Cultural and Sacred Sites in Kisumu
The work in Kisumu involves four different sacred and cultural sites.
ABINDU SACRED SITE
Abindu Sacred site is on a hilly ragged terrain which extends from Kajulu to Ojola and is part of an extension of Nandi Escarpment, 12 kilometres North–West of Kisumu City. It offers a picnic site and a beautiful scenic landscape of the Lake Victoria shores with its wetlands and beaches. The site has numerous wild animals such as birds, unique insects, reptiles and mammals. Archaeological remains, unique sacred symbols, artistic design and engravings (rock arts) and the presence of religious and symbolic inscriptions attract various religious pilgrimages to the site. It offers unique cultural identity and rituals, as well as traditional herbal medicines and super-natural healing powers.
Community narratives have many elements. Witchdoctors go to the site to communicate with ancestral spirits and cast spells from those possessed with evil spirits. Sorcerers also visit the site to exorcise the evil spirits from those who are possessed. Customary marriages are consummated through traditional weddings that are performed at the site by both Independent African Christian Churches and Traditional Medicine men. Wizards frequent the site to draw their power from the supernatural forces at the site as well as to practice their witchcraft. Narratives from community informants indicate that the site traces its cultural significance from 1970s, when the community received a visitor who had strange, and unique behavior. The stranger had several identities and would transform from a human being to either, a wild cat, leopard or hyena (KTN, December, 15th 2012).
KIT MIKAYI CULTURAL SITE
Kit Mikayi means ‘first wife’s rocks’ in Dholuo language. It is a large rock with three rocks on top that is fascinating, unique and attractive to travellers along the Kisumu- Bondo road, about 12 kilometres from Kisumu City. It is a historic site relating to Luo traditions and narratives. At Kit-Mikayi, beliefs and traditions associated with this large rock are varied. Some believe that Mikayi went up the rocky hill weeping when her husband took a second wife. In another version, an elderly man, Ngeso, had a great love for the natural stone and named the stone the first wife (Mikayi). In yet another narrative, the rock formation reflects the Luo culture of polygamy with the stones depicting the huts of the first three wives. The site is seen as a source of blessings, wealth, rain, marriage and love, spiritual cleansing and meditation. During dry spells elders converge at the entrance of the rock for meditation, where a wondrous snake ‘Nyangundi’ is said to have controlled access to the rock. The rock sends visions to people as far as Alego, Usonga, Asembo, Sakwa, Gem, Uyoma, and Yimbo on the need to conduct sacrifices and avert calamities: drought, divorce, separation cases to appease supernatural forces. Its holy water is said to possess therapeutic and healing powers, hence a popular pilgrimage site. Tourists visit the site as a recreational facility to: climb the rocks, view sunsets and enjoy traditional Luo songs and dances. This supports community empowerment and sustained livelihoods for women and youth. It is significant as ecological and cultural conservation site.
DUNGA FISHING VILLAGE
Dunga Beach, is a fisherfolk village located five kilometres from the Central Business District (CBD) of Kisumu City. Dunga Beach and Wetland is known for its unique ecological attractions due to its rich biodiversity, about 800 bird species, recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and place of international importance for bird conservation covering 5000 Hectares at Tako River Mouth on Winam Gulf of Lake Victoria. Some of the bird species recorded include: threatened papyrus Yellow Warbler, Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler and Papyrus Canary, Carruthers’s. The wetland provides a fish breeding grounds for the fish and hippos. Eco-finder Kenya and Dunga Eco-tourism Association (DECTA) have been promoting and conserving natural and cultural heritage of Dunga, and supporting grass-root led interventions for community empowerment and the improvement of livelihood security. Eco-ventures already established include: tour guiding, kayaking, boat racing, bird watching, sport fishing, fish nights and festivals, basketry, pottery, traditional food cuisines (culinary), traditional dressing and clothing, cultural museums, landing fish banda, beach markets and wetland board walks attracting domestic and international tourists, more popular with education tours. Historically, it has one of the colonial railway lines with terminal port. Dunga is an informal urban settlement as well as a rural enclave. The site is a fish landing beach, with fishing as the main economic and cultural practice of the inhabitants. The Beach Management Unit (BMU) governs the operation of the fishing activities, where women and youth are part of governance and enterprise initiatives.
SEME KAILA (OHINGA) HISTORICAL SETTLEMENTS
Seme-Kaila is situated at Kaila sub-location in Seme Sub-county of Kisumu County, Kenya. The site consists of six stone-walled enclosures that are situated on Got Kaila in Seme, 4 kms northwest of Holo market in Kisumu County. The protective hillforts were used by early Luo ancestors as defensive mechanisms against external human aggression and attack from wild animals. The settlement arrangement within the enclosures depicted Luo settlement cosmology lined along the walls of the prehistoric settlement structures. The enclosures are littered with archaeological artefacts such as pottery and stone tools. A sacred tree used as a shrine exists in one of the enclosures, where supernatural forces of the ancestral spirits and the gods are said to live. Elderly men, led by medicine men, lead in offering sacrifices to appease the gods and avert calamities and misfortunes such as drought and famine facing the local inhabitants. The enclosures are places of past human habitation where people lived a communal form of lifestyle for labour mobilization and security reasons. Initial attempts have been made to form a Community-Based Organisation where women and young people are part of the governance committee. The cultural events are informative learning grounds for most of the management members of Seme-Kaila to engage in eco-ventures such as traditional dressing, basketry, pot-making, traditional dances and songs, drama, performing art, and sports.