Celebrating his life!? Is that what they call it now? He is dead for crying out loud!
If you think this is a cult film; it is another of Luhya community’s mainstream hit. Boy! Doesn’t the living Abaluhya love the dead; as long as they're not their own!
Yes, another respectable young man (let’s call him Omwami) succumbing to something. Death. I can tell from the haunting wails of the bereaved family. The eerie screams are deafening, the human sound that awakens sleeping dogs and demons in the neighborhoods and villages. For a while I think to myself; this family is not only overcome by grief for the loss of a loved one but also fear for the financial trauma they are about to incur from Omwami’s death. The bank accounts will be depleted by relatives and a procession of mourners (I think we should find them a new name) masquerading as ‘well wishers’.
The party is on for the famous Isukuti drummer. He’s going to make a kill on this one. Omwami is a man of class, rich, discreet but without social skills (all his friends must be from Nairobi as he never has friends around his village). I can almost hear the phone conversations, word of Omwami’s death spread like wild fire. Texts, tweets, FB updates, phone calls, text messages, word of mouth and even smoke signals. Everybody’s got to know, they’ve got to celebrate his death! CELEBRATE!? Right…here they celebrate your death; escort you to the afterlife with annoying dirges and funeral rites barely known to you. It is party time for the villagers while your immediate family sincerely grieves for you!
If you are a Luhya man…pray tell live forever, for your demise will be the fall of the empire you've lived to build: The family you leave behind. These “mourners” will prey and maul on everything you own…your wife, daughters, your flower bed, cows… and chicken(s)…yes; it's the land of ingokho remember: They will munch them to the bone leaving feathers littered in the compound. Since they are not edible, children will be rude enough to arrange and spell the words “I was here” outside your poultry house as they dance the night away on your manicured flowerbeds. Professional mourners will feign sorrowful tears as they sing mocking songs and praise the angel of death for harvesting your soul and presenting an opportunity to finally step into your compound; and every corner of your beautiful house.
The conversations (usually held between mouthfuls) are usually something like this: “Alas, did this idiot think he’d live forever? That we’d never step into his compound and eat from his plates? I thought he had such a big house…mine is even bigger (Omwami owns a permanent self contained three bed roomed house while this mourner is likely to own a three-roomed mud house.)What was he hiding behind this Nigerian gate anyway? His dogs are not even big; I thought he feeds them on a bull per day.” And the condolences will continue, for as long as there is food from the bereaved family to fuel the energy to dance, curse and eat some more.
A nugget of truth; this will happen at your funeral: Depending on whom you were or were considered to be and which sub tribe you hail from: They may choose to take your casket round in circles until your spirit gets dizzy and flies to the wrong destination. They may burry you in a sitting position, standing position or just facing in some strange direction you’d never thought of. I just hope none of them will consider putting you in squatting position coz' damn…you’ll have to frog jump to heaven or hell! That would be a death time (now that I can’t call it a life time) of aching gluts and muscle pulls! Some will send you off with a pack of strange herbs from a certain spiritualist so that your soul hovers around in search of ‘your killers’. Apparently, no Luhya dies of natural causes. Ha! Hilarious!
Omwami’s uncles will come to claim a cow from the bereaved. The purpose: To celebrate your death! Oh sorry, they come to celebrate your life when you die... Or rather, the life you lived...LMAO! Need I say, majority of these people (I’ll try and call them mourners) have no idea who you were, nor does any of your family member recognize them. They will be the ones lustfully glaring into your wife’s eyes, shaking her hand and saying what a great man you were, how generous you were, how your daughters have grown into beautiful ladies, how you saved their lives, how you will be missed…blah blah… blah… then they’ll come back with a bill of how much you owed them for some strange endeavor and demand to be paid. Outrageous people!
Aw unto the man if a Luhya woman you are cohabiting with dies “unmarried”… (She is considered unmarried if you have not paid dowry). You will have to pay dearly before you’re allowed to bury your “unmarried” wife. In short, they count on your wife’s death to get some value out of her. They may never bother you when she’s still alive. She is only equivalent to the heads of cows you can pay; if you’ll manage to settle the fine that is. If not, her parents will tear apart, part of the fence (they cannot use the main gate for her casket as she is a disgrace), snick her into their compound in the dark of night to escape the mockery and shame of daytime onlookers.
After the last send off service, the offertory basket will be brought forth to support the bereaved family. The treasurer will have a hard task of carrying the heavy basket due to the weight of coins ‘offered’ by the mourners. The heavy seven-cornered five shillings coin will dominate the currency in the basket. If you are ‘rich’, the mentality is; why should they be supporting you financially anyway? As matter of fact, you owe them a favor for turning up at your funeral in large numbers! In total, you could be lucky to raise some Ksh.950. Anything above this is too much!
