The Gikuyu Woman’s house, Nyumba’s house plan was developed by the simple formula of inserting a square inside a circle. All the spaces resulting from this sacred union produced all that was required to accomodate her physical and pychic spatial requirements. The square inside a circle producing one major space, used as the main social space with a hearth at the centre, four major spaces or sides of the square and four corner niche spaces for a total of nine spaces. With the addition of the unseen universal space, the “Nine Full Clans”, Kenda Muiyuru, of the Gikuyu tribe were completed.
In one of the niches was housed a fattened ram in an enclosed cage called Gicegu. This ram was never let out and was fed for its entire lifetime inside the fattening pen. It was fed on sweet potato vines hung with a rope and on other kitchen waste like peelings and food stock. It thus would grow famously fat and a woman’s diligence and hard work were measured by the fat it produced when it was finally slaughtered. Many people have queried why the ram was an integral part of the house. Well, it turns out that one of its major functions was as the Nyumba’s FPU or fat production unit.
Unlike ewes, the fattened ram, ndurume ya gicegu, was let to grow a heavy fat tail, that would measure oftentimes over three kilograms. This fatty tail was called kimengemenge. To process the fat from its raw form one had to cut up the fat into small pieces and simply let them fry in a pot until the pieces dry up and float on the oil. Once the fat cools it is transfered into a fat storage container, kinandu kia maguta, and stored in a private store. The dried up pieces, ngarango are eaten once they cool. Wrapped in honey, they will last forever and are food for the gods. This fat was highly valued and formed the main source of fat in the Gikuyu diet. Women would add it into children’s gruel and a favourite was kneading roasted bananas with it into balls, ngumba cia marigu, which were the food of choise for travellers and lunch in the fields. Babies on this turbo-charged gruel and bananas grew exceedingly heavy with smooth and rounded cheeks. They breastfed less to the agony and delight of their mothers. Adults didn’t grow heavy like the babies but acquired beautiful smooth and shiny skins, spackling eyes and strong bones and teeth. The beautiful trim bodies of the ancients is possible today by reintroducing animal fats into the diet.
To chronicle the destruction of the Gikuyu and African diet generally and the wide superhighway to cancer and all the modern diseases that are laying the health of modern Africans to waste would require an entire book. This is a book that would ask you to reconsider eanestly the great loss to our health that has been brought about by the book of civilization. Nyina wa Kariuki is a neighbour of mine at home. By home I mean Nyeri, as in Mukurwe-ini, as in Gakindu, Kwa Mukuyu. Mama Kariuki is now around ninety years old and has been on the Gikuyu diet all her life. She used to be very energetic and could climb the hills like a mountain goat until recently. Her children and grand children in Nairobi and in the diaspora built her a fine stone house with all the modern conveniences of cookers, fridges, microwaves, the works. All because they love her. When I visited her recently, I saw that one of her cabinets, is full of all manner of bottles containing strange medicines from the pharmacy. She asked me to sit in one of those over padded butterfly seats. “Nindarwarire mwana wakwa”, she said. “I got sick my child”, and all the danger signs were there. She is sick from modernity like almost all rural folk nowadays. She gets a delivery of 20 litres refined vegetable oil from her loving children every month plus many other junk things from the city. You should see these loving children. The men on spindly legs have bellies that look like they have swallowed a traditional water pot, ndigithu, while their wives spot under their arm pits their very own imengemenge (pr). They are as heavy and hang and sway this way and that way just like the ram’s. The children are what are these days called tunonos or fatties. That is how to know that they are prosperous. They have arrived. Panting.
It is now becoming quite clear to many honest health and nutritional researchers that the road to cancer, diabetes, heart disease et all is paved with refined vegetable oils, double refined for good measure and with zero cholesterol. This is snake oil. don’t take my word for it but do your own research. Read about butter, margarine, cholesterol, just to start you off. Get yourself away from the ridiculous adverts and simplistic advice of the so-called men and women of the medical profession who are also snake oil salesmen and women for pharmaceutical companies.. Switch off your TV. Read, read, read! The truth is out there.