as loud as you are accustomed to…bt we do cry. esp. when the casket is going down the tullow-oil dug grave.

    Lastly many thanks for making my day. Hilarious as always.

  58. When I grow up I want to have my way with words like Biko does. Reading about a funeral and getting so cracked up!

    On the depth of the grave; if you attend a burial (in Kuyu land) and the grave is so deep, it means that the deceased was loved or influential in that particular community/village. The guys who come to dig it up (Tullow Oil, he hee) do it with zeal and sometimes they have to be told to stop coz they have dug too deep. The interesting thing is that these guys don’t get paid to do the job, they just meet up on the said date, confirm from the family where the site is, buy a packet of cigarettes for them (I have never understood the cigarettes part, it doesn’t matter whether the family or the deceased was a staunch Christian, the cigarettes have to be there) and they are good to go. Later when they finish all they need is some ugali and matumbo, or if the family cannot afford it, well, how do I say this tastefully, Kikuyu deli will do. If on the other hand the grave is shallow, it means the deceased was just anaa bugger in the village who went around minding his own business (and yeah, the diggers still have to get their share of cigarrettes).

    Koma thaayú Múthuri ti Kímani. Na úgítúhandíre míanga íngíhúnía njogu.

  59. I’m from Maragua and my surname is Kimani so this is too close to home.
    eh folks just be happy there’s the bottomless see of broth to go down with the muks (mukimo)…muks is hard work on the system..plain muks is just suicide.
    re: photos, i hate that picture culture as well its brutal and baseless..
    re: silence, stoic thats just how we do

    great piece, sad though, RIP Mr K

  60. “Ingikuheneria kii Nyina wa Githendu? Wendete mbaara uu nikii?” LOL
    Don’t comment about the cabbage though! 😀

  61. Zulu, erm… in 1872, agikuyu would just remove the central pillar holding the rafters of the thingira if the deceased was guka or cucu. then relocate to another part of their mugunda. come to talk about it, are agikuyu capitalist in 1872? with deeds and all? I guess not. nevertheless the one who were given to the hyenas were the young ones coz its too much of a hustle to call ithinga for younglings

  62. This is a great read. My best part “Er, baas, kina Karanja are on your moti, you might have to budget for new side mirrors next month,” and he stares intently at the funeral program, trying hard not to laugh…

  63. Very nice read. The hat and opening of the casket issue killed me. When it comes to the food my husband is always complaining about us kuyus. Am married jaluo.

  64. Biko,

    Aki you got me there, its very true that we indeed take pics with the coffin- but your know its always for memories of the close family- not distribution to whoever wants the pics. Then again Kenyans like pictures- what with the selfies, groundies etc. Any chance that one gets to be in a picture is never wasted. Take for e.g. when reporters take to doing a live coverage or reporting an incident at the heart of some event or incident, guys will always pop up at the back of the reporter hoping to be on TV.- this is unlike in the west.
    Back to your coffin pictures, 3 or 5 years down the line, kids will be shown the pictures of their departed relas burial and who the attendees were- you know most relas always meet during funerals or burials. So the pics will always help tell the future generation who their relas are.
    Lakini I quite don’t agree with you on the food bit- I’m sure if you hadn’t taken fanta with some queen cakes on your way to the wedding, you’d have appreciated the food more.

    1. people in the west try to be on camera too(15 min of fame), ever seen the transfer deadlines at arsenal and all the fans in the background.

  65. Everyone in the “ka-cyber” thinks I’m on laughing gas! …
    .Brilliant ..!! Sometimes we need “external”? eyes to appreciate our idiosyncrasies

  66. Waah! Biko. Such a wonderful piece. It’s so distasteful to laugh at funerals.But I couldn’t help it. May your FIL R.I.P. I wonder how your misus thinks of you after reading this.You should be worried about “navels not touching each other” in a very long time. But why do you do me like this Biko? WHY!!!?

  67. “This is the kind of balm we need to soothe those walking around with tribal boils.” Well said, Amos Kiboi.

    Great piece, Biko :D. I’ve never given much thought to the photograph thingie…until now!

    Pass our warm , fuzzy thoughts to the missus.

