Long long time ago when the Gikuyu were breaking the forest, that huge and dark forest called “God help me” or Mutitu wa Ngai Ndeithia, during the age of the tree cutters, Ndemi, when giants dwelt in the forest, there lived a dreaded giant deep in the forest called Irimu ria Nyakondo or “The giant of the great Kiondo bag”. The Kiondo is the Gikuyu bag that was traditionally hand woven from vegetable twine. It is still popular especially in the countryside as a carry-all and today it is still hand woven but made from all sorts of thread and twine.
Irimu ria Nyakondo or Mr. Big Bag always carried his bag behind his shoulder wherever he went and would throw anything he found on his way into the bag. If he saw some ripening bananas on a tree, he threw the entire banana, tree, fruits, roots and all, – into the bag. If he saw a nice fat goat grazing by the roadside – into the bag, shepherd boy and all. If he saw a child walking along the road alone, – into the bag. A big fat bull, – into the bag. Anything he fancied, – into the bag.
The interesting thing was that the bag never got full and the more he put into it the more greedy he became until there was a great outcry in the whole country. Nobody could kill him and many warriors lost their lives trying to waylay him in order to save the people. He had one single eye on his forehead that he never shut even while asleep and another eye at the back of his head therefore it was impossible to waylay him. All the warriors who tried to kill him found themselves where? In the bag!
How Mr. Big Bag was killed and the country freed of the evil is a story for another day because today, I was on another tack. I was wondering what this ciathire ciakurukire, “went down the river” story was all about and what the teaching was as all stories had a deep meaning and were not just so, so, ngano cia marimu stories. Ultimately I came to the conclusion that the stories were universal timeless metaphors and must be applicable yesterday, today and forever.
The question I posed was, WHO IS MR. BIG BAG TODAY? Where is Irimu ria Nyakondo today?
Mr. Big Bag is very much alive today. When you look at the conduct of most so-called Christian churches today you will agree with me that the Government Tax man is a mere pretender to the throne of Mr. Big Bag. The authentic, the re-incarnation of Irimu ria Nyakondo today is the modern Church. It is organized as an extortion racket in the form of a huge pyramid where the poor at the bottom collect and pay what are called tithes that are channeled to the top of the pyramid. One local church here in Kenya even prides itself publicly as “The Church of the Bag” – Kanitha wa Kiondo. The bag is their central symbol. It is the heavy cross they have to bear. Every other day there is this or that fundraising for this or that project for this or that group. Women’s week, youth week, etc. etc. The poor rural women at the bottom of the pyramid at the districts are given a specific figure they have to remit to headquarters which they are told is their promise to God, kariko, and woe to those who fail on “their” promise. They are told, “Your Shepherd, Your Keeper, Mutungatiri, will be withdrawn. That means that your dead will not be buried with the blessing of the Church. There will be no celebration of lives well lived for living well is paying your tithes.” The preaching and teachings every Sunday are all about funds, funds funds!, Money, Money, Money! The bag is never full and merely grows bigger and bigger. The original Irimu ria Nyakondo would be envious.
The Greeks too had a story of a Cretan great animal, the Minotaur. This Minotaur was fed seven young men and seven maidens every year and it took a great warrior, Theseus, to destroy it.
Like of old, Gikuyu warriors today are called to battle Irimu ria Nyakondo. Is there a Theseus ready or is today’s hero the one who runs off with the 5 million after winning it on this or that TV reality show?