The Kuria (AbaKuria, BaKuria, IgiKuria) people are an amalgamation of friendly, agro-pastoralists and Bantu-speaking ethnic group residing mainly in Kenya and some parts of Tanzania. In Kenya where most of the AbaKuria are agriculturalists, they live specifically in the west and east Kuria districts of Nyanza Province in southwest Kenya; whilst Tanzanian Kurians who are pastoralists reside in the Tarime, Musoma, Bunda and Serengeti districts of the Mara Region in Northern Tanzania. A person of Kuria ethnicity is called UmuKuria.
Igikuria myths explain the origin of the Abakuria tribe from the Monto who is believed to be the parent of all Bantu tribes. Monto gave birth to Range who bore Magaiwa. It was Magaiwa who bore six sons, Munyabasi, Mutimbaru, MwiregeMunyamongo, Mukiira and Mugumbe. It is by the names of these sons that the Abakuria clans are named.
They are said to have been one people until a vicious attack by the Maasai in the early 19th century scattered both populations in different directions. This scattering of AbaKuria has led to the formation of distinct dialects which are clearly understood by both peoples. The Kuria people are divided into about 16 "subtribes" or clans, namely: Nyabasi, Bakira, Bairege, Bagumbe (who reside in both Kenyan and Tanzanian districts), Batimbaru, Banyamongo, Bakenye, Baikoma, Bamerani, as well as several others. All this subtribes or clans are present in the Kisii tribe of Kenya.
The 2006 population census in both Kenya and Tanzania put the estimated number of AbaKuria population at 609,000, with 435,000 living in Tanzania and 174,000 in Kenya. The Kurians in Kenya are closely related to the Kisii people of Kenya both in language and physique and those in Tanzania are also related to the Zanaki tribe of the Mara Province in Tanzania. They share some cultural aspects.
The Kurians are extremely welcoming and love receiving visitors. They offer great hospitality. During the Kenyan 2007 post-election violence, Kuria was the only tribe that didn't participate in the conflict. They helped by welcoming inside their village internal displaced people.
Mackinon (1987) posits that a Kurian man is held in high esteem, he has power and authority over the woman. He adds that a man is allowed to marry many wives since he has the capability to exert control over them. Even so, he does not state what perpetrates the power that the man holds.
Members of the tribe both men and women believes that in order for a man to show that he loves his wife then he must bit his wife as a sign of love for her and when the wife sees that her husband does not bit her then she will feel that she is not loved.
Kuria school girl from Kenya
Kuria common girl names include - Robi, Gati, Boke, Nchagwa, Nyangi, Weigesa, Mbosiro. Kuria common boys names include - Wambura, Gati, Chacha, Marwa, Mwita, Matiko, Meremo, Makena, Kiribo.
One of the most famous Kurias is Shadrack Manga, a former Member of parliament.Sammy Masaana Marwa(Sammy Sundays) is another famous Kurian who is also the first Kurian to win a green card through the normal green card lottery and immigrated to the USA,this man comes from Chinato Division,Tebesi sub-location,Nyabosongo village.
Kuria people lives in the west and east Kuria districts of Nyanza Province in southwest Kenya and in the Tarime, Musoma, Bunda and Serengeti districts of the Mara Region in Northern Tanzania. Kuria district in the southwest of Kenya is along the border of Kenya and Tanzania and neighboring the Masai tribes and Luo tribes. Kuria is also known as a tribe and language in Kenya. Most of the people living in Kuria are farmers. Kuria is a constituency with two district: Kuria west and east, with a population of approximately 435, 000 people. It is one of the most marginalized communities in Kenya, numbering second in the poorest constituency in terms of education. It is located in the south Nyanza, bordering Suba district on the west , Migori district in the north, Trans-mara in the east and Tanzania in the south.
Kuria people speak a language also known as Kuria. It is a Bantu language belonging to the larger Niger-Congo language family. It is spoken by the Kuria peoples of Northern Tanzania, with some speakers also residing in Kenya.
15–20 clans in Tanzania, each with slightly different dialect. Clans consider themselves to speak the Kuria language rather than the language of their clan. Lexical similarity: 73% with Ngoreme , 84% with Kiroba (Suba-Simbiti dialect).
Maho (2009) treats the Simbiti, Hacha, Surwa, and Sweta varieties as distinct languages.
Commonly used words in Kuria
Amang'ana = general greeting
Mbhuya uhoyile = How was your day.
Tang'a amanche ghakunywa = Can I have water (drinking)
Nuuwengw'i = What is your name.
