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Agĩkũyũ-House Of Mumbi
Mwai Kibaki, October 2003.jpg Wangari Maathai potrait by Martin Rowe.jpg
Mwai Kibaki, Wangari Maathai
Total population
5,347,000 Kikuyu people in Kenya[1],
Regions with significant populations

Kikuyu, Swahili, English



Related ethnic groups

Swahili people, Akamba

 people  Agĩkũyũ
 language  Gĩkũyũ-House of Mumbi

The Kikuyu are Kenya's most populous ethnic group. 'Kikuyu' is the Swahilized form of the proper name and pronunciation of Gĩkũyũ although they refer to themselves as the Agĩkũyũ people. There are about 5,347,000 Kikuyu people in Kenya (1994 I. Larsen BTL)[1], equal to about 22% of Kenya's total population[2]. They cultivate the fertile central highlands and are also the most economically active ethnic group in Kenya.



The ancestors of the Kikuyu can be said with some certainty to have come from the north, from the region of the Nyambene Hills to the northeast of Mount Kenya (Kirinyaga), which was the original if not exclusive homeland of all of central Kenya’s Bantu-speaking peoples, viz. the Meru, Embu, Chuka, Kamba and possibly Mbeere. The people are believed to have arrived in the hills as early as the 1200s.From where they came, though, is a matter subject to a lot of controversy (ie. speculation based on few facts): one theory argues that they came from Axum (Ethiopia) migrating when the Aksumite Empire or Axumite Empire fell another the mythical ‘Shungwaya’, presumably in Somalia, from which the nine tribes of the coastal Mijikenda also say they came. The other main theory posits that they came from the west, having split from the proto-Bantu of central Africa.

Whatever their early origins, it is generally accepted that starting from around the 1500s, the ancestors of the Kikuyu, Meru (including the Igembe and Tigania), Kamba, Embu and Chuka, began moving south into the richer foothills of Mount Kenya. By the early 1600s, they were concentrated at Ithanga, 80 km southeast of the mountain’s peaks at the confluence of the Thika and Sagana rivers.As Ithanga’s population increased, oral traditions of all the tribes agree that the people began to fan out in different directions, eventually becoming the separate and independent tribes that exist today. The theory that the Chuka, Embu, Mbeere, Gicugu and Ndia ‘broke away’ from the main Kikuyu group before arriving at Ithanga is plausible, but is contradicted by the oral traditions of various tribes, many of which include Ithanga in their histories.The Kikuyu themselves moved west to a place near present-day Murang’a, from where the Kikuyu creation myth picks up the story.

Ethnologists believe the Kikuyu came to Kenya from Central Africa together with the other Bantu groups. On reaching present Tanzania, they moved east past Mount Kilimanjaro and into Kenya, finally settling around Mount Kenya, while the rest of the group continued migrating to Southern Africa. They, unlike the Nilotic tribes who were pastoralists, were farmers and began farming the very fertile volcanic land around Mt. Kenya and the Kenyan highlands.However, Kikuyu legends have it that in the beginning, a man called Gikuyu and his wife called Mireia (Mumbi) were placed on Mũkũrwe wa Nyagathanga in present day Murang'a District by God, Mwene Nyaga or Ngai. It was said that they were placed near the Mugumo or Fig tree upon the slopes of the mountain. They gave birth to Nine daughters named,Wanjiku, Wanjirũ, Wangeci, Wambũi, Wangari, Wacera Waithera, Wairimũ and Wangũi. It so happened that when they were grown up, they met nine young men from a distant land, ostensibly Axum, who married the girls and from whom the Kikuyu nation arose. A popular myth claims that when Kikuyu's daughters came of marrying age, Kikuyu prayed to Mwene Nyaga to provide husbands for their daughters whom he duly provided by a fig tree.


