Cierume: The Dancing Warrior (Mbeere community) (2019) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya
Cierume: The Story of The Dancing Mbeere Warrior
Cierume was brought into the world sometime in the 19th century. Her name can be said to have originated from the term “urume”, which means fierceness or courage. This girl truly lived up to her name.
As time went by the girl Cierume grew into a woman, and so did her character and the people were quick to take notice.
One day, there was trouble in Mbeere land. A band of Kamba tribesmen, under the leadership of their fearsome and ruthless leader attacked the land, plundering and killing, driving terror into the hearts of the Mbeere and Aembu.
Even the Aembu men were helpless and defeated. There was hopelessness in the land. The brazen Cierume decided to join the Mbeere and Aembu men in fighting against the intruders. She was indeed brave and deserving of her name.
If a woman fighting alongside her tribesmen doesn’t surprise you, perhaps her choice of weapon will. While the men ran into battle wielding machetes, swords and spears, Cierume charged in with her stick. A dancing stick that she and other women used in their traditional dances.
It is not known for sure whether it is the sight of a woman charging into battle or the fact that this woman was carrying a stick that surprised the Kamba warriors confusing them into defeat. Left and right, the Kamba tribesmen were felled by Cierume’s stick.
Even the fearsome Kamba warrior leader was no match. He was defeated shamelessly. He should have known better than to fight (or dance?) with a stick-wielding woman and lose. That is how Cierume got her first battle shield, a prize from the victory against the Kamba.
News of her deeds were soon on everyone’s lips in Mbeere. It is said that in Mbeere and Embu, no woman could be compared to Cierume. Even among the Kamba, Kikuyu and the Meru, only two women could compare to her. Ciokaraine daughter of Barungu from Meru and a Gikuyu woman named Wangu wa Makeri.
Shortly afterwards, Cierume was appointed to a leadership position. Being the only woman leader in the council of the Mbeere, created jealousy amongst some men who felt she had no right to lead them.
Some men even went as far as speaking ill of her, spreading rumours and questioning her ability to lead, claiming that traditions did not allow women to hold such positions.
At one point, a man insulted her but Cierume did not say a word back at him. She instead stood up to him and beat him mercilessly in front of his peers and was only saved from her anger by his fellow men.
Her fame continued to grow so much that she was appointed chief of the Mbeere and Aembu people during the colonial era.
She fought fearlessly for her people’s rights from the British colonialists. So fearless was she it is said that she angrily called the European District Commissioner names when she was complaining about forced slavery on her people.
In the end, Cierume lost her chieftainship as a result of a conspiracy by the jealous men. In spite of this, her legacy lives on and her name continues to inspire Mbeere and Aembu women to show determination in everything they do.
Cierume’s legacy lives on:
Cierume’s home area is on the eastern slopes of Mount Kenya. The mountain is a Key Biodiversity Area, World Heritage Site, National Park and Forest Reserve. Huge trees grow in the forests on the eastern slopes. They help to catch, store and release rainwater.
Mount Kenya is the tallest water tower in Kenya; it supports the economy through power generation and food crop irrigation. We need to conserve the Mount Kenya forests so they continue to bring us water.
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)