Several strange women will rise up to the news of your death, pack their households and come camping at your compound. Each will open a feeding program for their at least six (per woman) malnourished children and live in your house on full board. Of course you will carter for all the services, including donating several warm blankets for the number of nights they and their children will choose to spend (mostly from day one of wails to the very last day when guests will desert you. This items will be considered in-kind contribution from your bereaved family). They might be touched by the amount of food you can offer and therefore sacrifice to wash your utensils at ‘a little fee’ charged per cup, spoon, plate and cooking pots. Aw unto you if you’ll have breakables and unmarked utensils. Yes, in funeral events, ensure everything in your house is branded with either your full name as proof of ownership, lest you are left with only the clothes on your body. Your stuff just vanishes during funerals. This includes but is not limited to household items, raw meat (usually on highest demand) and any cooked food that is hidden along the fence in sacks and plastic bags, sometimes in cooking pots. The thieves snick out of the compound as your family mourns and struggles to feed more ‘mourners’.
Don’t be surprised (you’ll be dead anyway) if the worst behaved people will be your relatives. Your older brother eying your wife so he can ‘return her’ to the family despite knowing the cause of your death; she must marry him or be excommunicated along with your children. Fathers, brothers, uncles and unties demanding your property because they worked hard to make you who you were. There’s always something up their dirty sleeves, especially from relatives hailing from deep in the village. Merciless people!
Young men will invite their teen girlfriends for the ‘party’. The Isukuti drama will be present in full gear, armed to the tooth with his professional mourners and dancers. You will pay for their dance and professional wailing, of course. Either in cash or cow; you have livestock, right? That’s the price!
Nights in Luhya funerals are the most dramatic. People of all ages and gender indulge in drinking alcohol (am yet to hear of a Luhya funeral without alcohol either at the very venue or next door neighbors’), dance and chant dirges, whirling around the bon fire like possessed spirits. Intoxicated young men high on cheap liquor will sing incoherent love songs to their teen girlfriends who as usual under influence, hormones run wild and give themselves away. Funeral grounds in this land are breeding grounds for HIV and STD/I infections, unwanted pregnancies, infidelity and promiscuity. Half of the girls do not remember who impregnated them and on what particular night. Needless to say the event last for not less than a week (at least). As I’d mentioned earlier, they awaken some sort of demons in sleeping dogs and humans.
Married women, pray hard that your Omwami did not broadcast his seed (s) on fertile grounds somewhere before or after you (some start broadcasting as early as fourteen years of age). This will be a sad day to reckon when the skeletons in his closet start walking to his funeral. Women from the forty two tribes of Kenya (I haven’t counted yours) will stream into your compound with a trail of children resembling your own to demand recognition (for some reason,they always resemble your husband); I still wonder to myself of the timing and who should recognize what and why. It is worse if he was a holy Joe and you were clueless about the mixed farming he had been practicing; you will have to accept that you had been sleeping with a Don Joe all your ‘till death do us part’ moments. Still, it is expected that as a strong African woman, you hold your head high, give him a decent send off; then sit down with the ‘new’ trail of lookalikes and share fairly; the property that you and your husband developed on a joint account. Ha ha! Not funny!
People must reckon that you walked the earth, right? Right; so a little advice to all Luhyas: Please be smart and open a very specific savings bank account for your funeral and save your family the agony of your culture. The sooner you do this, the better because the older and wealthier you grow (or maybe not), the more mourners you attract, most of whom will just come to mock you and drool over what you’ve left behind. The aftermath of your demise will bring down your empire, leaving innocent lives wading in poverty, caused by your very own relatives and community.
When you are finally six feet under, flowers planted on your graveyard and watered,they will desert your family and forget you as soon as their feet step outside your beautiful Nigerian gate. Nobody likes widows, they are full of problems and tears,or so it is assumed. Your family will be left lonely and broke and you’ll turn in your own grave and wish for a reincarnation to avenge but it’ll be too late.
Oh how I loathe Luhya funerals! Could someone stop this madness!?
Why can’t majority of Luhya’s (especially those living in villages) offer genuine support to the bereaved? Funerals are venues for grieving, reflection on a life lost, offering condolences and consolation. When someone has lost a loved one; we should pray with them, help them cope with the grief and loneliness; Find out as a community what can be done to ease the burden from the shoulders of the ones left behind. Bring the food stuffs and household gifts to support the grieved; not eat everything,loot and curse!Who is going to change this outdated inhuman culture and bring some sanity in the community? I admire how supportive families from the some provinces support each other in such trying moments. Why can't Luhya's emulate them and preserve some dignity for the bereaved?
I’ll tell you how I want my funeral to be (I mean, we will all die at some point right?). Trust me; it will be an event you'll want to replay. Hold on a minute… someone’s telling me I shouldn’t mention death. It is an abomination they say. Are you sure mortal man? Oh well, this is mine; I'll plan it to the latter and smile all the way to heaven! Let me find you the right words then get back to you. One thing am sure, I'll make it a funeral...not a party for mockers.