Time The Agĩkũyũ had four seasons and two harvests in one year. These were divided as follows 1. Mbura ya njahĩ -The Season of Big Rain] from March to July, 2. Magetha ma njahĩ -The season of the big harvest] between July and Early October. 3. Mbura ya Mwere -Short rain season from October to January. 4. Magetha ma Mwere -the season of harvesting millet.

Kikuyu Expansion

The Kikuyu have always been happy to adapt, in terms of territorial expansion, were by far the most successful of the groups that had originally migrated south from the Nyambene Hills, relying on a combination of land purchases, blood-brotherhood (partnerships), intermarriage with other people, and their adoption and absorption. Only occasionally did warfare figure in this expansion, such as in the early 1800s when a combined Kikuyu, Maasai and Athi force defeated (annihilated?) the hunter-gathering Gumba (or Agumba), a people which one Kikuyu legend refers to as pygmies.The original inhabitants of Kikuyu-land, it is said, were the Thagicu, who practised iron-working, herded cattle and sheep and goats, and hunted. The similarity in name between Thagicu and Gikuyu would suggest that they were in fact the Kikuyu’s earliest known ancestors, if not their primary lineage. They may indeed have been the ‘tenth’ of the ‘fully nine’ clans, though admittedly that that is merely speculation. Sources differ on the ethnic identity of the Thagicu – some say they were Bantu-speaking, others that they came from Cushitic peoples.

As the land was fertile and ideally suited to agriculture, the population increased rapidly, causing further waves of migration which lasted until the eighteenth century: west into the Aberdares (Nyandarua Mountains), south to the present site of Nairobi, and north to the Nyeri plains and the Laikipia Plateau, where the Kikuyu came into contact with the cattle-herding Maasai (who were evicted from the area by the British early in the twentieth century). Unusually in contacts with the Maasai, the Kikuyu were neither conquered nor assimilated by them, but instead engaged in trade (as well as sporadic cattle raiding), which led to a deep and long-lasting social interaction which especially affected the Kikuyu. During the Maasai civil wars at the end of the nineteenth century, hundreds of Maasai refugees were taken in and adopted by the Kikuyu, particularly those in Kiambu.In consequence, Nilotic social traits such as circumcision clitoridectomy and the age-set system, were adopted; the taboo against eating fish was also accepted; and people intermarried, so much so that more than half of the Kikuyu of some districts are believed to have Maasai blood in their veins (including Jomo Kenyatta himself, whose paternal grandmother was Maasai). From other peoples came loanwords for ceremonial dances, plants and animals, and the concept of irrigation as an agricultural technique.

Although the Kikuyu were a formidable fighting force, the agricultural nature of their lives meant that violence was generally only used for defence, for they lacked the mobility of pastoralists such as the Maasai and Samburu, who lived to the north and west.Geographically, the Kikuyu were relatively well protected, with the Ngong Hills so the south, the Nyandarua Mountains to the west, and Mount Kenya to the northeast. To the east, also, were the related Meru, Embu and Kamba people, with whom relations were generally friendly, replying as they did on their trade with the Kikuyu. Defence was thus a primary concern only in the west, where the Kikuyu were wary of settling or venturing out onto open plains for fear of the Maasai, who were interested in controlling the widest possible areas for their herds.Greater defence was necessary only close to the Maasai border, with the result that villages there were in effect forts and were built for maximum protection. Generally, only those family groups (mbari) with “many warrior sons” or which had attracted a clientele of fighting followers could muster the defence necessary to settle these new areas. These villages were also well concealed: Europeans found they could be walking only metres from a settlement without knowing of its existence.



