Syokimau: The Oracle (Kamba community) (2019) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya
Syokimau The Great Seer of the Kamba
Among many Kenyan ethnic groups, possession of supernatural powers was greatly revered. And in her time Syokimau of the Akamba was the most powerful sorcerer.
Syokimau was born in the 1800s and raised in Iveti Hills, near what is now Machakos. Besides being a prophetess, she was a great medicine woman. Her people held her in high regard. It is claimed that she could predict attacks by other communities such as the Maasai and the Gikuyu, giving Kamba warriors time to prepare to defend themselves.
Syokimau recognised as one of the greatest Kamba prophetess who ever lived. By the mid 1800s was already prophesying the changes that were coming to the region. Long before other prophets in the region did the same. In particular, she saw the coming of the white man and the building of the railway with unmatched accuracy.
In her prophecy she saw a long snake spitting fire and smoke as it moved from waters to other waters. From it came out the people, their skin like white meat and speech were nonsensical like the chirping of the birds. They carried fire everywhere they went in their pockets.
She also foretold the coming of a generation that would behave in strange ways. This generation would talk like weaver birds claim to be wiser and break traditions. They would do things that were considered taboo and surprisingly, even build houses on top of one another.
In the late 19th century, her prophecies began to manifest. Everything from the railway to the violence of colonialism, skyscrapers and industrialisation came to pass.
The circumstances surrounding Syokimau death remain a mystery. Her people claimed that she died and resurrected twice before dying for good the third time.
It is later said that Syonguu wa Kathukya, another prophetess from Athi River was so amazed at her prophecy that she named the place that is now called Syokimau after her. Today there stands a statue of Syokimau at the new Syokimau Railway station to celebrate this great Kamba sorcerer and medicine woman.
Syokimau's legacy lives on
Syokimau predicted the railway and skyscrapers – did she imagine that a railway station near the skyscrapers would be named after her? Syokimau railway station is also near Nairobi National Park, the crown jewel of Nairobi. Can we imagine that lions, giraffes, ostriches and eagles can be seen living wild within the city limits? Nairobi National Park is a heritage that we need to guard and protect.
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)