King Mumia’s plan to reclaim past glory of Wanga Kingdom
Posted Monday, December 29 2008 at 20:28
- A people struggle to retain identity as others succumb to Western culture
Tucked away among plantations of sugarcane, the Wanga community has struggled to retain its identity as other kingdoms wither from the onslaught of Western culture.
And two weeks ago, the community celebrated a milestone in the old kingdom.
It was the opening of the Nabongo Cultural Centre and shrine in Matungu constituency, Western Province, where the community’s cultural artefacts and age-old habits have been preserved.
It could be the latest addition to the growing tourist sites in Kenya’s western tourism. It was an occasion few wished to miss, and some trekked long distances to the newly constructed centre on the outskirts of Mumias Town to witness its official opening.
In attendance were Nabongo Peter Mumia II, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, and ministers James Orengo, Fred Gumo, Oburu Oginga and Alfred Khangati. Others were MPs Eugene Wamalwa, Ben Washiali, Alfred Odhiambo and National Heritage permanent secretary Jacob ole Miaron.
When he took to the podium, Nabongo Mumia II hollered “Kualulukha! Kualulukha!” and the crowd, familiar with the traditional greeting responded in unison “kulama”, which means a tree will survive even when it shades off leaves.
As he bellowed those words, Nabongo wanted to reassure the community entrusted under his guidance by the ancestors that the once vibrant Wanga Kingdom that dates back to 1,000 years would remain strong.
Nabongo cultural centre was the brainchild of Nabongo Mumia II to help conserve traditional artefacts and history. At the centre, visitors will see these great pieces of art and culture in a museum and a library.
Within the compound is a prototype traditional Luhya homestead, complete with huts for the man of the house, the wives and sons. This is where the PM’s entourage sipped traditional brew using long straws.
Besides, there is a mausoleum where the past Kings (Nabongo) were interred. The Wanga king gestured at the mausoleum opposite the traditional homestead, saying: “There is the place where Nabongo Wanga, Nabongo Mumia I and Nabongo Netia lie.”
Next to the past Nabongos’ graves is a space where the current King could be laid to rest some day.
The entire work is envisaged to cost Sh46 million, with Mumias Sugar Company contributing Sh12 million towards the project through its corporate social responsibility. The Government has largely funded the remaining part.
The work is not yet complete.
“We want to have a multi-purpose hall, an eco-tourism cultural village, botanical garden, residential wing, and tourism van and sports field,” said Nabongo.
Despite the elaborate celebrations to welcome the cultural centre, Nabongo Mumia II has reservations — fear that his ancestors’ kingdom is fading away at a worrying rate.
With the collapse of many kingdoms, Mumia says the society has very little, if anything, to be proud of in the 21st century.
Many future generations risk getting lost, culturally, he told the crowd.