Kikuyu political organisation grew rapidly in the 1920s as a response to social problems, land loss and colonial pressures. In the early forefront against colonial suppression were Mr. Eliud Mathu and Mr. Harry Thuku in 1919. One moderately radical group, the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA), was established in the 1920s under the leadership of young, mission-educated members including Jomo Kenyatta. Frustrations, anti-colonialism and internal divisions contributed to the Mau Mau uprising after World War II, fought amongst the Kikuyu central highlands from roughly 1952-1958. This divisive, dirty and violent war which involved bombing the Mau Mau enclaves was fought mainly by guerillas in central Kenyan forests, including Dedan Kimathi among its leaders. Following massive detentions by the British and huge numbers of Kikuyu deaths - mostly from British soldiers and their African loyalist homeguards - the Mau Mau was a major contributor to moves for Kenyan independence. By the end of the rebellion, the British had taken the lives of over 11,000 rebels and detained around 100,000 people under force - in contrast with 200 Europeans and 2,000 Britain-loyal Africans lost lives. Many of the Kikuyu leaders including Jomo Kenyatta, Bildad Kaggia, Kung'u Karumba were imprisoned for lengthy period by the colonialists. Other prominent non-Kikuyu personalities who ere imprisoned include Ochieng Oneko (Luo) and Paul Ngei (Kamba) The Mau Mau war is considered to be the first great African liberation movement and probably the most grave crisis of Britain's African colonies.[3]


Mwai Kibaki is a Kikuyu.

Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president, was a Kikuyu. Kenya's third and current president, Mwai Kibaki is also a Kikuyu. Kibaki won the 2002 elections in a landslide against Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the first president, despite outgoing president Daniel arap Moi's support for Kenyatta. Wangari Maathai, Africa's first female Nobel Peace Prize winner, is a Kikuyu, as is the famous Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong'o, who now writes exclusively in Kikuyu and Swahili. Famous Kikuyu sports personalities include: Julius Kariuki, the 3,000m steeplechase 1988 olympic champion; John Ngugi, 5,000m 1988 Olympic champion; Douglas Wakiihuri, a Nagoya and London Marathon Champion; Catherine Ndereba, the Boston and Chicago marathon champion and Charles Kamathi, the 2001 world champion at 10,000m. Samuel Kamau Wanjiru Kenyan long distance runner who won the 2008 Beijing Olympic men's Marathon in an Olympic record time of 2:06:32 is also a Kikuyu.

Due to their high population demographic as well as historical and economic reasons, the Kikuyu have continued to play vital roles in independent Kenya's political and economic development.


Kikuyu speak Kikuyu, a Bantu language, as their native tongue. Additionally, many speak Swahili and English as well, the national and official languages of Kenya respectively. The Kikuyu are closely related to the Embu, Mbeere, Kamba and Meru people who also live around Mt. Kenya. The Kikuyu from the greater Kiambu (commonly referred to as the Kabete) and Nyeri districts are closely related to the Maasai due to intermarriage prior to colonization, The Kikuyu between Thika and Mbeere are closely related to Kamba people, who speak a language almost the same as Kikuyu, being geographical neighbours. Hence the sub-tribes that retain much of the original Kikuyu heritage reside around Kirinyaga and Murang'a regions of Kenya. The Kikuyu from Murang'a district are considered to be more pure, believed to be the cradle of the Kikuyu people.


Most Kikuyu are Christians, and it is difficult to come across one who professes to be anything else.Yet there are other signs, too, that the old ways have not been completely forgotten. The institution of elder hood may at first sight appear to be defunct, but here too, the Kikuyu have adapted and adopted to the new ways rather than simply discarding the old: it has been estimated that 90% of the Catholic priests in the Nairobi diocese have also been elected as ‘elders’.

Ngai-The Creator

Traditionally, as now, the Kikuyu were monotheists, believing in a unique and omnipotent God whom they called Ngai (also spelled Mogai or Mungai). The word, if not the notion, came from the Maasai word Enkai, and was borrowed by both the Kikuyu and Kamba. God is also known as Mungu, Murungu, or Mulungu (a variant of a word meaning God which is found as far south as the Zambezi of Zambia), and is sometimes given the title Mwathani or Mwathi (the greatest ruler), which comes from the word gwatha, meaning to rule or reign with authority.

