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"Mulembe" country

The general greeting in Luhyaland is ‘Mulembe’, which means ‘peace’. This is usually followed by the inquiry, ‘What’s news?‘ - ‘akasungwa’ or ‘akaboolwa’.
           
Shaking hands: In the olden days shaking hands was done over and over again, like the Bagandado, holding palms and thumbs in alternation for as long as a minute. This type of greeting was usually between friends or relatives who met after parting for a long period of time.
           
Women's greetings: As well as verbal, elders were greeted by saying the words of greeting while raising both palms respectfully towards the forehead, then up and down several times. Women usually greeted while kneeling and half-sitting on their heels; never when standing up.
           
Sometimes special greetings were used for different parts of the day. For instance, in the morning they said, ‘Bushiere’. Sometimes they might say: Okonee bulayi? (Did you sleep well?)
           
During the day they said, ‘Akeshiteere?’ or ‘Obola orie?’ In the evening it was: ‘Bwakheera’ or ‘Bwirire’. The answer to all these was ‘Bulayi’ or ‘Muno’.
Younger people always greeted older ones first. Such greetings were for people who often saw one another.

greetings
It was customary for women and children to greet elders and visitors while kneeling.

Food etiquette: Food was served according to age with the elders given their share first. Also, they washed their hands first. Men ate with men only, including boys of any age while women ate with other    women, and young children of both sexes. More>>>

Sitting rules: No girls or women sat on men’s stools. No boys or men of any age sat on their father’s or uncle’s special stool. More>>>

Affinal relatives: In some places one was not to meet his mother-in-law; and, of course, he could never eat with her. More>>>

Rules of good behaviour

Within the family, everyone had a right to a share of the food and to a place to sleep. Those who were well off had a duty to help those who could not help themselves with these necessities of life, in the larger family.
           
The boys slept in a special hut called isimba. Isimba is still used by young men although nowadays boys can sleep in their parents’ house. The younger girls and boys slept in their mother’s hut while older girls slept in an old woman’s hut called eshibinzie where they learnt folk tales and other stories of wisdom.

Behaviour towards strangers: Strangers, unless they came from an enemy tribe, got food and and shelter. It was a sign of ill breeding to refuse a stranger food. Meals were eaten where everybody present could join in; and everyone was to join in without waiting to be asked to do so. In return, every stranger was expected to behave well in the home by observing accepted standards of good behaviour. More>>>

Neighbours can just drop in and eat your food

Hospitality of an informal nature used to be very common among neighbours. Majority of young and middle aged people shared three or four out of every five evening meals with outsiders, usually close neighbours, who directly return the hospitality received, so that a man who ate first at his neighbour’s house half an hour later shared the food that his wife had cooked with the same neighbour whose guest he had been just a few moments ago. Sometimes, a group of men from neighbouring houses would ask their respective wives to bring dinner to one place where they regularly sat and exchange stories and gossip. Similarly co-wives or women neighbours informally dropped in at each other’s houses to ‘borrow salt’ (a metaphoric expression denoting neighbourliness) and take the opportunity to exchange notes on what they are cooking. If they happened to be preparing different dishes, they may invite one another or at least take away a portion of it (okhusuma) to supplement their own.

Obusuma nende ingokho
Informal hospitality is still common in Luhya land where it is not considered rude to drop in and partake of the dinner of your neighbours without need for securing invitation first. Moreover it is considered rude to stand by while others are eating so serial visitors would exploit this custom by pretending to sample the meal only to feast on large chunks of the host's dinner.
Mean people were derided by the public

Children too often ate at the homesteads of their playmates or at those of paternal and maternal uncles. The principle of reciprocity applies in this hospitality arrangement. Willingness to share food with friends and neighbours was looked upon as one of the cardinal social virtues. Anyone who was deemed stingy with food, was generally disliked by neighbours, and in extreme cases would be made the butt of public derision by omuni (the person chosen by circumcision initiates to deride all the people in the village who are selfish). Conversely a guest who imposes on hospitality of other people without reciprocating it (omususumi) is just as much disliked, though only a hard boiled omususumi would be flatly refused food by his hosts. This informal hospitality among neighbours used to so widespread and had the effect of adding variety to daily fare.


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