Last weekend we visited a Nairobi tourist highlight: The Bomas of Kenya. “Boma” is a Kiswahili word that means “an enclosed homestead.” At The Bomas of Kenya, there are models of traditional homes and homesteads for many of Kenya’s 42 ethnic groups. Basically, we saw a lot of dung huts.
Our taxi driver, James, came to check out the Bomas with us. James is a proud member of the Luo ethnic group, and when we arrived at the Luo homestead, he gave us the details about traditional Luo homes and villages.
According to James, historically, in most ethnic groups in Kenya, men had multiple wives. Maybe three, maybe ten or eleven. He said this plural marriage set-up was designed to prevent men from having extra-marital affairs.
Each wife got her own hut. The first wife had the biggest hut. The most stubborn wife had the hut that was farthest away from the other wives.
For the Luo’s, the huts were made with dung walls and thatched roofs. Every December, each woman was responsible for repairing her hut and re-dunging (is that a word?) the outside. According to James, everyone in the village could tell which women were the hardest working based on how nice their huts looked after December. James said that the hardest working wives were rewarded with more attention and resources from their husbands.
At this point, my husband said, “Aren’t you glad you don’t have to cover our house with poo? You’re way too lazy for that!”
Luckily, James interrupted and showed us the grain storage system that the Luo used. Each wife had her own raised storage bin to hold her supply of grain, and she kept her chickens underneath the bin so that they would eat any bugs that might try to get in the grain.
Finally, James pointed out the tree in the middle of the homestead. He said that a family planted a tree when they built their homestead on a piece of ground. The tree marked the length of time that the family had been in that place. Families even referenced the tree during land disputes.
Overall, it was an awesome and informative day at the Bomas of Kenya, and I’m very grateful to James for his insight.