Mount Kenya and Religion

Ngai is the creator and giver of all things, ‘the Divider of the Universe and Lord of Nature’. He(God) created the human community,He also created the first Kikuyu communities, and provided them with all the resources necessary for life: land, rain, plants and animals.He – for Ngai is male – cannot be seen, but is manifest in the sun, moon, stars, comets and meteors, thunder and lighting, rain, in rainbows and in the great fig trees (mugumo) that served as places of worship and sacrifice, and which marked the spot at Mukurue wa Gathanga where Gikuyu and Mumbi – the ancestors of the Kikuyu in the oral legend – first settled.

Yet Ngai was not the distant God (as know in the West). He had human characteristics, and although some say that He lives in the sky or in the clouds, kikuyu also said that he come to earth from time to time to inspect it, bestow blessings and mete out punishment(similar to God's visit of Abraham before destroying Sodom). When he come he rested on Mount Kenya and four other sacred mountains. Thunder was interpreted to be the movement of God, and lightning was God’s weapon by means of which he cleared the way when moving from one sacred place to another.Other people believed that Ngai’s abode was on Mount Kenya, or else ‘beyond’ its peaks. Ngai,one legend, made the mountain his resting place while on an inspection tour of earth. In the account GOD then took the first man, Gikuyu, to the top to point out the beauty of the land he was giving him.

Social structure

According to folklore, the Kikuyu tribe was ruled based on a matriarchal system. During the rule of Wangũ wa Makeeri, a leader who was said to be so fierce she held meetings seated on the backs of men, the men decided to revolt and take over leadership. (Although modern Kikuyu often assume that Wangu was a mythical character, she was in fact one of the first "chiefs" installed by the British at the end of the 19th Century in Murang'a District as a result of her liaison with a more well-known "chief" Karuri wa Gakure.)[4] One version of the story says that the revolution took place when Kikuyu men organized to have all the women dance naked in a Kĩbaata dance. The women refused and the Kikuyu men took the rule to themselves. In another version, the men conspired to make all the women pregnant at the same time. This made them vulnerable and unable to carry out leadership duties. The men then took over leadership- and never let go.

Traditional Political Organisation of the Kikuyu People

The political organisation of the Kikuyu people was closely interwoven with the family and the riika. A young man after initiation through circumcision automatically entered into the National council of junior warriors(njama ya anake a mumo). After 82 moons or 12 rain seasons after the circumcision ceremony the junior warrior was promoted to the Council of senior warriors (Njama ya ita). Together these two councils would be called upon to protect the tribe in case of external aggression. The council of senior warriors was in addition an important decision making organ. The two councils were served by men of 20 – 40 years. Upon marriage a man was initiated into a council called kiama kĩa kamatimo. This was the first grade eldership and it denoted elders who were also warriors. At this stage the man plays the role of observers of senior elders. They are required to assist in proceedings by carrying out menial tasks like skinning animals, being messengers, carrying ceremonial articles or light fires among other tasks.

When a man had a son or a daughter old enough to be circumcised, he was elevated into another council called the council of peace (kiama kĩa mataathi). On entering this council the man was now a man of peace and no longer of the warrior class. He assumed the duty of peace-maker in the community. When a man had had practically all his children circumcised, and his wife (or wives) had passed child-bearing age he reached the last and most honoured status. A council known as kiama kĩa maturanguru (religious and sacrificial council). After paying an ewe which was slaughtered and offered in sacrifice to Ngai (God) the man was invested with powers to lead a sacrificial ceremony at the sacred tree (Mũgumũ mũtĩ wa Igongona). The elders of this grade assumed the role of ‘holy men’. They were high priests. All religious and ethical ceremonies were in their hands. In the Agĩkũyũ society the religious, governance and law functions were closely intertwined. With various councils being called upon to perform one of these functions. It is not quite clear whether women also had councils and what functions these councils served. The initiation ceremony seems to have been organized by a council of both men and women.

