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The Agikuyu

The Agikuyu People

The Agikuyu people are found in the central region of modern day Kenya and are the largest ethnic (nation) group with a population of 9,902,212 people according to the 2014 census. This makes us the largest group of people in Kenya and makes up about 22% of Kenya’s total population. Kenya’s population is about 49 million people. We speak the bantu kikuyu language {kikuyu is Swahili} which is our mother tongue. We refer to ourselves as the Agikuyu which means or refers to the children of the sycamore {mukuyu} tree. Gikuyu means a huge sycamore tree.


The mythical story of the Agikuyu is that we came from Gikuyu and Mumbi who were the first man and woman. The story says that Ngai {God} placed Gikuyu on top of Mount Kenya and showed him all the land that surrounded the mountain and told him that this was his home. He then gave him Mumbi as his wife and together they had 10 daughters. Their home was in MUKURWE WA GATHANGA. The Kikuyu clans are named after these daughters. The names were Anjiru, Anjiku, Ambui, Angari, Airimu, Aceera, Angui, Angechi, Ambura, Amuyu. Our presence in Kenya may also be from the initial migration of our ancestors from West Africa with the initial Bantu migration or from the North via Ethiopia from ancient Egypt {the research on this is ongoing}.

Political structure:

The Agikuyu were divided into 9 clans. The members of each clan had a maternal blood line in common. Some clans had a leader and others did not. Real political power within the Agikuyu was exercised by the council of elders led by a headman. Until the arrival of the Europeans, the Agikuyu people preserved geographic and political power from most external influence for many millennia. The arab slave traders and their caravans passed at the southern edges of the Agikuyu nation and those who wandered into it were met instantly by death. Slavery as an institution didn’t exist in Agikuyuland. To expand their territory, the Gikuyu relied on a combination of blood brotherhood {partnerships} land purchases through barter trade, intermarriages with other communities. Economically the Gikuyu were great farmers, bridge building, string making, wire drawing and iron chain making. There was also and is a great sense of justice{kihooto}

Spirituality and Religion:

The Gikuyu believed and still believe in a supreme being Ngai. He is the creator and divider of all. He is also known as Mwathani{ruler} or Mwene Nyaga. All sacrifices were made to Ngai under a sycamore tree {mukuyu} and if one was not available, a fig tree {mugumo} would be used. The olive tree {mutamaiyu} was the sacred tree for women.

The Gikuyu believe that everything God created has a vital inner force and a connection bond to Him. The first parents were very respected because they were thought to be very close to Ngai thus had a very strong vital force. They were followed by the ancestors, immediate dead and finally by the elders in that order. The Gikuyu believed that there were those who could take away this life force, witchdoctor {murogi} or those who would enhance it, medicine men {Mugo}. They also believed that ordinary things also had spiritual powers that could be increased and could protect a person from anyone bent on diminishing one’s vital life force. Such an item was called githitu. Thus the philosophy of the Gikuyu was that everything in the world has an inner interlinked force that we cannot see.

Ngai has human characteristics as Gikuyu folk lore goes and He comes to earth from time to time to inspect it, bestow blessings and mete out punishment. When He comes, He rests on Mt Kenya and Kilimambogo. Thunder is interpreted to be the movement of Ngai and lightning is the weapon He uses to clear the way while moving from one sacred place to the other. Some believe that Ngai’s abode is on Mt Kenya.


The Gikuyu had four seasons and two harvests in one year.

Mbura ya Njahi { season of big rain} March to July
Magetha ma njahi {black bean harvest} July to October
Mbura ya mwere {short rains} October to January
Magetha ma mwere {season of harvesting}
Mbura ya kimera.

Time was also recorded through the initiation of circumcision. Each initiation group was given a special name. The individual initiation sets were grouped into a regiment every nine calendar years. However before a regiment was set, there was a period of no circumcision lasting 4 and a half years. Girls were initiated every year.

Several regiments then would make up a ruling generation. It was estimated that each ruling generation lasted about 35 yrs. This regiments had special names that showed which generation was ruling and were very important in terms of chronological data. This ruling generations can be traced as far back as 1500 ad.

-NYM Community-


released May 1, 2020


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Joseph Kamaru (1939 – 2018)
Little known outside of Africa, Joseph Kamaru has been influencing the music scene in his homeland of Kenya since 1967. While his earliest hits, " Celina", "Thina wa Kamaru" were rhythmic dance tunes, recorded with his sister.
Kamaru was a Kenyan Benga and gospel musician and political activist, an an icon, a hero, and a leading Kikuyu musician.
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