Omosani = friend
Omogheni = guest
Omokhebhara = foreigner
Omosacha = male
Omokali = female
Umwisekhe = young lady
Umumura = young male
Kharibhu = Welcome
Okoreebhuya = Thank you
Umurisia = uncircumcised male
Omosaghane = uncircumcised female
Iritoka = car (from English "car")
Isukhuuli = school (from English "school")
Kuria are part of the Bantu people who migrated from West Africa to Great Lake areas and to the Southern Africa. As members of Great Bantu migration the Kuria who were composed of different clans settle in Kenya, sometime between 200AD and 1000AD. The proto-Kuria could have arrived in Kenya from Uganda via the Mount Elgon region to the north. The Kuria are an amalgam of various pre-existing Bantu peoples were settled in Kenya until the turn of the sixteenth century, when the first Nilotic-speakers, in the form of the Luo's ancestors, arrived in Kenya, to be followed shortly after by the Maasai coming down the Rift Valley. Numerically much stronger than any of the Bantu people, and with an aggressive expansionary attitude, the various Bantu tribes living on the shores of Lake Victoria had little choice but to flee or be conquered.
According to Kuria ethnic researchers Fred Maseke and Friday Bwiyere "The Abagusii state that their ancestors originally came from "Misiri" and that they migrated with the ancestors of the Abakuria, Abalogoli, Ababukusu, and Abasuba and that they lost contact with these people in the Mount Elgon area. The Abagusii and Abalogoli followed river Nzoia Valley which eventually took them to the northern shores of Lake Victoria probably between AD 1500 and 1560. At this early stage there doesn't seem to have been significant differences between the Abagusii, Abakuria, Abalogoli and Abasuba among others. Their distinctive names and identities appear to have developed much later when they had separated into their present homelands.The origin of the name Kuria is a thorny point in Abakuria history. The major Abakuria sub-tribes such as Abanyabasi, Abatimbaru, Abanyamongo, Abakira, Abairegi, Abakenye,Abanchaari, and Abagumbe have traditions to the effect that their ancestor was Mokuria (or Mukuria) who lived in "Misiri". His descendants migrated from "Misiri" and after many years of wandering on the other side of Lake Victoria, they eventually reached and settled in the present Bukuria.
According to this tradition, the Abakuria have been divided from time immemorial into two families: the Abasai of the elder wife of Mokuria and the Abachuma of the younger wife. But this tradition does not explain how the Abakuria people got their generation sets, such as Maina, Nyambiriti, Gamnyeri on the Abasai side, and Mairabe (Norongoro), Gini, Nyangi on the Abachuma side. These generation set names are also found among other people such as the Ababukusu, Kalenjin, Agikuyu, Aembu/Ambeere and Ameru. It is therefore most probable that the early Abakuria people who brought the generation set system into Abakuria society were a splinter group from a much larger community living in the area of Mount Elgon from which the Kalenjin people, a section of the Ababukusu and the Agikuyu clusters emerged. Paul Aseka Abuso in his book A Traditional History of the Abakuria has written thus: Abakuria section of the Abagumbe, Abapemba, Abaasi and Abasonga also state in their tradition that they travelled together with the ancestors of the Kikuyu among other people from Misiri to Lake Baringo in the Kenya Rift Valley where they finally separated. Although Kikuyu history does not corroborate this point it looks as if at one time the ancestors of these people originally lived together in some area north of Mount Elgon. Perhaps the people known as Sirikwa mentioned above were part of that larger ancestral community — or possibly their descendants. This is not yet clear."
The other view of the origin of the name Kuria is as follows. Between about 1774 and 1858, some of the Abakuria people were living in Musoma district in the present Tanzania and were settled in a hilly area north of the River Mara then known as Korea hill. The inhabitants of that area in time became known as Korea people after the name of the hill, which eventually changed to Kuria hill whereby the people became known as the Abakuria. The divergent views on the origin of the name would explain why the name had not gained wide acceptance among the Abakuria even at the beginning of the last century, as people still largely identified themselves by the sub-group names. During the colonial period, it was the name Abatende (after the Abatende clan in Bugumbe area) rather than Abakuria, which was in common use among the Kenya Abakuria. Those living in Tanzania continued to be known by their totems. It is only in about the 1950s that the name Abakuria gained wide usage. In a similar manner the Mijikenda, Abaluyia and Kalenjin became generally accepted as collective ethnic names in the 1940s and 1950s, at a time when in Kenya they were seeking political recognition by the colonial authorities.
The Abakuria are divided into several clans which include the following; the Abagumbe, Abairege, Abanyabasi and Abakira who live in Kenya (a total of 4 clans) Abapemba, Ababurati, Abakira, Abamera, Simbete, Abanyabasi, Watobori, Abakunta, Wiga, Kaboye, Abakenye, Abagumbe and Wasweta, Abatimbaru among others (a total of 13) who live in Tanzania.
