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  • Writer's pictureStephen Osieyo


Another day, Another arrogance, another accusation, another charge sheet. I think the walk was deceptively coated with some other stuff. My friend Carolyn Rita Wamaitha of Bahati, Nairobi used to call luos “tedo-chiemo”. She claimed that everything a Luo does had a life and melody to it. Tedo chiemo is a complete sentence meaning ‘cooking food’. It all started from some TV commercials in the 1990s. On the TV commercial on a local cooking spice Roiko Mchuzi, the slogan ‘cooking food’ is recited several times in various languages including Dholuo and Agikuyu. The climax which was recited last is in a melodious dholuo, “tedo chieemoo”. Carolyn Rita Wamaitha insisted that everything Luo is done the way Luo women speak with rich melody. “Hata hizo mambo ingine ni pole na ujuzi kama teedo chieemo

Then before those with wild minds would let their own imagination run away with them Carolyn Rita Wamaitha of Baha would correct them and make them appear vulgar. “Even the way they sit the parents would scold them, “bed ka nyako,” Indeed screams like, “wuoth ka nyako, chiem ka nyako, nyier ka nyako, duok ka nyako” was a common diatribe when we were growing up. The moment she acquires woman hood it becomes something else. The advice turns to rebuke Obet achach ka akambraki. And true to date even Luo women themselves judge themselves with these etiquettes. They themselves might not practise them but they expect another woman marrying into their family to have the mannerisms. And true these mannerisms speak volumes about how cultured a Luo woman is.

I once wrote on my blog that feminism struggles lamentably in Luo Nyanza and probably the end of the world will come before the end of Luoness in Luo women. Look at how they have refused to lower their standards even at the expense of dying bachelorettes.

Up to today, you can tell an Ugali cooked and dished by a lakeside woman from a mile away. Even the serving of tea, no matter how hot, you would hardly see droplets on the table. And no matter how huge a piece of fish is on a dish, it is laid on the dish at such an angle where the finny tails sticks out longer than the fleshy part but at the same time the fleshy bit displaces the fish stew so that the person feasting will enjoy the soup at equal proportions that there is not too much fish consumed to make the remaining fish dry feed and not too much stew consumed to make one choke with the remaining un-souped fish; and neither soup too much is covered to cover the bony

You would think that all Luo girls serve fish after attending the subject of Queuing theory in those quantitative analysis unit.

It is understandable for cooking mechanics and methodology to have some tutorials and drilling but what about sitting, laughing, smiling, talking, walking and running. Why must there be tutorials. As Carolyn noted the indoctrination is done at home so that a Luo woman growing up cannot change her steps for example to accommodate cat walking even for the money dished for models because Europeans have a different rhythm and different pace. And these are not things you can just wish away. As much as African women appear slow, in sports they are faster and with the more weight they pick up speed.

BED KA NYAKO (sit like a woman)

I wrongly thought that this was just a case of modesty and decency because of the clothing but still it is frowned upon when a Luo woman sits with her legs crossed. I personally think that it is right and proper that modern Luos be allowed to cross their legs since there are no more traditional physiotherapists to set the hip bones right at infancy or post-natal care for the mothers. What is more the traditional dances that used to build and tone the hip area muscles like Ohangla in preparation for motherhood are no longer there. Added to generational physiological changes of the body the muscles can no longer set itself back due to poor elasticity of the hip muscles. In another three generations a Luo woman will not be able to contain herself like the traditional Luo woman

MIEL KA NYAKO (dance like a woman)

And some of these were pure scientific take for example dance like a woman and waist move moment. My mothers were very critical of a girl who dances while the waist is fixed on the upper body like a piece of wood. It would just invite the chastising and jeers from the women folks. Maybe now you understand why country music and western music failed miserably in Luo land.

But unbeknown to males like me such dances strengthen the muscles of the pelvis and prepared women not only for child bearing but they were also the reasons why they never had to sit with their legs crossed. My auntie Margarita Auma who shared so much with us like a grandmother said the resetting of the muscles after birth was quicker and effective as the elasticity restored the initial position. There are no studies to these but ZERO bed wetting in old age among the lakeside old women might not only be because of lack FGM but because of that “dance like a woman, sit like a woman thing” as Margarita asserted. Of course other factors to cure gas comes in like post adolescents Ohangla dances, hip resetting massage (ruayo) post-delivery but those primitive Luo women like Margarita mama point to posture training while growing up as the main reason.

Then there is the question of culture. At the 1987 All Africa Games meet in Nairobi I chanced to be where west African sprinters were residing. Chidi Imo was a sprinter form Ghana and Mary Onyali and Maria Usifo were stars from Nigeria. Yet when Chidi Imoh was calling for his bottle of water it’s the Nigerian sprint queens who reacted first and commanded the minders to go get water even though Chidi Imo is from Ghana!

One complaint from the western sports coaches was that the African woman was held back by cultural values, in dress, in prioritising family over sports, in myths about certain sports. It was almost as if the African woman has a load to bear. And true this has some hindrances. For example, the amount of swing time a Kenyan female runner takes when running takes away seconds and energy from their effort. Imagine the colossal amount of time and energy a Luo woman exert in body motion. On the other hand, there are the advantages they gain in right frame and body to endure as outlined above.