Parallel to the said councils the family unit formed a council known as ndundu ya mũcie of which the father was the head. The father as the head of the household then represented the family in the next council called kĩama kĩa itũra (village council) comprising all the family heads in the village. This was headed by the senior elder. A wider council called kĩama kĩa rũgongo (district council) was formed comprising all the elders from the district. This was presided over by a committee (kĩama kĩa ndundu), composed of all the senior elders in the district. Among the senior elders, the most advanced in age was elected as the head and judge (mũthamaki or mũciiri) of the ndundu. The district councils then came together to form the national council. Among the judges, one was elected to head the meetings.

Family Life

The Kikuyu man is referred to as a mũthuuri (meaning someone who can choose or discern evil from good) and the Kikuyu woman is called a mũtumia (meaning someone who retains family secrets and practices). Traditionally, Kikuyu society is polygamous so that means any man could have as many wives as he could afford.

The family lived in a homestead with several huts for different family members. These huts were constructed so that during the cold season the interior would be very warm while in hot season the hut would be cool. The husband’s hut was called ‘thingira’, and that was where the husband would call his children in for instruction on family norms and traditions and he would also call his wives for serious family discussions. Each wife had her own hut where she and her children slept. After boys were circumcised (at puberty) they moved out of their mother’s hut into the young men’s hut.

The husband would invite his age-mates of his riika (age group) to a horn (rũhĩa) of traditional beer (njoohi) called mũratina; an alcoholic drink made from sugar cane and the mũratina fruit.

The Kikuyu had a systematic method of family planning. A father would only have another child with his wife, after her youngest child was at an age where the mother could send them to look after the family’s herd of goats, a practice called (gũthiĩ rũũru). Rũũru is a collection of goats and sheep or commonly referred as herding.

Traditionally the first born boy would be named after his father's father and the second boy, his mothers father. This is the same with girls, first girl would be named after her father's mother and the second girl, her mother's mother. This was because they believed the spirit of the deceased grandparent would carry on to the child, this was no longer as life spans became longer and the grandparent is now usually alive when the grandchild is born.


Colonization eroded many traditional practices and values, although the language has survived and continues to evolve. Many Kikuyu have moved from their traditional homeland to the cities and around the world to look for opportunities. They have also moved to other parts of the country and the world due to intermarriage, business opportunities, study, and generally seeking better prospects in life. Those living in rural areas tend to continue to practice farming.[citation needed]

In the Kikuyu land there is a very diverse history of how people lived. One is the form of entertainment in those days. The Kikuyu young women and men could travel to isolated areas for dance and feasting. Discipline however was observed and no man was supposed to touch a lady sexually. The young men only enjoyed the dance and they had the chance to mingle with the beautiful young ladies who would eventually become their suitors. Many of the songs they used to dance to are being revived in modern bars and clubs.[citation needed]

The common dances were Nguchu, Nduumo, Mũgoiyo, Gĩchukia and ndachi ya irua (circumcisional dance). The grandmothers had a critical role of checking if any man unwound the inner garment of the young ladies. This garment was called mũthuru. The grandmothers (macũcũ), tied it safely to protect any promiscuity in young women. Women who engaged in sex before marriage, affairs, or got pregnant could only be married as a second wife and were commonly referred to as ‘Gĩchokio’. Therefore the Kikuyu customs valued the chastity of unmarried women and protected young women against abuse. It also ensured some form of entertainment was prepared and young people carried forward the practices from generation to generation.


A religious Kikuyu prophet called Cege wa Kîbirũ or Mugo wa Kĩbirũ prophesied about the coming of the Europeans long before they arrived at the Coast. It was said that there would come people from a different land, having the colour of kiũũra kya marigũ-ini "frog of the banana plantation". This depicts something close to the native white color. He also predicted the arrival of aeroplanes, "like butterflies in the sky".