The Kuria people were mainly pastoralists in the pre-colonial era but currently the Kenyan Kurians lean towards crop production and the Tanzanian Kurians learn more towards pastoralism. The Abakuria are said to have abandoned Pastrolism after they were forced to do so by the Germans when they landed in the modern-day Northern Tanzania. The Kurians in the Serengeti district are distinctly pastoralist. Details on how Abakuria started crop production and abandoned pastrolism will be available as a researcher is currently working on the same.
Kuria farmers wedding their maize farm, Kenya
Currently, Kuria are mostly farmers, mainly planting maize, beans and Cassava as food crops. For cash crops, the Kuria community mainly grows tobacco due to the near location of the BAT tobacco company. They are also cattle herders and have gotten into some scrupples with the neighbouring tribes, mainly the maasai, over cattle rustling.
The Abakuria society is organized into a patriarchal and patrilineal kinship system whereby the family name and property is passed along the male line and marriage was often patriarchial. The Igikuria proverbs echo dominant social rules and norms concerning women and men’s behavior and emphasizes the necessity of male control over women.
Women as a group become the marked, endangered category and are always subject to the society’s strict scrutiny. With this male dominated system, the Kuria Woman inevitably occupies a marginal status. In their homes, women are often regarded as temporary members and pilgrims. They are seen to be a future loss
to the family while the male child is viewed as an investment. Upon marriage, they are viewed as intruders or strangers by their husbands’ kins.
Wakuria generations (Amakora)
Wakuria have developed a generation system which place every individual in a generation group. There are two sets of generations
The first set is called Monyasae and the other is Monyachuma.
The Monyasae has a four circle generations as follows:
The Monyachuma has also four circle generations as follows:
The generations identifies an individual in the Kuria society. For example, a child of a Mosae from the monyasae generation circle will be a munyamburiti and will give forth to Omogamunyeri. No one is allowed to marry a child of the same generation. One generation circle is considered to last 25 years. A complete generation circle is hundred yearS. By knowing your generation you can easily calculate the age of your parents and grandparents. In the case of a mugamunyeri, his or her father is a Mnyamburiti.
By using the generation system you can even know when a major event took place by associating the event and those who witnessed the event if their generation is known e.g. Uhuru, Second World War etc
Kuria man from Bomas in Tanzania playing iritungu (traditional lyre). © Bill Given. A traditional lyre type of instrument known as an iritungu was brought out and lots of dancing followed. This is typical of any big life events in Kuria culture, such as weddings where music and dance play big roles.
Change from childhood to adulthood is an important Kuria ritual which transform individual to another stage of life. The change known as saro is a passage to adulthood. Every boy or girl must pass through saro to be recognised as an adult; otherwise, he is Mulisya or Mosagane.
When one is circumcised he/she is placed into an age-set (esaro). It is not the purpose of this issue to describe the circumcision process but to emphasise the importance of the ritual. In Kuria society one is recognised by the age set group. All people circumcised at the same time are given an age set (saro). When a girl is married her age set group is changed to that of the husband if their saro are different. No one is allowed to marry children of same saros, All ceremonies are done on the basis of saro or amakora. One will not be allowed to marry or married if he has not gone through circumcision. In modern times boys are circumcised in hospitals and it is slowly being accepted but looked down as an inferior process. A real mkuria should face a mosali get circumcised without a wink.
Traditionally, circumcision was done at the age around 13 years, but this differed significantly from one clan to another. The Abairege had most of their men circumcised at 15–18 years and above. However, this has changed to the onset of puberty. To this date, various organisations are working to ensure the tradition of female genital mutilation is aborted. Also, due to increased spread of HIV/AIDS organisations advocate for care during circumcision rituals. Many families are opting to take their children to hospitals and the traditional circumcision experts have now opted to use individual razors for each person during circumcision. After the cut, the boys or girls that have undergone the practice are normally led back home by fellow villagers amidst singing and dancing and money is pinned onto their shukas. The shukas are one-piece coloured sheets that the circumcised tie around themselves so as to let the blood drip freely to the ground. Once circumcision has taken place, according to tradition, the boy or girl is deemed ready for marriage. Kurian people are from the Bantu-speaking group of Kenya. They are traditionally farmers, mainly planting maize, beans and Cassava as food crops. For cash crops, the Kuria community mainly grows tobacco. They are also keep cattle and this has led clashes with the neighbouring tribes, mainly the Maasai, over cattle rustling.
In Kuria language, almost every aspect of life is commented on and evaluated through proverbs. There are proverbs echoing the dominant social rules and norms concerning both women and men’s behaviour and family roles and necessity of social control. Kuria society is concerned with maintaining its belief system and as Munene (1995) observes society is often guided by truth often gotten from proverbs.
