The Kikuyu Conforming to Christianity
Jomo Kenyatta’s ethnography, Facing Mt. Kenya was written in the 1930’s about Kikuyu society during 1890-1910, the early years of British colonialism in Kenya. Since the coming of the early colonization the Kikuyu people have tried to develop a religious attitude that would define it’s own culture while adapting forcefully to the European conforms of religion.
The preconceived European ideas about the African natives were unjust and unsubstantiated. The missionaries viewed the Africans as savages and that everything that they did was evil. Missionaries that were sent to spread the view of Christianity would have to change their beliefs and their social interactions to save them from the “eternal fire”(p.259). Interesting enough the missionaries overlooked the higher educated and the more well to do and focused on the more ignorant and less educated. Many Mzungu (Europeans) were, interestingly enough, often very uneducated in the process they were about to embark upon. Europeans felt that it was unnecessary to have formal training when dealing with such savages as the Kikuyu people. Intelligence would suggest that if you were dealing with people who are uneducated and ignorant you should have some of your most qualified people on the task.
Missionaries who were devoted to the change of the Kikuyu people took into account none of groups’ communal life, due to traditions and customs. One of the most principal attacks on the Kikuyu people was the attempt to demolish polygamy. In order for them to be accepted by the missionaries, they would have to cease in this practice which was at the heart of the tribes social structure. Despite these reckless attacks on their culture the natives saw the chance of an education, a white mans’ education. In order to receive this small amount of reading and writing lessons from the missionaries the Kikuyu would have to convert to Christianity and totally disregard most of their religious and communal beliefs. Missionaries tried to break up the any polygamous relationships that existed between Kikuyu men and women without any concern to what it meant to the two sexes and the community. The need for women to be mothers and wives was rooted deep in traditional collective beliefs. In Kikuyu communities the raising of a family is great cause for rise in social status. The larger a mans...