Today’s review: Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga, Murang’a County
The cradle of the Agikuyu. First, don’t even bother using Google maps to get you to this place. We spent 2 hours driving around the County as it misled us. We found out the place was barely 26 minutes from Nokras Riverine Sagana where we were staying. Just use the locals though some of those that we used also gave us confusing directions. It is around 3km off the main tarmac at Ha Kamama Boda Boda stage. There is a tricky 500m stretch that may need a high clearance vehicle. Otherwise, the rest is murram.
We found two elderly men who were kind enough to receive us. Initially, they thought I had brought the local MCA whom they were expecting. My troop was dressed in hot pants and crop tops and this was considered an offence to the shrine. The problem was solved when we called some local women to bring traditional Kikuyu attire (much to the shock of the troop).
We got a short history of Gikuyu (first man) and Mumbi (his wife) and how they had ten daughters. The folklore goes that the daughters were 9-full (since the culture frowns on counting one’s children and livestock), 9-full is used instead of saying ten. Each daughter’s name is after their different characters or physical built. They then started the ten clans of the Agikuyu. A ritual was done by Gikuyu who told the 9 daughters (apparently the tenth one wasn’t born by fhen) to lay down a special stick side by side. Then they went into a trance and when they came to, behold, the sticks had converted into nine handsome men who were each promised a daughter on the condition that they set their homesteads in the Gikuyu property. The story goes that the tenth daughter, Wamuyu, never got married but she had daughters outside wedlock and these then became the origin of the Kamba tribe. I captured this in a live video and the old man put it in a more captivating and hilarious way.
Within the compound lies an incomplete building of a resort complete with cottages in the form of hut that are named after the ten daughters. Now age has ensured it is falling apart. Rumour has it that a powerful politician initiated its construction against the wishes of the elders. Construction started in 1986 and in 2003, the contractor apparently abandoned the site. So it stands there all forlorn with dreams of what it could have been. I agree with the elders, a resort right next to the shrine would have not only desecrated it but also brought in noise and environmental pollution.
Once the troop is properly dressed, we get taken round the shrine. Only certain people can access the shrine itself. It is in a circular compound with a couple of huts. Within the whole complex are massive indigenous trees but of importance is the Mukurwe tree and a Mugumo tree. Nyagathanga refers to a certain species of birds that would be called by one of the daughters (the soloist/singer) whenever she sang. I would have loved to know the scientific name of the bird. A certain tree towers half burnt from a ritual gone wrong by one of the religious sects who left some burning embers.
To the back of the shrine are more buildings probably part of the incomplete construction but where pilgrims put up during their spiritual journeys.
Apart from that we were shown one mud hut that is almost falling apart. It depicts the house of Kikuyu wife. Traditionally, the man’s hut would face the West (sunset), a reminder that his time on earth is numbered. While the wife’s hut would face Mt Kenya so that every time she woke up and saw the mountain, she would exclaim, “Ngai!” Which is a colloquial term for shock but also directly translates to God. So she would technically be worshiping every time she woke up…
I believe there is so much history that these old men have about the Kikuyu tribe. The shrine is still in use even amongst politicians. As such, it was an honour to be in the presence of one of our richest cultures and history.
Amakove rating: 9/10. 1 mark lost because of Google maps.