  68. Totally brilliant, spot on on the hat issue, a pal of mine has a woolen brown cap, every time he wears it we instantly know he is about to jump into a 2NK mat and head into the sunset.

  69. Hilarious!!! I gotta say Biko, you make tribal diversity a thing of beauty; to accept, have a few laughs about, not something to fight about. Great job! Keep ’em coming!

  70. Hahaha, never laughed this hard in while, But us kuyos are funny people, wish we could celebrate each other instead of tearing each other. Good one.

  71. hehehe I’m a kyuk n the picture thing is true. mostly it’s for the bereaved family to keep not the cousins n relas. it reminds them of how many lifes he touched while he lived. not about fun or something. And since most of the. are relatives, the photos are used to identify distant cousins who never come home except on such occasions….Correction though, in kikuyu alphabet we don’t have an ‘f’ and we don’t put a ‘d’ infront of a ‘h’. No “Ngai fafa’ but “Ngai baba”, Mwathani instead of “mwadhani” 🙂

  72. great piece … we dont just take photos, we shot videos too…..from the mortuary to the 9′ grave

  73. hahahaha- this made my afternoon bearable- mad talent… nobody/culture is weird just different and we should just embrace it all

  74. hahahaha surely Biko. One day u gonna kill us with laughter. that was a killer one. the old man couldnt tell which mukomo u were referring to and the idea of kina karanja working on the side mirror of the moti. hilarious. Us kales we dont post pics next to the coffin, food is in abundance and u r required to eat otherwise it is considered as a sign of disrespect.

  75. Thekete nginya ngarìra maithori……( ive laughed til Ive cried tears…..) thanks for giving us the opportunity to laugh at ourselves… Kimenyi said, you make tribal diversity a thing to laugh about. Love and hugs to Nyina wa Kim na Tamms on the loss of her dad

  76. Hilarious piece. Sorry about your FIL. I am researching on the broth. Some things have to have an origin. And a story.

  77. Love it! Was unsettling at first that it is your father-in-law’s funeral…but that is when the differences hit home more. Thank you for finding a wnderful way to celebrte the differences. Never thought about the hats beore…true dat

    My favourite part is how everyone meets the convoy including cows…and that even the ckicken wails!

  78. Rûciû thaa ithatû ûtukû no nginya mikonyo îhutithanio. Karanja, nîûkwenda uteithio na ûcio waku?”
    Mimi Kwisha! Nîndathira!
    Thank you Biko for reminding us that our differences only serve to enrich us, and we should celebrate them!

  79. Beautiful piece though felt a bit long. May God comfort you and your family during this time. I agree with the differences. I remember when my brother in law (a kuyu) came for a funeral at my auntie’s place (luo), he was literally terrified of going next to the casket, my sis (the wife), kept nudging him towards the casket to show his respects – I mean he is an Or (a son in law) and therefore highly respected. Him not going to view the body would be considered atrocious….he is traumatized to date =D Always wonder though why Luo’s would ask you ‘ne u iko maber?’ – translation which somewhat loses its meaning – did you bury well? Gives me the creeps. Why would a funeral be a good thing?

  80. I read this out loud to my retired and very kuyu parents…they laughed so hard. There biko, you’ve now got 60yr old fans. (PS: my mom agrees our food could be considered ‘boring’ coz we boil & pound everything, but it’s the healthiest).

  81. haha Biko,so here I was thinking this is going to be one of those sad posts.I have had a good laugh and when you get to know why they take pics,kindly share coz that sounds bizarre to me as well. As a kisii I can tell you for a fact that what you just described about luo funerals,it’s in so many ways similar to us. One thing I noticed is that when mourners arrive at the boma/greet the affected family,some let out this loud scream and cry ‘obeee gaki omwana ominto’ and after a few minutes they stop and act so normal like they never cried at all. so weired. LOL

  82. Lol! Wonderful piece on funerals. Kalenjins are afraid of death- that’s what I believe. Our burials are usually not dramatic and where possible the burial could even be on the same day of the death. When I lost my grandmother, the villagers wanted to have her body stay on her bed till the next day for burial. We had to insist to have her taken to the morgue and wait for us to travel for the burial. SMH- these my people.