Two of the other memorable men in the Kikuyu history were Wang’ombe wa Ihũũra and Wamũgumo. Wang’ombe wa Ihũũra killed a man-eating leopard with his bare hands. Wamũgumo could sink 3/4 of a traditional hunting spear to the bare earth. He was a giant sized man whose size and eating habits were legendary. Waiyaki wa Hinga was another Kikuyu paramount chief, who was credited as among the first to resist the entrechment of the White settlers in the Kikuyu land. When confronting one white settler in the settler's tent, Waiyaki's sword got caught in the tent's roof as he raised it to strike. He was quickly overpowered, severely beaten, and buried alive in Kismayu.

List of prominent Kikuyu people

Politicians & Freedom Fighters

  • Jomo Kenyatta, 1st President (founding father of Kenya)
  • Mwai Kibaki, 3rd President of Kenya
  • Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Former Minister of Trade, Former Official Leader of Opposition
  • Wangari Maathai, Nobel Laureate, first African woman, and the first environmentalist, to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. First woman in Kenya to earn a Ph.D
  • Kenneth Matiba, Former MP, Leader of Official Opposition, youngest Permanent Secretary to serve in Kenya, Chairman Alliance Hotels and Hillcrest Schools
  • Dedan Kimathi, Field Marshall
  • Julius Gikonyo Kiano, former Minister for Commerce and Industry, former Minister for Water Development, Kenya; first Kenyan hold a Doctorate degree
  • Mbiyu Koinange, former Minister of State in the Office of the President, Jomo Kenyatta's closest confidante and brother-in-law of Jomo Kenyatta, first Kenyan holder of a Masters degree (U.S)
  • Josephat Karanja, Former Vice President
  • Josiah Mwangi Kariuki (J.M. Kariuki), Former Member of Parliament Nyandarua
  • Waruhiu Itote aka General China
  • Charles Rubia, Former Member of Parliament and Political Activist
  • Harry Thuku, Freedom Fighter and Independence Hero
  • Peter Kenneth, Member of Parliament, Former Assistant Minister Finance, Former Chairman of Kenya Football Federation, Assistant Minister Ministry of Planning and Development
  • Amos Kimunya, Minister of trade, Former Finance Minister and Chairman of Muthaiga Country Club
  • Mutahi Kagwe, Former Minister for Information and Communications
  • Martha Karua, Former Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs
  • John Njoroge Michuki, Minister of Environment and Mineral Resources, Former acting Minister of Finance, Former Minister of Roads, Former Internal Security Minister and owner of Windsor Golf & Country Club
  • Koigi wa Wamwere, Author and politician
  • Gakaara Wa Wanjaũ, Mau Mau Freedom fighter and author
  • Charles Mugane Njonjo, Former Attorney General and Minister for Constitutional Affairs


  • Lucy Kibaki, First Lady
  • Samuel Wanjiru, 2008 Beijing Olympic Marathon Champion, 2009 London Marathon Champion, 2009 Rotterdam Half Marathon Champion, 2009 New York Marathon Chapion
  • Douglas Wakiihuri, 1987 World Athletic Championships Marathon Champion, 1988 Olympic Marathon silver medalist , 1990 London Marathon Champion, 1990 New York Marathon Champion
  • Henry Wanyoike, Paralympics Gold medalalist over 5,000 meters, Holder of various marathon and half marathon records
  • Ngugi wa Thiongo, literary scholar
  • John Ngugi, World Cross Country Champion four consecutive titles between 1986 and 1989 and five titles overall. 1988 Olympic Champion 5000 metres
  • Catherine Ndereba, Four time Boston Marathon Champion, silver medalist in the Olympics in 2004 and 2008. Marathon World Record Holder 2008
  • Tom Morello, Grammy Award winning guitarist of kikuyu descent through his father, well known for his tenure with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave; ranked #26 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time."
  • James Macharia, Athlete
  • Meja Mwangi, Author
  • Chris Murungaru, Politician, Former Security Minister
  • Eric Wainana, musician
  • David Mathenge, musician known as "Nameless"
  • Mustafa Olpak, Turkish writer and activist of Kikuyu descent
  • Martin Tony Waikwa Olsson, Swedish footballer of kikuyu descent who plays for Blackburn Rovers
  • Marcus Olsson, Swedish footballer of Kikuyu descent who plays for Halmstads BK in Allsvenskan
  • Joseph Kamaru, Musician
  • Ngina Kenyatta (Mama Ngina), Former First Lady, Uhuru Kenyatta's Mother, Jomo Kenyatta's widow

