Monday, May 18, 2009

Facing Mt. Kenya - Industries

I wonder if this chapter might reveal that Facing Mt. Kenya is a little dated – as our missionary friend told us it would be. I’m sure there has been industrial advancement beyond what Kenyatta walks through here. For the sake of a brief summary, the industries discussed were ironwork, hut-building, weaponry, pottery, basket-making, skin-tanning, and musical instruments. These are all created by the Giyuku, but this chapter seems to be a bit of a catch-all to discuss those products that are part of life but not worthy of an entire chapter. That seems to be the case for weaponry and musical instruments, in particular.

One of the most developed industries is ironworking. They have an abundance of tools. The smith is respected in the community and his work is done while paying mind to the ancestral spirits – trusting that they are looking over their work. In their mythology, iron was given as a gift from the gods as wooden knives had driven the wild animals of the jungle out of domestication because their deaths would be so painful. They were driven to being wild by the brutality of wooden knives.

Regarding hut-building, it is a group project where reciprocity is expected when each man builds his home. The work is broken up among gender lines and it is expected that the hut will go up and be moved in all in one day (though materials are collected beforehand). The urgency to move in is that an evil spirit might fill the vacant space if the family does not move in.

There are a few interesting insights that served as a common theme in this chapter.
· The ancestral spirits are important. I don’t know if it is fear or respect, but they are often taken into account. There was also reference to the Great Elder when dedicating a hut.
· In some areas there is a strong gender distinction. Women have nothing to do with weapons. Men cannot get near pottery. While there is cultural pressure in these areas, there still tends to be a distinction based on tradition in other areas. Women don’t play the flute. Men don’t help much with basket-making even though they could do much of it. Gender distinction/division is something we’ll need to keep in mind as we consider the work we’re doing there. We’ll need to be aware and sensitive to the cultural perspectives we’re entering.
· Finally, issues of ritual cleanness were mentioned a couple times. If a couple had sex while food was being prepared, the food would be considered defiled. The flute cannot be played to herds because it will awaken evil spirits and defile the herd. Also, if men touch pottery, it will break. If there is broken pottery, it is assumed that a man came in during the night and corrupted them. I’m not sure how cleanness in Giyuku culture relates to biblical ritual cleanness, but maybe the section on religion will give some clarity.

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