  83. Glad to see my own culture through your eyes!! And here i thought our culture isnt weird!! True..we are all different!! Thanks for a good laugh..RIP Mr. Kimani

  84. this guy Biko has gifted hands, keep doing it Omera, One Joan Auma Omollo keeps saying she has a crush on your brain, hahahahaha……

  85. Actually, kyuks never touched the dead – it was some kind of taboo. The dead would be left out in bushes to be eaten by hyenas.

  86. Gaki the swipes at Kisiis on this article! 🙂
    i’ll let that slide….
    Your dad is my hero… Ati which one was it? Hahahahaha!!!

    Funny article!
    RIP Mr. Kimani.

  87. You can never know how much your life and ways appears funny until you hear it from someone from a different background and culture. I have never really given thought to the photo-session in funerals; it has always looked normal to me.

  88. Thanks Biko for this article. Being from the slopes I’ve never understood the obsession with photos. I know of several funerals I’ve attended where we immediately met at the local for lunch. You forgot to add ‘mucere ni wa adu a Nairofi. Adu a mucie kwena gatheri na ucuru’. Spot on!!!

  89. Talking of which, I later asked my dad if he enjoyed the mukimo and he asked, “which one was it?” Hohoho.
    I have laughed my ribs out

  90. hahahaha Biko Biko….may God forgive u…Rip Mr. K….just leave our kabich alone….hehe and about the photos we end up putting them in the kabati (chini ya blanketi za wageni) wea no one can reach… #norememberance

  91. hahaha the part about food..’kikuyu’s food is unimaginative” hehe the floating warus lol am surprised they didn’t have floating peas as well.That’s our food all right.
    Nice one sir. Long but worth a read.

  92. Absolutely true an very very tickling. I’m from Kiambu and everything you said about us is true. I also dont know what is with the caps, especially those with political content, or promotional ones like safaricom, hedex, unga…etc.

  93. Yaani nimecheka ya kutosha leo – kwanza the food part – SPOT ON!

    [Side note: Here is how lowly we – the luo – think of cabbages; we call it “Kabich.” If you took that name and marinated it overnight with spices from Asia and deep-fried it the next day, it would still taste of disdain.] – hahahaha!

    Mambo ya picha – even I have the same questions – it’s not like you’ll never be shown the photos afterwards and they’ll never be posted on FB anyway! So I have come to the conclusion that the pictures are taken ndio wajue who came and who didn’t…

  94. Biko my guy, you should run for office someday. It’s been awhile since I read comments on a blog or website where guys are so lighthearted about their differences and not spewing bile at each other. I love it!
    I have to wonder about their background. Are they Nairobians? We need more young Kenyans like you. May God rest your FIL’s soul in peace! And may he continue to bless the work of your hands!

  95. And all Kikuyu burials have a standard list of ‘speech givers’1. family , 2. Neighbors (itura), and government Rep’ (mostly a village elder in a checked cream or green suit, flowered shirt and a tie and of course Safari boots). Where I come from even the grave diggers line up for photos; MC be like “bicha ya muthia ni ya eji irima”

  96. What i thought the piece was all about, died long before the 1872 man could be devoured by wild animals.
    One more thing, i don’t think our ladies owe anyone an apology*on a light note* you got missus out of guthimithania mikonyo

  97. Biko..This is a master piece.a clear reflection of what I encountered in Nyeri 2 years ago.A friend pulled me to go take a picture next to the casket

  98. Hilarious piece despite the solemnity of the subject. Another way to say ‘no nginya mikonyo îhutithanio’ is ‘no nginya nyondo ikomerwo” I really laughed when I heard it for the first time. I suspect just like with our food, we are also very unimaginative when it comes to it…

  99. Biko, oh what mastery with words !!
    Laughed ( at us kyuks) till i wept !!
    It was an eye opener to see “our funels ” through your eyes!!
    As for that picture biashara , I am as clueless as you are ; even after having been forced to take them pics at all my relas ” funels” !!
    Koma thayu Vava .

