Whenever you mention Giriama, I see the intricate footwork in their dance, the gyrating on the supple waists of beautiful and shapely women, the percussion and the musical lilts of the Kayamba. Giriama people of Coastal Kenya are fun, polite and deeply rooted in their cultures.
The Giriama people of Kenya are a culturally rich and diverse community with a long history of traditions, art, and customs. Their unique way of life is characterised by their language, traditional dwellings, music, initiation rites, religious beliefs, and strong ties to family and community. Through festivals and oral traditions, the Giriama people continue to pass down their heritage to future generations, ensuring the preservation of their cultural legacy for years to come.
Below are 6 amazing facts about this tribe, and the best part is that Come Travel Kenya has a plan of getting to the Coast and immersing you in the juices of these facts.
They are the largest tribe of the 9 Mijikenda tribes.
Mijikenda directly translates to nine towns. This means that in Coastal Kenya we have 9 Swahili tribes that coexist. These tribes include The Giriama, Kauma, Chonyi, Duruma Kambe, Ribe, Jibana, Rabai and Digo.
I will be looking at each tribe individually, filling you in with both mystic and mind-blowing facts about each of them. Now we look at the Giriama.
Of the nine tribes, Giriama has the largest population and is the most popular. They have the richest cultures and are spread across Lamu, Malindi and some parts of Tanzania.
The Practice of Spiritualism to date
Giriama still believes in ancestors and spirit forests. UNESCO recognises their spirit forests as a part of the cultures that should be reserved. In the dense forest, they bury their dead and erect wooden carvings that are well decorated, where the spirit of the dead resides.
The carvings are called Vigango. They are so well decorated that sometimes people buy them for good luck. Until recently, there was a demand that the Vigango that were stolen during the colonial period and had been kept in Museums in London should be returned. You should hear the tale of the Vigango yourself as you down cold palm beer. Come Travel Kenya can plan this for you.
They Own the Makayas
Makayas are shelters built and protected by UNESCO in the dense coastal forests. They are spiritual sites. Rituals to counter calamity, appoint tribal leaders, and give thanks to ancestral deities happen here. The Makaya are home of the Koma – Ancestral Deities.
Every week, Giriama elders visit the Makaya to offer sacrifices. They slaughter an animal and offer palm wine. Only special people go to the site. Do you think you can stand the mystic creepiness of Makaya in the forest? Come Travel Kenya is willing to give you that experience.
Their Music and Dance is one of the Best in Coastal Kenya
The Giriama are famously known for their music and dance. the women dance so well, in their colourful wrappers. The music is calm and well-arranged. The men play instruments and compose songs. They have dances for every occasion including funerals, wedding ceremonies and initiation celebrations.
Come Travel Kenya is always in contact with the Giriama and will organize a Kaya experience with various Giriama families.
Mekatilili Wa Menza is from Giriama
The first female revolutionist against the colonial era, Mekatilili Wa Menza is from Giriama. She was the only daughter in a family of five boys. She staged a rebellion against the colonialists in the early 18th Century, suffered imprisonment and mysteriously escaped from prisons with the aid of rituals.
She was fighting against cultural erosion and forced labour. Come Travel Kenya is offering you a chance to interact with the descendants of one of the fiercest women worriers that are fondly remembered to date.
Did you know Giriamas make their stew from whales – commonly known as Papa? I was equally mesmerized. The Giriama Fishermen reek of courage. They have a fishing ritual that will blow your mind. There are tales from the ocean that will leave you doubting the science that you know about.
A steaming bowl of peppered whale soup and Sima awaits.
And if you think the Giriama tribe is all Come Travel Kenya got to offer, wait until you listen to the Chiring’ong’o music swimming off the Chonyi tribe Xylophone. Karibu Kenya.