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  • Writer's pictureStephen Osieyo


Updated: Jul 9, 2020


It's was the beginning of the term and the beginning of the year, some time ago. To be honest quite a while ago because I was in standard 5 in Ukwala Primary School and Ukwala by then was the district headquarters for the whole of Siaya.

The then Resident Magistrate's daughters were also joining class 1. For some reasons the two daughters were all enrolled in class 1 at the same time even though one was older than the other. This was common and not unusual

This was an age where people were proud of their names. So the first thing teachers would ask was your name and you will recite the names with pride as an affirmation that "I am somebody".

What is your name? Then you will recite "my name is Stephen Odhiambo" etc For the Magistrates daughters this was not how they were taught to spell their name. Magistrate Mark Othieno's children had been drilled by a person in the house hold to recite the names elaborately the traditional Luo way completely in disregard of western "civilization". On reflection this was about the time President Mobutu was also Africanizing names leading to a diplomatic confrontation with the Vatican where the Cardinal Malula had to flee to Rome. And Magistrate Mark Othieno was about President Mobutu Sese Seko generation. So I should not have been surprised at the revolutionary air sweeping across Africa.

So the parents just had Jean Othieno and Gladys Othieno but then decided to Africanize the names of these two girls. And in their household somebody just decided to throw a mischief at St Mary's Ukwala Primary School teachers the way Mobutu a Catholic born and bred mission boy poked his fingers at the mission’s eye. Or maybe it was the legendary Ugenya Kager arrogance. Or maybe it was just a case of notoriety is mistaken for fame.

Within the first day of school word had spread around that there are two little 5 and 7 years olds strutting their stuff without a care in the world with flamboyant names. By the end of the week, the two little twinkling starlets were more famous in the school compound than the netball queens. Why so?

When asked their names they would both sequentially recite their names in a rehearsed sweet Luo vowel heavy intonation that sounded more like two little swallows or pigeons. You know the way Luo ladies can turn the vocal charms on you.

Question: Nyingi ng'a? (What is your name?)

1st girl: Nyinga en Jean Knight Othieno, nyako- ok- om- okombe- I-od- maro- gi -okinyi

2nd girl: Nyinga en Gladys Knight Othieno dhako- turkana- tur - gi- chuore.

Now these are basically official names followed by nick names but in Dholuo sometimes they are replaced with phrases as nicknames which you never use in official documents any way. Something like President Joeph Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga.

On the face of it the direct translations of such nicknames are innocent and factual. But the problem is that they mostly had hidden double vulgar translations even if the moral meaning could be very philosophical (like Mobutu names). Now for you to reach the philosophical or moral story behind the nickname you must first cross the vulgar meaning.

For the strait-laced teachers of those days this was a real nightmare. They would never want their wives to be imagined as anybody but a respectable and honorable “madam" and not those Luo girls referenced in those names. The trap was if they protest the names then it means they themselves are teachers with a 'reputation' for how could they know such vulgar meaning. In that case their wives should therefore not earn the title of madam. And for the madam teachers themselves such imagery about them was just inconceivable because teaching in those days was a very noble profession and calling if anything. So Ukwala lower primary teachers were in a catch 22. They could not even report to the headmaster. It's a bit like the elephant in the room.

For about two weeks the Ukwala lower primary teachers did not know what to do about this notorious young-lings.

But who coached them? Or is this arrogance a DNA of Ugenya Kager ________________________

At Ukwala Magistrates Court.

In the afternoon much later as the daily primary school lessons used to end the day at about 4 pm on the way home we would pass by the Ukwala town center for no apparent reason. You know boys just being boys. And also during my time girls were really marginalized. The house chores was piled on them so much that they did not even have time for homework. Meanwhile we boys had even time to hear irrelevant court proceedings from the court room window. Not that we made sense. But just the face of serious judges and witnesses looking like cornered rats appeared interesting.

So this one day there was this case that had been going on. On reflection I think it was just a minor family vendetta that accompanies rural life. Nothing serious. If you ask me, now I would say it was a waste of the courts time and public funds.

As the charges were being dismissed Magistrate Othieno asked the complainant "In gi yuak moro?" (Do you have any further complaints?)

The complainant: Yes I do

Magistrate: Go on

Complainant: Nene-oyanya. (The accused insulted me)

Magistrate: Nene oyanyi ni ang'o? (How did he insult you?)

Complainant: Nene-oyanya ni,"pier-mer top I loo". (The accused insulted me that my mother is dead)

Magistrate: To mama ni ngima? (Is your mother alive?)

Complainant: Dawe, mama na nene ose tho kapok olag. Nene otho gi okola. (No, my mother passed on a 'virgin')

Magistrate: To mano ok oyanyi. Pier mama ni nyaka bed ni ose top I loo. Mano owacho adier. (That is not an insult. That is a fact).

Bakers house.

The great North American saying, "not everything that comes from a baker’s house is bread". Sometimes, the baker’s children also come out of the baker’s house.

Not every baby that comes from a shepherd's house is lamb. _________________


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