NYIER KA NYAKO (Laugh like a woman)

For a start Luos have many laughs. There is the giggle, smile, bwaso nyiero, goyo huan, nyiero ka buaja, tito nyiero, ngeko nyiero etc. And each laugh has a specific purpose and occasion. So even though a girl can be rebuked to laugh like a woman, the meaning here is appropriateness. And apart from the satisfaction there is a lot a woman gains from goyo huan, nyiero ka buaja. For example, Nyiero ka buaja is laughing elaborately even throwing her legs asunder in a girlie skip like Serena Williams while charging at Maria Sharapova. It had a place and a purpose and sometimes just was just an exhibition of here “I am, catch me if you can”. Now a girl would only do that maybe when fetching firewood or water hanging out with soulful buddies at the ear shot of young males. Any other place it would raw a reputation and rebuke.


So what is to the naked eye proud and naked walking is mostly not mere empty arrogance. It appears like that, but deep inside there is a series of mannerism and etiquette that form the whole sum. What we see as physical and mental routines have desired effects in the ethics and spiritual values of the women. Consider for a moment the role of thiwini on a baby girl’s waist to help in the lumping and accelerating the growth of the girl’s hip muscles as a first step towards this process physiological development that will eventually lead to walking tall with the swinging waist line.

It is the same with cultural indoctrination that almost borders on arrogance and pride. At the height of President Idi Amin’s rule, Amin made his move to seduce the Princes Bagaya of Toro who was a top model in her own right. President Amin appointed Princess Elizabeth Bagaya of Toro the Minister of Foreign Affairs ministry in order to have her ways with her, But Amin had grossly underrated the cultural indoctrination of the Luos. The president failed to realise that this was a top model and a princess who while back with her people goes to the market like a Luo village girl because cultural norms are almost religious. In other words, a woman who had been pumped with local pride that she does not see power and wealth. The same way that at the height of Kenyan kleptocracy, generally Luo women refused to compromise and marry just for opulence. The derision was various like “iii maka ite no nalo ng’uta ma deya!”. (money is not everything)

At the moment I had no idea or was refusing to be influenced until I read the article below that the Princess Bagaya people had just the same tutoring as Luos because they are one and the same people.

I will let you read the article for yourself but what is apparent is the walking style that is taught in fashion schools but comes out naturally is centuries old tutoring and has other benefits apart from just walking along the aisle.

One more time the Luo woman has been wrongly slighted, wrongly accused, and grossly maligned without an anthropologist trying to understand them.



PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni yesterday put the royal lineage of traditional leaders in Uganda at the forefront of his submissions to a debate on land in Munyonyo - concluding that Buganda, Bunyoro and Tooro kings are largely of Luo origin.

The President was speaking to some 600 delegates currently attending a conference on Land Conflicts and Mitigation measures in the country.

Mr Museveni talked predominantly about the current debate on land in the country that has sparked tribal emotion. At the conference, Mr Museveni chose to lecture delegates about the history of tribal settlements in East Africa, stating that the ancestry of the kings of Buganda, Bunyoro and Tooro is rooted in the Luo dynasty, before sounding a warning to those he said are inciting tribalism as the debate to amend the 1998 Land Act rages.

Mr Museveni said the Luo, who are largely settled in northern Uganda and western Kenya, governed the three kingdoms, leaving descendants behind, who today, are the current rulers.

"The kings of Bunyoro, Buganda and Tooro are Luos," said Mr Museveni.

"It's only in Ankole that we stopped the Luo expansion. How can you have a Bantu name like Oyo, like this young boy (the King of Tooro) and Olima the king of Bunyoro?"

In further drawing a link between the king of Buganda and the Luos, Mr Museveni cited a Luganda word "Wankaaki", which means main gate, one he claims originated from the Luo. In western Kenya-Dholuo, it is Wangaach or Rangach.

"If you ask any Muganda that what is Wankaaki, they will tell you 'Lubiri lwa kabaka (Kabaka's palace). But we have to excuse them because they don't know history. This is a Luo word," said the President.

Delving into his favourite subject of history, Mr Museveni said the three kingdoms were conquered and ruled by the Luo from 900 to 1500 AD. His historical opinion was corroborated by Makerere University political historian Mr Mwambutsya Ndebesa.

"About 600 years ago, the Jo-bito (Luo) attacked the Chwezi dynasty and formed the Babito dynasty whose descendants are Baganda and Banyoro," said Mr Ndebesa, adding that the founder of Buganda kingdom, Kato Kimera, was a descendant of King Rukidi Mpuga of Bunyoro. He said Tooro was formed in 1830 out of Bunyoro kingdom. Although history asserts that the Banyankole were part of Great Bunyoro Kitara just like Baganda and Batoro. When the Lwos came to rule over Bunyoro Kitara. They met these group of people who looked tall miserable and under fed. And when they were asked in Luo language “Nye meno wun anga ma ujony ma kum wun cilo kit menoni ?" They replied that "Wan guwa walubu ko le (an ki ko le ) meaning (We are following kole, I belong to kole) that is where Ankole, Banyankole word originated from.



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