  100. Biko thanks for another treat! Yaani I have shared with all my contacts….kuyus, luos, kaos, luyhas, wahindi…. we need to laugh and embrace our differences!
    RIP Mr Kim…poles to Mrs Biko
    Keep it up Biko! You have no idea the impact you have out here…. Now I always sign my stuff!

  101. Lord i have called my entire family and asked them to please read this piece! oh I have literally died laughing…..i love the kikuyu way though, us luos have taken the funeral thing to a different level! ….the part about packing is interesting, luo have to hang around for days just eating and drinking sodas………lovely lovely piece; you have a great command of the “englis” language.

  102. 1872- According to my cucu one of auntie got seriously sick so they abandoned her with food deep in the forest but luckily she recovered and walked back to the village after someways. (apparently she had been eaten with muthuwa)

    I like to think of gikuyu food as kosher not known for its flavor but nutritional value.

  103. Now this killed it! Rûciû thaa ithatû ûtukû no nginya mikonyo îhutithanio. Karanja, nîûkwenda uteithio na ûcio waku?” Wawerú

  104. In my family we put the photos in an album though no one ever looks at them. I’ve actually never questioned why we take photos at funerals and now that I think about it, it’s really weird.

    And Kikuyus feed people at funerals… at least where I come from!

  105. Being the 1st piece I’ve read under your authorship (I might have read other but never recognized the name), and being a proud kikuyu man (on the inside), I instantly took offence to the Wangu wa Makeri rendition. And then it dawned on me, and I started laughing at myself. Coz only a fool will take offence to such good writing (and am not one to run around calling myself a fool).

    And even though funerals are no laughing matter, it was amusing hearing someone else tell our story (as they tell theirs). We buried a grandmother & uncle in quick succession a month ago & it was like you were there. Waah.

    Well done!

  106. how can someone be lightly offensive (avocado trees/mukimo) and still be soo funny at the same time. Biko u need a show on tv !

  107. From my experience, (i’m Kikuyu) photos aren’t exactly the norm. In my fam, it seems to be optional… Still do not understand the photo thing though. That really baffles me. 😐

  108. Nine feet deep? Thats a new one even for me and am Kikuyu…
    Your translations need a bit of twerking though.
    Nice piece.

  109. ……….. and lastly there was a stew which basically had meat and warus and carrots all floating in this massive sea of broth….I later asked my dad if he enjoyed the mukimo and he asked, “which one was it?

  110. Nice piece.
    I apologize for the Kikuyu women who did a great disservice to this country by opening their legs, falling pregnant and ceding dominance.

    sorry for your loss.


  112. >>>>>>the photoman,
    >>>>>>>’six feet under’
    keep up guys great article there, if only kenyans would learn to appreciate other cultures!!!

  113. The muttering before civilization would have been “Thathaiya Ngai Thaai,” and some “Mwene Nyaga”. Otherwise great piece. My condolences to your madam and the family.

  114. You should thank God koz I am sure your plate was full with all that mixture koz you were at the “high table”. Villages were having rice and calling it biraú ya kúhurúkia Kimani(Kimani’s pilau). The pics? I have never thought of it being wierd but now I think it is…
    Good read Sir

  115. muthoniwa…pole kwa msiba… thank you for sharing and hats off to your talent… yap… touched mine briefly, at the part on kofias…as for funeral photos, just seems kawa…

  116. “…if you have fear of heights you shouldn’t go to the gravesite of a kikuyu.” really Biko?? lol. It was a good read though

  117. spot on…merus’ are the same…There was a long discussion by family and PCEA wazee wa kanisa about viewing…who discusses viewing?I thought it’s a must everywhere?…Poleni kwa yaliyowapata, Mwenyezi Mungu awape rehema

  118. Biko, you are simply awesome. You bring out issues in the most creative and artistic way. More power to mixed marriages! This is the my vision for a great Kenya where we celebrate and enjoy our differences. Your FIL was a great man to ‘look past your forehead’ and albeit ‘foreskin’ issues and accept you as a SIL. I wish we had more Okuyus like him. The substance of a man is not made up of what is in his pants or his pockets but rather what is in his mind and heart. Cheers!

