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King Menes of Ancient Egypt and the Kikuyu
In 3100 BC, King Menes moved North from the south of Egypt probably from an area that is in today’s East Africa.and conquered the Delta. Before this conquest, Egypt was not a single state but two independent nations known as Upper and Lower Egypt. The Hieroglyph that identifies him has a mud-fish, signifying that he was the Great Fish, conqueror of all of Egypt. From then henceforth, the Rulers of Egypt were carried the title of Nsw Bity, which has been transliterated by Egyptologist to mean The Lord of two lands. I tend to think otherwise. It is more likely The Great Fish. The reader should take note of the Egyptian word Nisw.
The Kikuyu call a leader a Mũthamaki – This is noun is a compound word. The prefix Mũ denotes something with a spirit like in Mũndũ and Mũti – Person and tree respectively. The term was reserved for leaders of sections of Kikuyu or leaders of war councils. The word is intriguing because it no doubt has the same roots as the Arabic wore Samak, which was borrowed by Swahili as Samaki - meaning fish. Today the Kikuyu call fish Thamaki, a word that has been borrowed from Swahili. Though the Kikuyu called a fish Kiũngũyũ – the wiggler, it would appear that at sometime, they did know fish by the Arabic term if indeed a leader was associated with fish.
Let us look closely at the word NSW, in consonants following the tradition of hieroglyphics. The word NSW when written with vowels becomes Niswi, which was the archaic Kiswahili word for fish now only used in poetry. This can be attested by Swahili scholars, one of whom is Mohammed Sheikh Nabhany who has written many books on the Kiamu dialect of Kiswahili. The Swahili dropped the word Niswi and adopted Samaki from Arabic. Today the Kikuyu no longer call fish Kiũngũyũ. They have also adopted the Arabicterm Samak which they render as Thamaki due to the lack of the Phoneme ‘s’ in Kikuyu phonology.It would appear that the ‘Fish meaning’ was lost in antiquity but the word was retained to mean the Great Fish – leader. Later with the coming of colonialism and free trade, the original meaning was regained.
In the Bible, Exodus 17:15, God is referred to as Jehovah-nissi. There is every reason to believe that the Nisi in Exodus and the NSW of Pharaoh Menes have the same roots and meaning. God, being greater than all earthly rulers is the ‘Great Fish.’This is in defiance of theconcept of Pharaohs as “good gods” as they were known in Egypt. They were really Gods on earth, so any firm believer in the true God would rather transfer those honours as the Jews did. The term Niswimust have been an export commodity from Egypt to Palestine through the Jews during the exodus.
We can see therefore that NSW, Nisi, Niswi and Mũthamaki havethe semantic field of a venerated leader, who is associated with fish.
As stated earlier,fish is called Kiũngũyũ in Kikuyu and ikuyuamong theKamba who are cousins of the Kikuyu. Sir Johnstone writing in 1919 remarked that the root of the word Kikuyu seems to have come from fish though LSB Leakey (1977) indicated that it came from Mũkũyũ, a fig tree. In the 18th Dynasty, there is the story of Sanehat, Son of the Sycamore. Since considered himself a son of the Pharaoh, we can safely conclude that Sycamore was a Pharaonic title. Fadiman (Ogot BA ed, 1976) stated that the Meru newcomers encountered people whom they called Ikara, Ukara, Athamagi and Mwoko in the Mount Kenya area. Athamagi is a word that corresponds to Kikuyu Athamaki (plural for Mũthamaki) and samakiin Kiswahili. Was the Mout Kenya area the abode of retiring Pharaohs or did the Kikuyu arrive earlier than the Meru and settled under the leadership of the descendants of a Pharaoh, who like Sanehat were sons of the Sycamore – a Mukuyu?
In conclusion, the association of a leader and Fish is very ancient, obviously occurring much earlier than the reign of Menes in 3100 BC. Because a Great ruler was also associated with the Sycamore tree, we see here a semantic shift where the word for Sycamore in Kikuyu – Mũkũyũ, is also associated with fish – Kiũngũyũ (Ikuyu in Kamba). This has caused confusion among early scholars some of whom like Sir Harry Johnstone thought that they Kikuyu derive their name from the word for fish.
I hope this post will help to clarify that linguistic evidence can be used to settle inconsistencies in the history of a previously non literate ethnic group.