Selected Literature

  • Elkins, Caroline, 2005. "Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya." (Henry Holt and Company, LLC)
  • Kenyatta, Mzee Jomo, 1938. Facing Mount Kenya
  • Wanjau, Gakaara Wa, 1988. "Mau Mau Author in Detention." Translanted by Paul Ngigi Njoroge. (Heinemann Kenya Limited)
  • Lonsdale, John, and Berman, Bruce. 1992. Unhappy Valley: conflict in Kenya and Africa. (J Currey Press)
  • Lonsdale, John, and Atieno Odhiambo, E.S. (eds.) 2003. Mau Mau and Nationhood: arms, authority and narration. (J. Currey Press)
  • Lambert, H.E. 1956. Kikuyu Social and Political Institutions. (Oxford U Press)
  • Muriuki, Godfrey 1974. History of the Kikuyu 1500 - 1900. (Oxford U Press)
  • Godfrey Mwakikagile, Kenya: Identity of A Nation, New Africa Press, Pretoria, South Africa, 2008; Godfrey Mwakikagile, Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria, Nova Science Publishers, Inc., Huntington, New York, 2001.


  1. ^ a b Accessed 2007/07/09
  2. ^ CIA Factbook [1] retrieved on October 16, 2007
  3. ^ Robbins, Richard H. (2008). 'Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism (4th Ed.). Pearson Education, Inc. P. 315.
  4. ^ Godfrey Muriuki, A History of the Kikuyu, 1500-1900, Oxford University Press 1974

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Wikipedia has an article on:


A Kikuyu woman.

Proper noun


  1. a Bantu people of Kenya.
  2. the language of this people.

External links

Simple English

Kikuyu is the largest tribe in Kenya. They are 22% of Kenya's population and are of Bantu ethnicity.



There are two theories explaining where the Kikuyu came from. First, it is believed the Kikuyus came from Central Africa, where all the Bantus once lived. They then moved south towards present day Tanzania where the migrating group separated again and the Kikuyus moved towards Mount Kenya, where they settled. The second theory is that they came from a mythical place called Shungwaya, which is present day Somalia.

According to Kikuyu creation stories, Ngai (their God) made a man, called Gikuyu, and his wife, Mumbi, and settled them on Mount Kenya. Gikuyu and Mumbi had nine daughters who form the major groups of the Kikuyu people. Due to the fertile soil on Mount Kenya and the hard work of the Kikuyu people, they grew more than they needed and started trading with their neighbours, the Maasai (a Nilotic tribe). The Kikuyus swapped their farm produce and crops for the animal products from the Maasai, who kept livestock. It is also believed that the Maasai are the ones who married the nine daughters of Gikuyu and Mumbi.

Kikuyu language

Members of the Kikuyu tribe speak the Kikuyu language. The Kikuyu greeting is "Atherere,wae mwegha?" which means "Hello, are you okay?". The Kikuyu language is similar to other languages like Meru, Mbeere, and Embu which are believed to have been once part of the Kikuyu tribe but moved away and formed their own tribes. Even though tribalism is dying down, the Kikuyu language is still spoken a lot today as a sense of cultural pride.

Famous Kikuyu people

Famous people from this tribe include: Jomo Kenyatta (the first president of Kenya), Mwai Kibaki (the current president) and Wangari Maathai (the first African female Nobel Peace Prize winner.)

The proper kikuyu spelling of the greetings should be: 'Atiriri wi Mwega, meaning are you fine. The other forms of greeting include 'Wakia Maitu' greeing elderly female, "Wakia Awa" greeting eldery male, "Wanyua" for agemates

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