I met many friends while studying at university.
One thing stood out — most of us knew little about our rural backgrounds. Most of us grew up in Nairobi and the only connection we have with our ancestral places is our name. Yes, the second name.
You can be the coolest kid around, but your last name will still take you back to your rural home. The mention of that name will make someone shout (even in their silence), huyo ni wa kwetu (that’s one of us).
Most of these friends would normally tell you they came from a particular part of the country, but would not tell you how to get there. They would say: “Hata sijawahi kuenda huko” (I have never been there).
The memories of the late Kibra MP Ken Okoth are still with us, just like SM Otieno’s.
I have followed some conversations, including from members of the Luo community, who claim that burial rites have no place in the modern world. I disagree.
Burial rites are a central part of our heritage. They say times have changed, and so people should change. So should culture.
Why do we bury in our rural homes? The Luos do not bury at home because they want a feast. The reason is the African belief in life after death.
We believe that the dead need rest, and no one, even in life, finds better rest than at home. We believe that the spirits of the dead watch over us. They cannot do this from lands afar.
Finally, there is the respect that people should pay to your resting place. It brings comfort and closure.
Okoth did not build a house at home. He lived in the city, a common trend among the youth. It is very easy to cremate, or even be buried at Lang’ata.
But how will a 15-year-old son or daughter manoeuvre this murky city alone when the parents are gone? How will they introduce themselves to the villages?
You do not love your children until you take them to your rural home. Until they know their language.
Until they know how much it costs to travel from Katito to Asawo on a motorcycle. Teach your kids how to behave in poverty and riches. How shall we develop our villages if we all stay in Nairobi?
It is these children who will transform the lives of the villagers. We cannot solve Mijikenda problems in English.
It is even sadder when the little ones neither speak fluent Ekegusii nor fluent English. Let the children know their relatives, clans and culture. It will save them frustrations later in life.
Teach the young generation their language and culture. Let them be cool with herding cows, threshing maize and milking. Let them learn how to stay in a home without electricity.
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