Home » Luhya Culture » Meaning of omwami kafwile engwe yasalile, a Bukusu saying
poster with image of sun with ring around it titled omwami kafwile engwe yasalile

Meaning of omwami kafwile engwe yasalile, a Bukusu saying

Omwami kafwile engwe yasalile is a Bukusu saying in which Mbukusu mourns the death of an important person in society- omwami. In this article, we learn the meaning of this saying as we appreciate the richness of Luhya culture.

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Meaning of omwami kafwile engwe yasalile

The king/big man/ respected person is dead the leopard has given birth.

Omwami is a popular Luhya word that’s crossed over to be part of everyday vocabulary of your average Kenyan. In everyday speak, omwami in Luhya culture is a vocabulary that is used refer to respected persons and that which relates to their elevated status.

For a full appreciation of the varied meanings of this word that’s common across the 18 houses of mulembe, see our article: Meaning of omwami in Luhya: Revealing 9 different interpretations, some you know most you don’t, from the respect due to a king to expressions of humble gratitude.

Engwe, or more commonly ingwe, refers to the leopard. The leopard is an important totem of the Luhya people. In the Bukusu saying, omwami kafwile engwe yasalile, the death of an important person is said to be marked by the gods by occasioning a leopard in the wild to give birth.

So how do Luhya people know that these parallel events of nature have occurred concurrently? Well, the answer lies in the sun. When these two events happen, the sun shines with a halo around it. As we came to appreciate in our take on weather in Bukusu, when this fairly rare weather event occurs, the Bukusu call the sun engwe yasalile.

enyanga, the sun in Bukusu, eli nende ering - has a ring around it.
Enyanga, the sun, eli nende ering.

When this weather event coincides with the death of an important person, it completes the saying. So you might wonder whether such occurrences are a matter of folklore. Well, as recently as mid April of 2020, the stars aligned to give us this rare occurrence. Following the tragic death of Omwami omunying’inyi omwekesia Prof. Ken Walibora, engwe yasalile. The image above was taken somewhere in Nairobi a few days before his burial.

See also:

  • Enje chelechenje, a Bukusu phrase. Learn the meaning of this phrase and how it related to the Bukusu saying “omwami kafwile engwe yasalile”.

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