Home » Luhya Culture » Maragoli Culture » Thou shall not till! Why in Maragoli culture there was no shamba work following death in the family
an ai generated painting showing communal work in the shamba

Thou shall not till! Why in Maragoli culture there was no shamba work following death in the family

If you have grown up among the Maragoli, in the ways of the spirit of mulembe, you are likely to have experienced this – you had some productive work planned for the day, week and then somebody dies and every plan is put on hold. Join us on a culture quest as we dig in to find out why in Maragoli culture there was no shamba work following death in the family

Having not so much land to tend for, and therefore always a single failed crop from hunger biting home, it is quite strange if for one reason or another a descendant of Mulogoli fails to till their land when it was/is time to. But as it is in modern times when we observe bank holidays or even cancel sporting events when an important person like the Queen dies, in Maragoli culture you need not be important for your people to honor you when you die.

A death (or in ancient times) serious illness in one’s extended family, or a death in the village in which one resides results in a work stopping. By work, I refer to any type of serious work such as: tilling the land, construction of a home or even digging up a well or pit latrine. In particular, doing any work that involves digging is a taboo when a relative has died. Engaging in such work would result in a very strong olovo (curse) being inflicted upon the living with still more illness or even death. Furthermore, the land dug during this period would not produce.

How Long Was/Does The Work Stop?

The work stops usually for as long as needed to allow for the deceased to be buried. In Kimaragoli they use the phrase “Mkuzi ave ho” (There’s a deceased person) when talking of this time. In more modern times when burial plans may take longer because of one reason or the other, the week in which work is stopped was the the burial one. During the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions when burials took place hours after the body was brought home, the stoppage of work was only for the day of the burial or in the rare cases where there was an overnight vigil, on the day of the vigil and on the day of the burial. In earlier times, it was for the customary three days including the third day after death when one was buried.

A Period To Lend A Helping Hand

In the case of serious illness or death, depending upon the closeness of the familial ties, women gather food, firewood, water and other resources and transportation money to travel to the oluyia of the afflicted family. This also occurs when an individual dies within the village. Women down their hoes and gather with men in the yard of the deceased to condole with the family. It would be a strange week in Maragoli if work was not interrupted for death in the family.

Read More On Why in Maragoli Culture There Was No Shamba Work Following Death In The Family

Abwunza, J. M. (1991). Logoli Women of Western Kenya Speak: Needs and Means. Ph.D. dissertation: University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada / University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya.

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