Wamuyu: A Single Mom?
Wamuyu aka Warigia aka Wanjugu was the Gikuyu daughter of Mumbi who according to legend did’t marry. This post speculates on the reasons she did not marry.
According to the existing myths of the tribe, Gikuyu and Mumbi the first parents of the tribe bore nine plus one daughters and no sons. This was at their home at Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga in Muranga. Gikuyu then prayed to God and God asked him to make a burnt offering of a goat under the Mukuyu tree and return in the morning. On return the following morning he found nine young men waiting whom he took to his daughters and each took one for a husband. These nine went on to establish what are the cornerstones of the tribe the nine plus one clans. The clans are ‘nine with the fill’ not because Wamuyu’s clan, the Aicakamuyu was the fill but because the Gikuyu do not count their offspring exactly for fear they might perish. The myth is not clear whether there were actually nine young men or ten. Remember the Gikuyu will not count exact numbers of people or livestock due to superstition. So it is not at all clear whether Wamuyu refused to marry because there was no husband for her or because she had to wait as some people who tell the myth say that she was too young to marry.
I am a great fan of folk tales and myths and I have come to understand that most of them contain a very powerful meaning once deconstructed. Take the story of little Red Riding Hood and the wolf. A mere tale to amuse children? Nay! It is the story of maturation and initiation according to some writers. “Take care little girl, men are wolves” Or take the story of Beauty and the Beast. Isn’t it a teaching to young girls to beware of judging their future spouses by mere externals and looks?
In order to deconstruct the story of Wamuyu, we have to understand the dynamics of family life as presented by the first family. Look at them. They have nine grown up women who are all married to “goats” They shortly all go away one after another with their husbands to settle elsewhere. This aging couple had no son who could bring a young woman to take care of them. This was a serious matter as there were no old people’s homes then. One of the girls, certainly the one who either loved them more than she loved herself or was favored of the father and mother must have decided – to hell with the “goat of a husband” and decided to stay and take care of the aging couple. This girl, Wamuyu, as she has been called, rather than being an outcast as some people have suggested was probably the most beloved, the most caring and possibly the richest of the ten daughters of Mumbi as she would have inherited Gikuyu’s property. That is why even being single she is recognized as the mother of a full clan in its own right, the Aicakamuyu.
From her life we might conclude that:
- Women owning and inheriting property was a fact from the beginning of time. It was overturned only later. (another myth)
- The phenomenon of a single motheris not “un-African” or a misfortune as is insinuated by some people. It was a fully recognized status by Gikuyu himself.
Updated on 2nd Aug 2011 – Internal links