  119. Good read!
    where I come from you get planted quickly, hakuna kungoja for the first born son from Nai afike! It helps (or not) that morgues are two and very far across several seriously steep hills.
    I think we should embrace cremation, how my folks dig graves on the sides of a very steep hill baffle me.
    Then the food served… Pure (pronounces Poo – re) the ever present tea. Chap chap the baskets will come out and the stuff disappears to show up for breakfast for the grandkids the next morning……

  120. spot on Biko…. i went to my first kikuyu burial about 3 years ago to burry my a you knw just like jengs our burials are theatrics..till today ive never gotten over that felt so unfinished to me.and just like you my worst part was the bit after the burial..i was so shocked EVERBODY leaves..i wanted to yell out.cnt we stay..even for the night…pleeeaaaseee..i just felt like cnt we just keeep his spirit company even for a day…let the soil dry off a bit. a tiny weed to sprout..the flowers to wilt.something, !! but like you said we all do shit differently …and that OK…

  121. i never noticed it was weird that we took pictures next to that youve mentioned it.ill always remember when we are being called to pose for the photo.

  122. Lovely piece…! Kweli our cultures are diverse…

    I don’t know why we take photos at funerals. Methinks its not so much the coffin, it’s the ‘get-together’ opportunity to have related or distant groups of people identified to all and sundry. E.g. the opportunity to introduce sons of the dead man to the mourners. Seeing that we’re not too vocal at funerals (to grieved to speak), i think the cameraman comes in handy to ensure the people being identified/being introduced only stand there only for a short duration. That’s my theory…

  123. This is so hilarious! educative culture wise and goes a long way to show how people don’t just go for funerals, they observe alot too.Nice piece. May your “FIL” RIP.

  124. Nice piece of work, in fact during Wangu Wa Makeri women were so powerful! Men had no say in the society but it did not last for long. Things change with time. Secondly, with African society, different tribes conducts burial ceremonies differently, Kikuyus don’t wail and rehearse mourning like other tribes. So, the writer should appreciate and embrace social and cultural diversities among us. Th most terrible thing to do is to settle political scores during burials a it is done in Kenya! This only shows disrespect to the dead. People should style-up!

  125. HI BIKO, Im replying much later but just had to. My mother is Kiuk and my Father is lughya. When my grandparents passed on the difference was very evident.
    You call it food i call it expense ‘yes mothers have a lot of influence on children’. the food budget was similar to my wedding food budget. being in shagz noone contributes except family. then they come to the boma daily for 3 meals. the whole family, father, mother and 10 children.
    You can call it culture ill call it shenanigans.

  126. Awesome piece you just echoed what i always said to my Kikuyu counterparts. You should probably visit a Kamba burial and have the photo session first hand. Love the piece.

  127. Great piece as usual. Biko you should consider writing books.I would buy every single title. ati graves as deep as Tullow oil….ahem.

  128. Biko, i always promise myself to read your posts after working hours so that i can laugh out loud (LOL) but i cant. this has made my day! you are truly gifted.

  129. Ati they could be burying Bugs Bunny for all they care,you killed me with that one!attended my uncle’s funeral last month,melodrama is a Luo’s middle name.we had Kikuyus come to that funeral and we had to explain to them especially all the wailing,Biko you make me smile.

  130. I love your articles! Well,we buried my 102yr old grandfather yesterday in Kirinyaga. I can confirm that there was neither a photo session nor kabich

  131. I have attended both Luhya and Luo burials and it is a ceremony. The body has to stay for a whole night? For what? I was wondering because in Embu you mourn silently. Actually no food and even who has time to eat after the burial. Nice read.

  132. Ingîkûheneria kîî nyina wa Githendu. Wendete mbaara ûû ñikî? This piece is/ was great. RIP Mr Kimani, condolences to the missus.

  133. O, great humor…but a bit long… Eeh, our relatives (Embu) have now taken to having videos..(depending on how well the kids of the deceased can justify it!) Well, its for the living to bother themselves with all the drama! Hope i can write my will in good time…and that someone (deeply cultured relatives) will have the decency to respect my efforts to spare their hard earned coin to use with those who are living.. No pictures, No video, No flowers. Timing 10am to 12noon…. Go have a life…and when we go…we are goooneeee!