1. Omokarinoonoaiboye (A woman is the one who has delivered). A husband whose wife was not able to deliver was advised to send her away and look for another woman but if it was him who had the problem he would secretly allow his brother to get him children with his wife. this is shown in the proverb below.
Enoyaatebankogogweere (A cow which is barren is slaughtered).
2. Inyuumbaenoetanamumuranentakaterrabokereehanini (A house without a son is poor it will not rise to defend when an enemy attacks)
3. O we sera ne hotoyaisa (A child of good character is pride to his father)
4. Iching’ombenindwamataawa (Bridewealth is given for a lazy woman as well as a hardworking one.)
5. Ichiharekanensarrania (Polygamy is a damage); This means that the more women a man has in his house, the more problems he has because women have no upright words but crooked ones only. Men were allowed to have extramarital relationships but women were prohibited. If a woman was found cheating on his husband, he was allowed to divorce her and marry another wife, but if it was a man he was only punished by paying fine in form of a goat or sheep.
Firstborns (Abatangi): Firstborns are important to every family hence their names must correspond to the greetings the mother or father would be greeted. Once one has a child he/she will be greeted by the name of his son or daughter. Wakuria have six names for firstborns. Chacha, Marwa and Mwita for boys and Bhoke, Robi and Gati for girls. If the first born is a boy, one of the three names Chacha, Mwita or Marwa is selected. The father now will be greeted Isachacha, Isamwita or Isamarwa. The mother will be greeted Nyamwita or Nyachacha. If the first born is a girl the names available are Bhoke, Robi, Gati and greetings will be prefixed Isa or Nya to the respective name. You will note that there are no greetings like nyaryoba, isamatinde, because these are not names for firstborns. Note that a Kuria will be greeted by the name of the firstborn. When one gets grandchildren then the greeting will change to nyakorochacha or nyakororobi, isakoromwita. The greetings are changed by the first born grandchildren names. If one was greeted isachacha and gets a first born grandchild called Robi his greeting will change from Isachacha to Isakororobi.
Ancestor names (ichidonko): Kuria also name their children after the names of the ancestors (Abhakoro). Such naming will occur if the wish of the dead grandfather or mother requested to be named a boy or girl. That is why there is mwita for both girls and boys. Some for sake of love one would like to name the ancestors as a sign that the ancestor has been reborn. A child can have two names one for obhotangi and another for endoko. My son is Chacha because he is a first born and he is called Monata a name after my grandfather. The other cause of naming ancestors will result when the child is sick or misfortunes come to a family and they seek omogabho/omoraguli to find out the problem. The omoraguli will advise to name a child an ancestor whose spirits have been troubled by the family. When naming the child, the family will be required to sacrifice (kumwensa) a goat or a cow depending on the wish of the spirits and the magnitude of the problem. Similarly names like Nyamohanga, Ryoba, Magaigwa, Nsato, Sabure, Wankuru, Ng’oina, Wanchoka, Mwikwabhe are named after the spirits. That is why when Kurias were baptized their native names were rejected because they were assumed to be associated with the spirits.
Kuria names derived from events and various conditions: Kuria people also name their children according to an event which took place during the birth of a child. Some of the events are natural occurrences such as:
Kuria names derived animals or birds: These include the following:
Nyamburi = Goat
Nyang’ombe = Cow
Gaini = Bull
Nyangoko/Magoko = Chicken
Wangwe = Leopard
Wandui = Lion
Nyanswi = Fish
Tyenyi = Animal
Machage = Zebra
Nchoka/Waichoka = Snake
Nguti = Dove
Sariro = Eagle
Mang’era = Buffalo
Nyanchugu = Elephant
Wankuru = Tortoise
Kehengu = Rock rabbit
Ngocho = Parrot
Ng’wena = Crocodile
Magige = Locust
Kinyunyi = Bird
Names after action or fortune. These are:
Mokami = Milkman
Motegandi/ Mohagachi = Builder
Murimi = Farmer
Nyantahe = From Container
Muya = Beauty
Mohoni = Salesman
Motongori = First Harvester
Mtundi = Food provider
Matinde = Land tiler
Waitara = Granary
Mataro/ Machera/Mogendi = Traveller
Moseti = Hunter
Mbusiro = Seeding grain
Names after clans/tribes. These are:
Mwikabhe/Ikwabhe = Maasai
Mtatiro = Tatoga
Mogaya = Luo
Mgusuhi = Kisii
Nyabasi = From Nyabasi
Mtimbaru = From Butimbaru
Nyanokwe = God
Wainani = Jinni
Mgosi = From North
Wanyancha = From West/Lake
Mirumbe = Mist/Fog
Sabure = god of the Wanchari
Melengali = Sunlight
Nchota/Nsato = Mystical snake
Matiko/Butiko = Night
Ryoba/Rioba = Sun