Gasara Winn: The Protector of The Boni Forest
Gasara Winn was a legendary hunter among the Aweer. But who are the Aweer? The Aweer are indigenous forest dwellers who inhabit the Boni National Reserve situated in Garissa County in the North-Eastern region of Kenya.
The forest is an indigenous open canopy and part of the Northern Zanzibar-Inhambane coastal forest mosaic. It harbours densities of plant species that are among the highest in the world and it has been declared a biodiversity hotspot. The Boni forest is also renowned for its large herds of elephants.
The legendary Gasara Winn was born into the Weritama clan of the Aweer. He grew into a brilliant young boy. Through apprenticeship he learnt hunting skills at an early age and would roam the forest without fear. Through his adventurers, he learned about the forest’s rich biodiversity. While still a young boy he befriended the mythical Mirsi bird, a honey guide which led him to the best hives. The Mirsi he befriended also acted as his protector, warning Gasara of any danger as he explored the forest.
According to legend, Gasara was a protector and the first conservationist of the Boni forest. He lived deep in the forest, caring for it and its wildlife. It is said that Gasara only hunted to cull extra animals and weed out extra plants to maintain ecological balance. When he became an adult, Gasara was a hunter and great lover of meat. He once used poisoned arrows to kill a raging bull elephant that had become a nuisance to his people and ate it all by himself.
Today, the Aweer are faced with dilemmas of modernity, dwindling wildlife resources and invasion of ‘foreign cultural practices!’ They long for the time of Gasara Winn who protected their forest.
Background information about the Aweer
The Boni National Reserve is situated in Garissa County in the North-Eastern region of Kenya.
The Boni Forest is named after the reserve and is an indigenous open canopy forest and part of the Northern Zanzibar-Inhambane coastal forest mosaic. It contains plant species densities which are among the highest in the world, the forest has been declared a biodiversity hotspot and is renowned for its large herds of elephants.
About the Anweer
Traditionally the Aweer do not have a paramount leader, decisions are made by consensus. The division of labour among the Aweer is based on traditional gender roles and are very distinct and rarely overlap. The roles are based on daily survival needs, encouraging the most efficient utilization of available skills and resources between the genders.
The Aweer diet traditionally consisted of up to 70% plant-based foods, including bush berries, nuts, tubers and melons gathered primarily by women. The remaining 30% was meat, hunted by the men, using poisoned arrows and spears. In the present day, however, the Aweer practice shifting cultivation.
The most important ingredient in the Aweer's diet is honey, which is tracked down with the help of Mirsi bird, commonly described as honey guides. The birds feed on wax and bee larvae. The Aweer and the Mirsi bird have developed a symbiotic relationship over time. Mirsi birds lead hunters to trees concealing hives and alert them by making a specific call. In return the hunter opens the hive allowing the bird to eat.
Gasara Winn: Protector of The Boni Forest (Boni community) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya
Research field work was undertaken in Samburu and Marsabit (for Gabbra, Samburu, Rendille, Saakuye, Dasanach, Elmolo, Waayu a.k.a Waata, and Burji superheroes/heroines), Embu and Tharaka (for Aembu, Tharaka, Ameru and Mbeere superheroes/heroines), Mombasa ( for Boni, Swahili, Pokomo, Segeju and Bajuni superheroes/heroines)and Taita-Taveta/Voi (for Taveta superheroes/heroines) capturing all information about the heroes from the 40 selected ethnic groups/communities by Museum’s research team. The illustrations were done using digital media by Shujaa Stories Limited.
National Museums of Kenya - Contributors
Mzalendo Kibunjia (PhD) - Director General
Purity Kiura (PhD) - Director Antiquities, Sites & Monuments
Julias Juma Ogega - Senior Curator/Research Scientist
Njuguna Gichere - Research Scientist
Lydia Gatundu - Art of Curator
Emmanuel Kariuki - Exhibit Designer
Philemon Nyamanga - Curator/Research Scientist
Mercy Gakii - Curator/Research Scientist
Imelda Muoti - Curator/Archivist
Innocent Nyaga - Marketing Officer
Suzanne Wanjaria - Exhibits Designer
Ray Balongo Khaemba - Senior Collection Manager
Raphael Igombo - Education Officer
Eddy Ochieng – Photographer/Videographer
Shujaa Stories Ltd
Tatu Creatives Ltd
Shujaa Stories Ltd
Shujaa Stories Ltd – Contributors
Masidza Sande Galavu - Illustrator
Jeff Muchina- Editing
Martha Shavuya Galavu - Illustrator
Brian Kiraga – Research and Writing
Daisy Okoti - Editing
Shani Mutarura - Editing
Juelz Laval – Photography/Videographer
Linda Tambo - Photography
Nature Kenya- The East Africa Natural History Society (EANHS)