  134. Okey, Biko, will you think of crying or that which has been left by the late Kimani and how the will looks like or cry? After the burial you have to go get your share and make money [Kuojorithia].
    These picture are for the achieves, you have to keep them and show your children that this is the man who took care of you when you got circumcised, [Muthuri uria wagutirire] or who lend money to start that kabusiness that you have. That is the only moment that you will ever have a picture with him and Kuyus respect that. Eating too much during the burial means spending more which Kuyus call {guthukia mbia] its a waste of money and resources and that money can be invested. I love the mind behind this… Good work!

  135. Well… I recently read in another article how your wife thought of this piece as edging towards insensitive. I see how. If we had just buried my father and this article came up in reference to his funeral, I would be PISSED OFF. She must be a very good-natured woman. It is funny, and definitely an objective piece… just not when the person in question is someone without whom nothing makes sense anymore.
    Oh, and we take photos to simply put the entire funeral and its attendants on record. Nothing too serious. Often the family is unable to have that fifteen seconds with everyone who came to the funeral. The photos will tell you who did – and that you need to thank them. And to show who mattered to the dead, and to whom he mattered. Okay, so I do not know.
    I’m Kikuyu and even I do not eat at Kikuyu functions – funerals, weddings, etc. Just do not.

  136. Biko…. Just got to know about this website only a few hours ago. Hate to think of what i have been missing. This is spectacular and smart.Thanks Caroline Mutoko for publicizing yhis

  137. Biko you forgot the part where they make a full length movie starting at departure from home to the morgue, viewing the body, church service all the way to the lowering of the body into the Nine feet grave. And the enterprising freelance photographers who take pictures of unsuspecting mourners and latter selling the photos to the mourners?

  138. Funerals for kikuys are not ceremonies,they are a bother.If it was permissible for people to dump bodies in the forests,that is what we’d be doing.
    According to our culture,even the critically ill would be disposed off to the hyenas before he or she dies.And if he/she comes back alive after recuperating they would say ‘Niaregwo ni hiti'(Even the hyenas have rejected him/her).And the person would undergo a ritual.Death is no occassion for Kikuyus.
    Several things you missed in that burial
    1.The wife of the deceased does not speak,neither does the mother.
    2.There was tea.Its state though…

    But,Kikuyus are now aborting the photos culture.Actually it is a Kaos thing’Gukunwo mbica’,haha
    The food is never good,not because there is no good kikuyu dish,but because you did not go to a funeral to eat.

  139. This is your second kikuyu funeral, what you saw also depends on the family. I am kikuyu from Nyeri….
    People cry alot especially women, most men hold strong. We bury our people in a week’s time not because we want it over and done with, but because we do not believe in having a body lay in the morgue for a long time, it is disrespectful in our culture.
    We take pictures because Kikuyus commemorate every step of ones journey in life – birth, baptism, graduation, first job, marriage, family, retirement and death. Food – we do have caterers at funerals too, at my mothers funeral we had alot of good tasting food and a variety of it. Idlers – not sure about Muranga but in Nyeri a funeral is a village affair. Everyone comes. Grave depth – I have only seen 6 ft deep graves. Yes we put up tents and we hold strong. Strength is a virtue in the Kikuyu comminity, I guess thats how we have been able to be good business people as a whole and produce 3 out of all 4 kenyan presidents. Its also kikuyu tradition for the family of the deseased to spend the night in the area. The immediate family stays behind for the night.
    i would not mock the luo culture from the 3 luos funerals I have attended. It was different, a little culture shock but I would not mock them. Respect the traditions of the family you married into. Respect is a big deal in Kikuyu culture.

  140. this is an article in bad taste!
    The Kikuyu community was (and still is!) patriarchal.
    Also… (and this is where their practical mind comes into its own…)
    In 1872, the dead were not buried. The corpse was thrown far in the bush for wild animals ( mostly hyenas) to consume.
    Talk about eco friendliness!
    Biko do your research!

  141. Biko, you have a special gift, i wish i could write like this, i really do..this was definitely one of the funniest ones i’ve read, how you find the humour in such heavy topics is what amazes me..

