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Kikuyu People

Updated on May 16, 2014

For my A to Z series of African people, I will present the Kikuyu people (also known as Giguyu, Gekoyo, Gigkuyu or Agekoyo), who make a 21% of the population of Kenya in Africa.

Kenya's African population is divided into more than 40 ethnic groups belonging to three linguistic families:

  1. the Bantu
  2. the Cushitic
  3. the Nilotic

Who are the members of the Kikuyu people?

Kikuyu's origin myths claim that their first ancestors, Gikuyu, and his wife Mumbi were given Kikuyuland by the god Ngai (who is believed to reside on Mount Kenya).

During the early 1950s, the Kikuyu led a movement (The Kikuyu Central Association "KCA") to violently defeat the British colonial government. The resulting warfare became known as the "Mau Mau" rebellion. The leader of the movement, Jomo Kenyatta, was elected president after Kenya gained its independence from the British in 1963. From that time the Kikuyu have been an influential part of Kenyan society.


Where are the Kikuyu people located?

The Kikuyu people are located in the East of Africa. They make up the largest tribal group in Kenya. They have traditionally occupied the fertile highland areas between Mount Kenya (which they call "Kirinyaga", the shining mountain), Ol Donyo Sabuk, the Ngong Hills, the Aberdare (Nyandarua) Range, and the Kenya capital Nairobi. The majority of Kikuyu live in South central Kenya. Many also live in Uganda and Tanzania; some have risen to national leadership.

How do the Kikuyu people live?

In the Kikuyu family homesteads, the basic social unit consists of a patrilineal group of males (many are polygamous), their wives, and children. The Kikuyu are divided into ten clans (mihiriga), which are in turn divided into sub clans.

The mbari, has been historically the most important unit among the Kikuyu people. The muramati, generally the first son of the first wife of his father determines land distribution.

Jane Wanjeri
Jane Wanjeri | Source

How do the Kikuyu people communicate?

The Kikuyu people speak Kikuyu, a Bantu language. I found a great article about their language in Hubpages as I was searching for information. I invite you to read Emmanuel Kariuki.

Kenya's official languages are English and Swahili; both are widely used for communication between members of different ethnic groups. Nearly all of the African ethnic groups in Kenya have their own language. Many Kenyans speak three languages:

  1. Their particular ethnic group
  2. Swahili
  3. English

Bantu speaking Kenyans are divided into three different groups:

  1. Western group (Luhya)
  2. Central, or highlands group (including the Kikuyu, the Kamba, and other subgroups)
  3. Coastal Bantu (Mijikenda)

How do the Kikuyu people survive?

The Kikuyu were traditionally agriculture people. They resided in separate family homesteads raising crops of millet, beans, peas, and sweet potatoes. Some groups also raised animals to supplement their diet, but little or no hunting and fishing took place.

The Kikuyu people today are some of the most educated and prosperous people in Kenya. Many live and work in Nairobi and others cities, often in government or business.


What characteristics define the diversity of the Kikuyu people?

  • Circumcision was the foundation of moral self development for women and men
  • Elders supervised gatherings of young people
  • The arrival of a new child starts with wild screams
  • Young people pair off according to mutual attraction
  • Land holds important spiritual meaning

Occurrences among the Kikuyu people:

  • Jomo Kenyatta (1894? - 1978) was a Kikuyu. He was the first Prime Minister and first President of Kenya. He joined the East African Association (EAA) led by Harry Thuku that was formed to regain stolen African lands from white settlers. His thesis, Facing Mount Kenya, is a study of traditional Kikuyu customs and beliefs; it became a bestseller in England.
  • The Kikuyo movement used oaths, songs, and prayers to unite and mobilize its members in a culturally meaningful way.
  • Not all Kikuyo supported Mau Mau; these were known as the "Loyalists". People who had benefited themselves by taking on colonial administration duties under British rule.
  • Frederick Cooper, an American historian, observed that the groups that sought a constitution based on a Western model invoked the 'discipline and patience of the Kikuyu elders' as model qualities for political activism.
  • Naugi wa Thiong'o, Kenyan novelist, has written about the Kikuyu people.
  • Virginia Wambui Otieno was a female Kenyan politician who was the subject of a legal case that established modern legal rights of wives in polygamous marriages vs. tribal law.

There is so much to say, see and live from the Kikuyu people that I just didn’t find the way to finish this article. For that reason I invite the readers to search more and look at the links at the side.

I usually like to add a video, but it was kind of difficult due to my lack of knowledge of the language used. These articles of the African people series are to share what I find about the people from a continent which I dream to live in. At the same time I have encountered the struggle between them. Trying to be impartial or objective is a struggle I have to face when I choose a link or information, since I am not involved with their beliefs. The video below gives us a message in behalf of the H.O.W. movement, which I am loyal to… Humanity One World!

Blessings to all!

© Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill

Scars of Lari

© 2013 Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill


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      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 4 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Emmanuel Kariuki thanks!! It is an honor to have you correct me. Sorry I will update this hub, instead of scream I will write what you wrote.

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      A good article on the Kikuyu. I would like to make one correction though, new babies were not received with 'wild screams.' They were received with 'ululations,' (Ngemi) a sound reserved for women only which is made by vibrating the tongue to create a high pitched tone that that starts mid-tone, goes low then rises again to end suddenly. Each end note counted one Ngemi. Something like - Aaari ri ri ri ri ri ri - ri ri ! This is one Ngemi. A girls Ngemi were fewer (I think four) than a boys (I think five) so it was possible for neighbours who were far off to know the gender of the child. Keep up the good work! - shared!

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      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 5 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      rasta1 how nice to know that you got something good from this article. African people are one of the most influence people in this earth.

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 5 years ago from Jamaica

      The Mau Mau movement influenced the Rastafarian Movement. I am very happy to have read this hub in order to understand the foundation of my lovely people.

    • Lastheart profile image

      Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 5 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

      Now who is next? Look up the alphabet, and guess! Thanks Froggy, for your unconditional support.

    • Froggy213 profile image

      Greg Boudonck 5 years ago from Returned to an Isla Del Sol - Puerto Rico Will Rise Strong

      Another great one for the series. Great job--now whose next?