Dimensions of Culture
Culture is being recognized as an indispensable aspect of authentic development. This recent tendency is reflected in many countries throughout the world in the emergence of institutions to promote culture. Culture has played a vital role in all societies. Therefore, the assertion of a cultural identity has been one of the top priority goals of all nations and states (Sow et al, 1979). Agikuyu are Bantu speakers from Kenya in Africa. This is an interesting group of people who have norms, rules, roles, opportunities, and a history which influence their day-to-day activities.
The Agikuyu live on the slopes of Mt.Kenya and foothills of Aberdare ranges. The land has two main seasons: the long rains occurring between the beginning of April and the beginning of June, and the short rains between the beginning of November and the beginning of December. The two seasons last about six months each forming one Agikuyu year sufficient for the planting and reaping of the crops necessary for their food. There is enough amount of rain which gives birth to a considerable number of streams that irrigate the whole land. There is no valley which is not watered by a river or a stream, perennial or semi-perennial. The Agikuyu land, though extremely broken and intersected with a continuous series of valleys, does not possess other major mountains. With such favorable climate and fertile soil, nature does not fail to display its wonders in terms of scenic beauty and landscapes (Wambugu, 2006).
The Agikuyu believe that the father of the race, Gikuyu, descended from Mount Kenya where he was shown the land by Ngai (God). With his wife Mumbi, they descended and settled in Murang’a at a place called Mukurwe Wa Nyagathanga. This place is currently recognized as a historic site and a tourist destination where the legend of the origin is clearly depicted with a rich narration of folklore. Linguistic and historical studies show that the Bantu language originated from Cameroon and Nigeria. Bantu speakers spread in the south of Angola, east of Lake Victoria region. They later scattered throughout the Southern and Central Africa. The Agikuyu followed the eastern slopes and closed the mountain to settle on the western slopes. This historical version agrees with the Agikuyu legend which argues that the race descended from the mountain. The community, according to historical facts, crossed the mountain to get their current home (Wambugu, 2006).
The Agikuyu believe in a Supreme Being, spiritual ruler and governor of the universe. They also believe in the survival of the soul. They distinguish only two orders of ultra mundane beings: Ngai as a Supreme Being and source of all things, and the Ngoma or innumerable spirits of the dead, with no connection with God but in connection with them. They neither know the forms and features of the Supreme Being, nor do they attempt to make material representation of Him. A clap of thunder, earthquake, an eclipse or other impressing sidereal fact they call Ngai, thus identifying causes and effects. The Supreme Being is believed to be good. Generally, He is not invoked. In case of public calamities, epidemics, droughts or mortalities, they have recourse to God in public prayers and sacrifices (Woodson, 1958). However, the Ngoma are different. Ngoma often become irritated as they demand some attention to them and bring misfortunes, accidents and even death to the people. The Agikuyu appease them with sacrifices and ceremonies offered by each family or by the whole clan to avoid any anticipated displeasure of these spirits of the dead. The Agikuyu do not offer human sacrifices at all. Instead, the harmless goat pays within its flesh immolated and devoured. They offer sacrifice to God under the fig tree which is sacred.
The Agikuyu people are wholly agriculturalists, have few industries and handicrafts, much of which are items that they acquire for their way of life. They do not fail to make provisions for their needs with articles for the circumstances and necessities of life. Iron working is known from time immemorial. The people have a great demand for this metal since they used it to make agricultural implements and weapons (Snowden, 1970).
The Agikuyu are the most industrious people in Kenya. They work hard to maintain the wealth of the country which they believe is theirs. They are now widespread in every part of the country. This is one of the challenges the community faces in terms of acculturation. Their cultures are eroded as they move away from their land and live amongst other communities doing business. Their children grow knowing very little about their original cultures and norms. This defends historical evidence which claims that the community is not pure. They intermarry with other communities as they travel in search of more wealth. In fact, the community has Hamic and Maasai blood who were their traditional neighbors. The weapons and clothes were identical for both communities. Both communities used to pierce their ears for ornament, treated their hair with ochre or fat and had similar circumcision ceremonies.
The Agikuyu are more advantageous than all other tribes in Kenya. The other tribes respect them claiming that they are too wise to joke around with (July, 1968). They portray leadership qualities at every situation. In fact, two of the three presidents who have ruled Kenya since independence are Agikuyu. The group is extremely jealous of their rights and race. They call themselves the Mumbi family and cannot accept defeat at any cost. They use the Gikuyu language even in foreign land. This makes other communities fear them. They take this opportunity and expand their businesses in all parts of the country.