  142. I come from both world(son of my MIL is from dala) and we okuyus really dont care about feeding people because life has to go on after burial.’How do you write about kuyus food tastefully hahahahaha really..

  143. Had to come back and read this article again, still funny! I have to eat Kabich today just to laugh some more…

  144. Ahhhh the photos…. I’m kuyo and I also don’t get it. Out of all the photos I could have taken with the deceased why would that be the one I want to keep? That said – fantastic piece. Good to realize and remember that everyone’s normal is someone else’s abnormal. Dare I say all our mourning is valid ?

  145. “I’d like to visit a Kalenjin and a Kisii funeral, though. I hear Kisii’s cry in shrill soprano voices at funerals. Even grown men. Especially grown men. I’d kill to see that.”

    So, Biko, did you get to attend one, thanks to ‘your actions’? Hehehe

  146. Laughed all the way!that part of ceremony being conducted in Kikuyu and later apologising only to go back happens all the time even at weddings. Different cultures are only weird depending on yours!

  147. Nice piece Biko,am seated here wondering wow!am I so tribal?how comes I have never attended a funeral outside my community. Does it mean I dont have friends from other tribes. That needs to be corrected.
    Anyway,just so you know, kikuyu women didn’t fight for their power because we were pregnant,nah. We decided let them have it and we see what they are gonna do with it.For 200 yrs. We have seen and am sorry to let you know we are not impressed. At exactly 9pm june 30 2072 we are taking our power back. Enjoy it while it lasts

  148. Aki si you have freaking nailed it. Being a kuyo, I attended one Coasterian Funeral. I was shocked at all the emotions. I remembered funerals where I come from…the MC says “if you feel like crying, please step aside, usiambukize wengine” 😀

  149. RIP Mr. KIMANI.
    Indeed, celebrating our differences is key.
    To the picha biashara; I’m a kuyu, my dad died when I was 5yrs old. By the time I understood the concept of death, the album helped a great deal. I revisi the albm with over 300pics and catch a glimpse; and feel that indeed I was present. I buried my father.

  150. I just had to read this in 2016..yaani Biko we can’t bury our dead in peace? The photos are just a reminder for the future generations. Like how you take selfies at Lamu while on holiday to show your tois how it was. And for the cabbages,’s a delicacy, even Java serves you raw cabo (or is it lettuce?) as salad. You have a way to make us laugh at our flaws.

  151. Niko hehehe!ur a very Brilliant! U painted the real picture!! It was like I attended the funeral coz that’s exactly what happens in almost all our burials!!I will attend a Luo burial to compair too coz I’ve soo many luo friends. Ha!ha!ha!

  152. Hahahh haki Biko good piece nie ndingihota, Mungu amekuona lakini.
    En our food is simply unexplainable quit try to explain it,
    you were lucky kulikuwa na thiteu hehehh i mean stew.
    En may his soul rest in peace.

  153. biko..ati guys were standing a metre from the grave that thing must have been deep….had me in stitches that one

  154. This is very hilarious. I am a Luhya married to a Kikuyu. The father/family also accepted me into their family without any hesitation. We must consciously celebrate/embrace diversity. Best piece ever on waging war against negative ethnicity!

  155. My friend suggested this post, this is brilliant.
    When my uncle died and I was standing near the grave sobbing,
    his daughter, 5 years younger than me told me- Nyamaza! So I sniffed and wore a sombre look like everyone else, but I really wish kuyus would wail, or hire people to wail.
    That’s the reason we end up with depression and heart attacks.

    Do you frame it? Do you keep it in an album, showing visitors who come to yours, saying, “hha ndarûgamîte hakuhî na ithandûkû rîa guuka wangu. Aarî njaamba mûno guukaguo”.—-we keep them in an album in the top drawer and only look at them when cleaning the drawers every once a year.

  156. this is dope…i tell stories, am a narrator.i can tell any story irrespective of what culture..and am your no 1 fun…its my first time to see your work and i can tell its good.keep it up

  157. Biko, my life became brighter when I started reading your articles meticulously and expertly done. Now you come up with let’s bury a Kikuyu and I’m concerned but wacha the translation start trickling In, I’ve never laughed harder. kudos Biko good job