Is there a Kikuyu belief in a great tree of life, that reaches into heaven ?
I had the privilege of being raised by Gracie Wambui Kenyatta, who was our Ayah when my parents sheltered her family in the1950s and1960s. Although white, I will always be African, as my ancestors embraced Kipsigis and Kikuyu culture.I remember Gracie telling me of Ngaia and the Great Tree during our many chats at the 'talking chair' ( see photo below).Gracie said Ngaia was the great God in the sky and that no man has more right to be on Earth than any other.She also talked about the great tree that fascinated me all my life. I lived in New Zealand, Wales and England after Kenya.
She must have meant the "Mukuyu" tree, from which the tribe gets its name. Because you were too young to understand the philosophy behind the 'great sacred tree', you assumed that it reached out to heaven. Usually the largest and oldest 'Mukuyu' tree in the village would be selected as the abode of the ancestral spirits where sacrifices to both the ancestors and God Ngai would be done. But Ngai lived on the high mountains, and mainly mount Kenya. Where there was no Mukuyu tree, the next tree of choice was the 'mugumo' - both are Ficus family.
I like the photo very much. Who is that on the passenger seat?
Incidentally, I am collecting information on the those early days of Kenyatta's life for an exhibition and any information on him, associates and the extended family would be very welcome.
Thank you for this answer. My mother has great memories of Gracie, as do our cousins.The little boy is me, Colin Garth Livingstone and the 'talking chair' was a car that had rolled down the escarpment of Kitisuru, some 30 years earlier. Gracie was wonderful, but she was fierce if you disobeyed her.My brother and I loved her. My mother said she was a 'remarkable woman'. My brother visited Gracie when she was 104 and she remembered him . He had tears in his eyes as she sang the Kikuyu hymns we heard as little boys.
Another curious piece of music she loved was 'Dominique' , all in French by the Singing Nun in the early 1960s.She also sang 'Frere Jacques' and 'Alouette' to us, both French songs by Maurice Chevalier.
I am sure our family can help you with this project on Kenyatta's life. My father knew him well and escorted him to Britain for his 'trial' in 1962, but my mother could verify this.She is 85 and very strong and lively.Maybe she will live to 107, like Mama Grace !
Is there a way to contact you via e-mail ? I can provide you with contacts regarding Kenyatta's wilderness years.
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