Otenyo Nyamantere: The Brave (Kisii community) (2019) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya
Otenyo Nyamanetere: The Story of The Brave Kisii Hero
Otenyo Nyamantere was an Abagusii warrior who led the resistance against the British invasion of Kisii. He was adopted and brought up by his aunt, Moraa Ng’iti, also lauded by the Abagusii.
In 1905, the King’s African Rifles that came to crush the Abagusii rebellion, killed many of the Abagusii, burned homesteads, seized livestock and destroyed crops at will. They also shot and killed women and children who showed any resistance.
The names of Milton and Northcote are retained as those of two, ruthless British administrators who were responsible for the atrocities, which Otenyo deplored. Encouraged by Moraa Ngi’ti, his aunt and guardian, Otenyo assembled the finest Abagusii warriors and took on the British.
Armed with only poisoned arrows and spears, he and his warriors laid an ambush for the British who had seized another herd of livestock and were driving them away. It so happened that Northcote was leading the British expedition.
During the attack, in present day Manga in the Kitutu region, Otenyo speared Northcote on the right shoulder before Northcote could draw his gun in defence. Otenyo left him for dead. Despite their inferior weapons, the Abagusii warriors had secured a notable victory.
The Abagusii celebrated Otenyo through song and dance. He had become a superhero to them for having killed the white colonial administrator who had tormented them in the past. The Abagusii warriors meanwhile were so motivated by Otenyo’s bravery that they started carrying out frequent, reckless, raids.
Unknown to them, Northcote, whom the Abagusii called Nyarigoti, had not only survived being speared by Otenyo but had sent a message to Kisumu for reinforcements. These arrived in Kisii three days later and showed even more brutality on the Abagusii than before.
More people were shot and killed to draw Otenyo from hiding so that he could be captured. In the end the colonial government put pressure on Moraa Ng’iti to hand over her nephew in exchange for putting an end to the bloodshed. The Abagusii elders also agreed to such an arrangement and Otenyo was made into a sacrificial lamb..
Otenyo was executed by firing squad, beheaded and hung from a bridge as a warning to the rest against rebellion. His head was transported to London as proof that he was dead and put into a British museum. Otenyo’s legend, like that of any martyr, has grown larger with succeeding generations.
Otenyo’s legend lives on
Brave warriors of the past defended their land against the invaders.
Today, we need to protect our lands against other forces: logging, charcoal making, soil erosion, drought and flood. If we don’t stop these threats they will control us. Where forests have been cleared, soil is washed away. Where wetlands have been drained, floods fill our homesteads. Let’s protect our forests, wetlands, hilltops and riverbanks!
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)