As Kenyans across the country celebrated Mashujaa Day on Sunday, young man in Machakos marked the day in style by launching an educational cultural centre in Tumba village, about 10 kilometres from Machakos town.
It is one of its kind to be established by a private citizen in Machakos County and the entire Ukambani region.
This milestone could see Mr Joseph Munyao, who goes by the stage name Mkenya Mchizi, being celebrated in future as a shujaa (hero).
LAUNCHED IN STYLE
Nthungu Cultural Centre was launched in style as a group of cultural enthusiasts comprising of mainly young people pulled aside a thorn tree branch blocking the entrance to the grass-thatched, mud-walled homestead in a symbolic opening of the gate to visitors.
Mchizi, clad in black traditional regalia, ushered in the visitors to the three grass-thatched huts and briefly gave them a glimpse of the dying Akamba traditional culture while impressing on them the need to preserve it for future generations.
Before its formal launch on Mashujaa Day, the facility had served as a movie shooting location for various films including one titled "Kamuti" (The Akamba Magic) which is set to premier at the Machakosfest 2019 film festival.
The movie, which also features Mchizi himself as the main protagonist, explores the mysteries and myths of Akamba magic, which is feared by other tribes in Kenya and beyond.
Indeed, the advancement of the movie making industry was a core agenda which informed the setting up of the facility as presently, there are virtually no grass-thatched huts in Machakos County.
"Whenever we see images on our screens portraying the authentic African traditional culture, it is either Nigerian or some other country in West Africa, yet we have our own authentic culture. This cultural centre is a beginning in recreating our cultural identity," said Mchizi.
At the centre, there is the main hut, which has the traditional three-stone hearth or fireplace, and a partition made of sticks which separates the fireplace and the bedroom belonging to the owner of the homestead.
The other huts in the compound belong to his wives and Children.
"These huts are associated with poverty now but that is not actually the case. It is our authentic culture which should be preserved. I hosted school children here and they marvelled at how people used to live in the past," said Mchizi.
Milk gourds, calabashes for serving food, a quiver, bows and arrows and three-legged traditional stools are some of the items kept in the huts.
Visitors also sampled traditional meals including ugali made of cassava flour which was served with sour milk, muthokoi and porridge made from finger millet among other foodstuffs.
The food and drinks were served in calabashes.
When the centre is finally complete, it will comprise of a library where books and artefacts on culture can be found.
There will also be movies on culture screened at the facility.
The centre will also be hired out to people who wish to do photo and video shoots for various occasions, said Mchizi, who is a performing artiste and is often hired to be the master of ceremonies on various functions.
Although 29-year-old Mchizi has a fair understanding of the Akamba culture, he largely relies on his parents for information on local traditions in addition to reading books.
He is also planning to document aspects of culture which may not have been recorded in books so far.
Mchizi also wants his cultural centre to be in charge of the late Masaku’s grave.
Machakos town is named after the Kamba legend.
"I have written to the African Inland Church, Mumbuni to allow me to preserve the grave of the late Masaku. I am waiting for their response," said Mchizi.
He added that with time, the cultural centre will also incorporate resource facilities for other Kenyan cultures for those interested to come and learn.
The Machakos County Ministry of Tourism and Culture visited the centre and is in the process of issuing it with the requisite licences.