Ciokaraine: The Story of the Female Meru Diviner

By National Museums of Kenya

Ciokaraine: The Brave Meru Diviner
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Ciokaraine: The Brave Meru Diviner
Ciokaraine M’Barungu was a prominent female diviner, leader and human rights activist.

Ciokaraine: The Brave Meru Diviner
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Ciokaraine was born in 1909 in Gauki, Igembe Location of Meru County. She and her siblings were orphans and were raised by their grandfather, Kiabira wa Mwichuria, a prominent “mugo” or medicine man.

Ciokaraine: The Brave Meru Diviner
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Ciokaraine was her grandfather’s favourite grandchild and often followed him everywhere he went, on his duties treating people, most of whom were children. From a tender age, she was exposed to many forms of illnesses and treatment methods.

Ciokaraine: The Brave Meru Diviner
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At the age of the 15 Ciokaraine was given a new name – Kanyiri - by her age mates after an initiation ceremony held at Gakuo. Kanyiri meant one who stood out from the rest.

Ciokaraine: The Brave Meru Diviner
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This name was chosen because Ciokaraine had shown great leadership qualities and her age mates often involved her in mediating their conflicts because she was fair and just.

Ciokaraine: The Brave Meru Diviner
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During the resistance to colonial rule, the Mau Mau were accused of killing a man called Kibuti, who was a member of the Meru Council of Elders (Njuri Ncheke). The colonial administration took advantage of this incident to relocate the people of Gauki to a place called Kiegoi. The colonialists calculated that this would make sure that the people of Gauki could not provide food to the Mau Mau.

Ciokaraine: The Brave Meru Diviner
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When the senior chief of Igembe, M’Mruaa, himself a member of the Njuri Ncheke seemed to be in agreement with the colonial government's position, Ciokaraine stood up to him and rallied the people against him during a public meeting.

Ciokaraine rallied her people as well as the people of Ithima and Akachiu to gather near what is today Maua trading centre. They protested while carrying sacks and baskets and resisted the colonial government’s instructions to uproot their yams, bananas and all food from their farms. Ciokaraine was fearless and her people followed her.

Ciokaraine: The Brave Meru Diviner
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When the Njuri Ncheke eventually summoned Ciokaraine to explain why she had defied the orders of the colonial government and the male leaders in her community, her response stopped them dead in their tracks.

She asked why her people were being asked to destroy their crops which would cause famine. She also told them that it was the responsibility of the Njuri Ncheke and the colonial government to guard the people and to stop the killings.

Ciokaraine’s was unshakeable in her resolve. And she even said that she was ready to sacrifice her own son. Her bravery changed the colonial government’s action and the people were not forcefully relocated.

Ciokaraine: The Brave Meru Diviner
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A few weeks after the meeting with the Njuri Ncheke elders, the senior chief recommended that Ciokaraine be appointed to the position of assistant chief.

She was appointed in April 1954 and served in this role until 1959 when she retired after being involved in a car accident while on official duty.

Ciokaraine: The Brave (Meru community) (2019) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya

Ciokaraine: The Brave Meru Diviner
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Ciokaraine remained active in her community even after this and is regarded as highly as Cierume of the Mbeere and Wangu wa Makeri of the Gikuyu.

Cierume: The Dancing Warrior (Mbeere community) (2019) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya

Ciokaraine’s legacy lives on:
An important traditional function of the Njuri Ncheke, is overseeing, setting and enforcing rules and controlling the use and conservation of natural resources. The Njuri Ncheke regulations helped to conserve open grasslands, salt-licks, forests and Sacred Sites.

Ciokaraine: The Brave (Meru community) (2019) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya

Credits: Story

Credits: Story
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


Concept Developer:
Shujaa Stories Ltd


Creative Direction:
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


Other Contributors
Nature Kenya- The East Africa Natural History Society (EANHS)
Spellcast Media


Date Created:
2019/2020


Location Created:
Kenya

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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