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  • Writer's pictureStephen Osieyo


Updated: Sep 20, 2020

  • · That Luo women have always been liberated until Europe and Asia violated Africa.

  • · That equality and feminism was irrelevant in Luo way of life.

  • · That Luo wives were the allottees’ of land property.

  • · That Luo women were the custodians of the executive arms of Luo family.

  • · That contrary to common fallacy, it’s the Luo women who were in charge of equitable distribution of resources and only delegated the tasks to handy men.

I lived in the Los Angeles County, California USA immediately after the civil rights movements of the 1960s that brought to diaspora negritude and African consciousness that we so much take for granted these days. Accompanying this consciousness was a source of pride to African American to be identified with Africa. Even some advertisements and commercials covertly addressed African identity in Swahili (Watu wazuri use Afro sheen). There were even songs sung in other African languages like Swahili and Zulu.

Running parallel to this new negritude awareness  was the North American women’s liberation movement which received a cold support from the ordinary African American women population on the premise that African women have always been liberated until it was taken away by North American women during slavery. I found myself being taught such basic things like  the role of African dances like Ohangla, Nyatiti, and dodo in the living healthy in pre and post natal care; discovering about mannerisms that I had taken for granted that even the loud unabashed Luo (African) laugh was a healthy lifestyle that had its place in maintaining properly racing heart and hence the regular after supper story telling with anecdotes.

Most of all I was challenged to explain why in my tribe (Luo), women are preserved certain parts of a slaughtered animal. In the process of this discovery the needs of lactating mothers became very conspicuous in traditional apportioning of certain parts as the preserve for women only dish. Unlike present popular belief, such internal equitable distribution of resources was the prerogative of Luo women whether in allocating land, rota for the harem or simply initiation order. This is self-evident in other communities with similar historical male habits and past times like the Nordic Vikings.

Separate but equal to the man

Interestingly the ancient Luo land tenure falls in line with the cluster system of the smallest cell of a Luo clan which is named after a woman (Kanyamwa, Ka Agola, Ka Akoth, Ka Aor). In any Luo clan the smallest cell is always named after a woman. It reads like an identity card and still is religiously followed as due diligence to flush out intermarriage and incest (Nondi en mane?).

Spiritually a Luo man is not only buried where the placenta was buried but next to the mothers hut. And no burial takes place until the mother’s people over see. And just before I forget unlike western identity a Luo woman never adopted the husband’s name (nyar Boro, Nyar Kanyamua etc). Does that not resemble pseudo- matrilineal custom in some aspects of a Luo family-life?

In conclusion, I did stomach the African American assertion at Pomona City Civic hall in Feb 1976 that an African woman was always liberated until foreign customs took over. Needless to repeat that a Luo woman was always separate but equal to the barbarian Luo man.


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