How the Gīkūyū People Were Sold into the Money

In his 1935 book, The Akikuyu: Their Customs, Traditions and folklore page 259 Father C. Cagnolo of the Consolata Missionaries, Nyeri, wrote,

With the Pax Britannica the Missions appeared who, side by side with Government, brought about largely their mandate of spiritual redemption, and moreover acted wonderfully as a trait-d’union between the new rulers and the natives, rousing trustfulness in the latter and diverting them from fears. The Government, I might say, applied to their bodies and Missions specially to their souls, and both in cooperation brought about the new man.

A third coefficient is not to be forgotten, the settler who, although they came along with another primary aim, showed in real results of their undertakings and industries what Missionaries and Government go on inculcating in the natives about laboriousness, and the possibilities and richnesses hidden in the ground which up to yesterday the natives did not even suspect to be there.

With the above can be seen that the overall colonial experience of the Gīkūyū people was a well coordinated three pronged effort by the Administrator, the Missionary and the Settler. This is what gave rise to the saying that was to guide the freedom movement, “Gutiri Mūthūngū na Mūbīa” – there is no distinction between a generic White man and a Missionary. The three pronged approach drew inspiration from a much earlier strategy proposed by one of the earliest explorers, David Livingstone, who described the ‘civilizing mission’ as the 3Cs – Christianity, Civilization and Commerce. Christianity being firmly in the competent hands of the Missionaries, the colonial government took on the responsibility of Civilization through mainly education, health and agricultural programs while the Settlers, the third coefficient inculcated to the native the possibilities of commercializing the riches that lay right before the native’s ignorant eyes. There were overlaps of course and this makes very interesting reading as described by J. Kamenju in Transformation of Kikuyu Traditional Architecture.
In “The Book of Civilization”, Part 1, the Gīkūyū were taught as the sub title says, “on Cleanliness and Health, the care of your children, and how to get rid of flies” This book was arranged in 1934 by A. R. Paterson, the then Director of Medical Services in the Kenya Colony with the assistance of many officers from the Education, Forestry and Medical departments of the colony. Part 2 of the monumental work went to show that “most Africans are poor, not because they are lazy or unwilling to work, but because they do not know how to make the best use of their land, and their forest and their cattle”. It is in this Part of the Book of Civilization that the final C for Commerce was emphasized. Such chapters as “The business of exchange – the use for money, the means of exchange”, “Money – the power to buy” and “The need for Money” explained clearly why money is needed for,

  • More and better food (which includes milk) and good water
  • Money to buy good clothes and pots and pans, and to build houses, and soap with which to clean them.
  • More and better schools in which our children can be trained and taught knowledge and wisdom.

In another book, “Ūūgī wa Būrūri Witū” – The Knowledge of our Country, a corroboration of a Toubob, Mūthūngū, Williamson and a Gīkūyū, Rūthuku they used the much better devise of storytelling to bring home the message of Money, money money. The story is told in the book of a certain farmer who visits his neighbor and is impressed by his neighbor’s modern things like a paraffin lamp and a padlock among other things and wanted to have the same. His neighbor told him that he bought them after selling one of his bulls on the advice of the veterinary officer and advised him to do the same. As Kamenjū writes, “The story is a fictionalized narrative of actual events as they happened all over the newly reconfigured countryside.” The important thing in the Book of Civilization and in Ūūgī wa Būrūri Witū was that everything will be manufactured and brought to you from afar off. These things will be somehow magical and mysterious and you need not worry yourself how or where they come from. What one has to worry about is where and how to get the money to buy them. The message became, “convert your labour into money by working to provide us with the things we need. The money of course was by the Mzungu and what then became the meaning of subversion was attempting to produce anything for and by yourself, for instance, clothing without a coin going to the Mzungu. In the story Cege and his father ended up buying several farm implements and pans for Cege’s mother and a necklace for Nduta, Cege’s sister of which she was very happy.

The Book of Civilization is profusely illustrated by one Margaret Trowell. The illustrations betray the thinking guiding the Commerce pillar of the 3Cs – get these people to be dependent on us. It is the same with the Civilization pillar – get these people to want to be like us. It is the same with the Christianity pillar – get these people to be abandon their God and give them Jehovah. Strip them of their primitive spirituality and teach them to always refer to the Good Book, the Good News, the Good lord. Let them sing,

Ūhooro mwega nīūūyū, nīūkīīte gūkū gwiitū, ūhooro wa gūkeena, wa Mūūhonokia wiitū.
The good News is this, the good news has come to us, we are happy with this news, of our Saviour.

There is a deliberate ambiguity in the Good Book when referring to the Lord and the lord in order to keep peasants subservient to their lords. Likewise the Gīkūyū people have been thoroughly sold into the doctrine of the Book of Civilization, the Good Book, the God Book, Ibuku rīa Ngai because they all somehow fused into one.

Cege’s father was learning to keep up with his neighbors, keeping up with the Joneses. Today the Joneses are struggling to keep up with the Gīkūyū people. They call it hustling, Kūng’eng’ana, a word that is frightening. They have been sold into the money or should we say soldered as the image of their revered son, is stamped on the money. Money and the Gīkūyū have become one to paraphrase the Good Book, “I and my Father are One.”

As far as Christianity is concerned, we can comfortably say, the project has exceeded the highest expectations of the missionaries and the Gīkūyū are now more, much more religious than the Pope. On the Civilization pillar, the Gīkūyū have also been civilized to the point where a heavily Nyeri English accent draws tears of laughter in many circles. One Duke of Kabeteshire is renowned for his pinstriped double breasted British made suits complete with a chain watch, calf links, a rose and other medieval accessories. In many respects, like in our parliamentary practices, legal practices, architectural practices, educational practices, medical practices, and many more, we have become more, much more British than the British.

The bad news is that the Good News has been bad and we have been had, and also that the so-called civilization is a pyramid scheme.

Introduction to Imperial economics. Cege helping his father do the calculations for the purchases from an Indian nduka. All the things in the shop came from far off.
Coming home to the new realities. Nduta running to reach out for her new necklace. Today Nduta has transformed into a “Western products consumer unit”
Imperial Economics part 1. from The Book of Civilization
Imperial Economics part 2 from The Book of Cvilization
Farm economics as taught in The Book of Civilization. Today it is called Kilimo Biashara or Profit driven farming.
The Book of Civilization: A Book for Africans by A. R. Paterson. 1935

See also: How Cleanliness was sold to the Kikuyu

One thought on “How the Gīkūyū People Were Sold into the Money

  1. By civilization Livingstone meant that Africans did not have any. What he really advocated was the imposition of the European world view onto Africans. In other words, obliterate the African capacity for self-determination, which leads to destruction of his ability to generate authentic aspirations, adopting those of the Europeans.
    The lender of aspirations always controls the borrower – his thinking, his destiny and his existence.
    Hence this race of catching up, keeping up with the joneses, hustling
    The main reason for the misgovernance, corruption and drownings in the Mediterranean that we see today

    Like

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