Sakawa: The Foreteller (Kisii community) (2019) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya
Sakawa: The Story of The Kisii Foreteller
Sakawa was born around 1840 at Kitutu Chache. He was one of the most prominent seers of the Abagusii people and was said to have supernatural powers.
One of the most famous demonstrations of his supernatural powers was when he helped the Abagusii to defeat well-trained and experienced Kipsingis warriors who had raided them to restock their livestock.
As the raiders marched to Kisii from Sotik, Sakawa is alleged to have sent vultures that flew over the intruders making some of them uneasy and want to call off the raid. The Kipsigis advanced, all the same and stole a lot of livestock from the Abagusii who were unprepared.
Unknown to them, Sakawa had sent his spies ahead. When the Kipsingis raiders reached Manga escarpment with the stolen livestock, they became the victims of a surprise attack and were defeated.
This victory made the Abagusii so bold that they immortalized the heroes who had carried out the attack at Manga. The victory also earned Sakawa, already the best of Gusiiland’s prophets, a permanent place in the people’s hearts.
Sakawa prophesied that red people with cooking sticks would descend on Kisii and disarm the warriors. He also predicted where a police station, hospital and other buildings would be built referring to them as ‘madengere’, the Abagusii word for white mushrooms. He also added that these mushrooms would benefit only those who bore sons.
The mushrooms are also interpreted as the coming of the white man who would benefit male children through preference for Western education.. Sakawa also warned the Abagusii against resisting the white man because of the damage he was capable of. Counsel that seems to have been ignored in the early 1900s.
The prophecies came true when the Europeans started disarming Abagusii warriors from 1905 and during the second world war between 1939 and 1945 .The other prophecy also came to pass as shown by the recruitment of twelve sons of chiefs who were exposed to formal education by the missionaries and were among the first to benefit from the white man’s civilization.
Sakawa’s final moments are full of mystery. According to some he predicted his own death, died at home and was buried with his belongings. Some say that after his death, a funeral ceremony was held to honour him but his body disappeared the following day, and all that remained were his stool and the cow skin that had been used to wrap up his body. However, perhaps ,more true is that he did, indeed, die at home and was buried in Gesoni where a tree marks the site of his grave, to this day.
Sakawa's lives on
Legend says that Sakawa sent vultures to frighten the enemies. In the past, vultures were seen as scary – feeding on those who die in battle. Cartoonists still draw vultures as the “bad guys”.
Today, however, we know that vultures have a really important role in nature. Vultures eat up dead animals and stop the spread of disease. Vultures are useful, important – and in danger. Vultures get killed when they hit power lines, or when herders poison carcasses to kill lions. We need to change our attitude towards vultures and help them to survive.
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 30 selected ethnic groups/communities by Museum’s research team.
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 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
Nature Kenya - Other Contributors
The East Africa Natural History Society (EANHS)
Daisy Okoti - Shujaa Stories Ltd
Shani Mutarura - Shujaa Stories Ltd
Jeff Muchina- Shujaa Stories Ltd
Brian Kiraga - Shujaa Stories Ltd
Masidza Sande Galavu - Shujaa Stories Ltd
Martha Shavuya Galavu - Shujaa Stories Ltd
Eddy Ochieng - National Museums of Kenya
Linda Tambo - Shujaa Stories Ltd
Juelz Laval - Shujaa Stories Ltd