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LUHYA CULTURE

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Land was owned by clans rather than individuals

In the olden days land in Luhyaland belonged to the clan. Each family belonging to the clan had its own plots as its share of this land. A person could give a plot of land to a member of another clan to cultivate for a time, but the plot could not be bought and it always remained the property of the family in particular and the clan in general. In a similar way, the tribe to which the clan belonged defended the clan’s right over its land.

At times when it was necessary to cultivate in one small place, to keep wild animals out, every member of a village or olukongo temporarily got a little share of the area and they all cultivated their little temporary plots without consideration of to which clan the land belonged. When the season was over, the land reverted to the rightful owners.

When a man died, his land was handed down either to his eldest son or divided between all the sons, according to custom. Usually, however, a man, while he was still alive, gave plots to each of his married sons. The remaining plots would then go to the unmarried sons.
locust
Locusts and white ants were a favourite food especially among the youth. Below: A man with two quails (tsisindu) which traditionally were trapped by men.
quails

Farming Today
Great changes have taken place. Instead of the little hoe, it is now possible to use a plough or a tractor. Large areas can be cultivated, and many people now realize that it is easier to farm a large continuous stretch of land than to cultivate isolated plots as in the old days. New crops have been introduced into Luhyaland; for instance, maize, groundnuts, cotton, sugarcane, cassava, and coffee. These are grown for cash.
Traditional Food

The Luhya grew the following crops: sorghum, finger millet, simsim, a variety of nuts, especially tsimbande, a variety of peas, especially tsing’oli, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, bananas, and in the Mt. Elgon area, yams. From their domestic animals they got meat and milk and, of course, butter and ghee. They also got meat from the wild animals they killed. They ate termites, locusts, wild birds, fish, fruits and wild vegetables.

Spices: In the old days salt was made by burning grass taken from a swamp. The ashes were passed through water. The resulting liquid (omuselekha) was boiled into a hard cake which was wrapped in dry banana leaves for storing or export.


banana
Going bananas: Every Luhya homestead has some banana (amakomia) trees usually behind the kitchen.
Luhya farming
Beasts of burden: Using oxen for tilling the land is a popular farming method in parts of Luhya land. However once the animals are slaughtered either at the end of their economic use or sacrificial offerings, the different part of the ox are, as a rule, distributed to various people under strict customary rules (see table on the right).

How inedible parts of an ox are used

The horns covered with lids made from cow hide are used as containers for snuff or various kinds of medicines. The tail skin is stretched over the wooden handles of knives, the busy end of the tail serves as a flywhisk and its single hairs as nooses for quail traps. The sinews are used as guitar strings and for sewing up hides. The bones are thrown away except ribs which are used for a variety of purposes notably as paddles for stirring vegetables and as scrapers for separating fibre from pulp. The hoofs are not put to any special use. However if a small boy urinates while asleep so that it exposes him to ridicule from his age mates, he urinates into the hoof of a cow, which he then secretly places on a path so that it will be concealed from sight by tufts of grass. If somebody should stumble upon the hoof with his foot, he will thenceforth suffer from the condition and the boy himself will be relieved of it.


What do you know about hoofs and the boy who urinates while sleeping? Answer in text above.
Rules of meat distribution

The distribution of various parts of a slaughtered ox among different kinds of relatives and other categories of people in Luhya land is governed by certain customary rules. Although there is a considerable leeway especially with regard to major edible parts depending on which occasion the beast has been killed, generally speaking the various parts are distributed to the following people:

Part of slaughtered ox Who gets it
Head (omurwe) Paternal auntie, young mother or paternal uncle (in case of cow of splitting), circumciser ( cow of luvuga), bride’s or groom’s father (cow of nang’eso)
Front leg (esilenje esiambeli) Eldest wife or eldest son
Hind leg (esilenje esieyinyuma) Eldest brother (cow of splitting), eldest wife or eldest son
Shoulder (libeka) Second wife
Buttock (amatakho) Yong wife or young son
Back (omukongo) Divided up among different wives
Tail (omusira) Herd boys
Skin or hide (likhoba) Eldest brother
Udder (esibele) Sister’s son
Testicles (amaneke) Husband, sons
Heart (omwoyo) Grandson
Liver Wives
Kidney Sister or daughter
Spleen Herd boy or one who shuts the gate of cattle kraal
Lungs Grandson or old women
Big stomach (inda ingali) Butcher
Small stomach (inda itititi) Joking friend (who takes it by force)
Entrails (amala) Diviner
Ribs (tsimbafu) Eldest brother
Diaphragm Sister’s son
Aitchbone Herd boys
Oesophagus One half goes to skinner the other half the owner
Tongue (olulimi) Owner
Chest (esilifu) Sister’s son, mother’s brother
Clod Sister’s son
Round Young wife or young son
Trachea Skinner or herd boy

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