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Kit Mikayi: Rock whose ‘tears’ made elders jump into action

Friday January 24 2020

Kit Mikayi

An aerial shot of Kit Mikayi shows the asymmetrical twin rock towers. PHOTO | ONDARI OGAGI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ONDARI OGEGA
By ONDARI OGEGA
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Located 28km north-west of Kisumu city lies the legendary rock formation, Kit Mikayi. Standing tall at roughly 120 metres, the rocks nearly-glide atop each other in a tough balancing act that would mesmerise the greatest of geologists.

GUIDED TOURS

The rocks making an asymmetrical twin tower, as each tower holds two rocks atop with a further outgrowth of the rocks, makes the place fascinating.

A good excursion site for lovers of outdoor activities such as rock climbing, the site has small caves, ‘movie-like’ underpasses and bats in their dozens with ear-piercing squeaks.

A tour of the precipice is therapeutic and can be a good spot to conquer phobias, including fear of dark spaces (nyctophobia), bats (chiroptophobia) and heights (acrophobia).

The myth of how the rock earned its name is enticing to the ears of folklore lovers.

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The story is told of how an old man named Jaduong’ (Mzee) Ngeso Kosanjo chanced on the stone formation in his quest to find a home for his Seme clan back in 1920s. A descendant of Ngeso Kosanjo, Oguyu Ngeso, who now offers guided tours of the site, delivers the story of how his great-grandfather, in search of a place to settle, stopped at the foot of the rock. Having fallen in love with the rock, he moved the clan (Seme) to settle a few metres nearby, a place he named Ng’op-Ngeso.

FIRST WIFE

With every sunrise, Kosanjo would pick his traditional stool and make a trip down to the rock that he had become attached to.

“All his meals would be served at the rock. Peers visiting and asking for him at the homestead would be referred to the rock, his all-time resting place,” says Ngeso, 72.

In an effort to name the rock formation, the elders settled on ‘Kit Mikayi’— loosely translated as ‘rock of the first wife’ — owing to how Kosanjo loved the rock the way a man loves his first wife.

During the guided tour, Ngeso said that since time immemorial, the vegetation and trees around the rock have served as a haven for traditional healers.

“Herbalists from all over East Africa troop to Kit Mikayi to harvest roots and leaves at the nature trail, so when you hear some of these herbalists shouting hoarse that they have come back from long trips in Nigeria or Congo forest many a times they only ended up here,” he says.

SACRIFICE

The rock also warned of impending drought. The mythical scenario named ‘Mikayi Ywak’ — the first wife is crying — would signal Seme elders to visit the rock to offer prayers and sacrifices to appease their God Obong’o Were Nyakalaga.

“In one such instance in 1958 when I was 11-years-old,” Ngeso says, “I witnessed a great gathering of the community to offer sacrifices at the foot of the rock.”

He adds: “We would till and prepare our land in January, ready for planting in February, ahead of the harvest season in May, but that particular year, we waited for the rains in vain, and with the ‘Mikayi Ywak’ we all gathered here.”

Ngeso says the clan would plant sorghum, millet, sesame (sim sim) and green grams.

Elders would gather at the foot of the rock with a white billy goat and four hens. They would then light a fire. The hens would be held by the legs and hit hard on the sides of the rock before being thrown into the fire as sacrifice.

CALAMITIES

The Kosanjo descendant says elders would look up to the skies and chant a prayer to God: “God we beseech you, our land Seme is filled with drought we have tilled our land, but can’t plant because we lack rains; it’s here that the elders of Seme gather during such calamities to pray to you to ask for you to bless our land. 

We’ve poured blood here asking for your blessings; all the elders of Seme are represented here Kalpier and Kagumba. The elders got here before sunrise O Lord, when the sun sets today, let the rains follow, with no thunderstorms, with no hailstorms,” Ngeso narrates the prayer with nostalgia.

The elders would then prepare to sacrifice the goat, a rite reserved for a native. Once slaughtered, the goat was served to elders.

PILGRIMS

“The first cut would be thrown in the fire before the elders dug in. People were then told to eat quickly before the rains fell,” Ngeso says. “And true to the locals’ beliefs, the rains would be here in not less than a day.”

The rock whose mini-caves are strewn with candle-wax dripping altars is now a shrine for religious groups and pilgrims including the Legio Maria, Luong Mogik (God’s Last Appeal) and Roho Israel. The groups visit from Thursday to Sunday, sometimes staying for weeks fasting and praying.

Ngeso says the rock also acted as hideout and a strategic point to make decisions during war.

“In the yesteryears Luo clans used to fight among themselves in an effort to extend their boundaries,” says Ngeso.

“Each clan had a Chief Warrior who led the warriors into war referred to as ‘Thuond Luo’”, he adds.

STRATEGISE

Mzee Ngeso narrates of how the neighbouring Kisumo clan led by their chief warrior Okore Kogonda in their overzealous nature at one time forcefully pushed Seme clan out of their land.

It is at such time that the warriors would gather at the rock to plan and strategise counter-attacks.

“We used to wage wars using spears and shields, most of which were stored in the rock cracks at Kit Mikayi,” says Ngeso.

He says traditional herbs called Bilo was also stored at the site and was used in rites where warriors would be sworn in an all-men affair with a promise remain steadfast in the battle ahead.

“We eventually advanced and managed to push back the Kisumo clan up to Holo market that still stands to date as the border between the Kisumo and Seme clan,” says Ngeso.

UNESCO

Newly married wives would also come to the rock and swear to remain ‘wives of the land’; they would perform rituals that included vigorously shaking their shoulders-an action referred to as Otenga — throwing an offering on the floor of the mini-caves and ululating to signal having left their land to become a woman of Seme land.

Other uses of the site include are cultural resource centre, camping and team building.

It's recent elevation in 2019 by Unesco to be a world cultural heritage site has given the spot an impetus with local and international tourist now trooping to the site in numbers.

MONUMENT

Kisumu County Government working with the National Museums and local community have recently been on an overdrive to market the site named as national monument.

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