The Origins, Nature and Development of Gikuyu Erithi Poetry
Keywords:Gikuyu, erithi, poetry
The paper explores the roots of Gikuyu Erithi poetry. The Gikuyu language is one of the Bantus, Thagicu subgroup languages whose speakers have familial origin with the Embu, Mbeere, Tharaka, Meru and Kamba ethnic communities of Eastern Kenya among others. Erithi dance which hatched Erithi poetry propped up in the 1950s decade when the then British East Africa was engaged in Mau Mau armed struggle with mainly the Gikuyu, Embu and Meru people of Kenya. This dark age of the Kenyan-state was referred to as the State of Emergency and ran from the early 1950s to 1960. This Hindi ya Mageneti, as locals emotively and satirically called it was a turning point in the creation of the nation-state of Kenya. The historiography of Erithi shows that it emerged in Gikuyu Concentration Camps and/or Gikuyu Reserve Villages/Areas. The colonial administration introduced the guitar musical instrument after proscribing the singing and dancing of traditional art-forms. In recent times, Erithi lyrics have mutated to Muugithi art form. Like its precursors, Muthirigu, Kamanu and Mwomboko, performed with the accompaniment of the accordion, a foreign musical instrument, the power of allegory and other literary devices dominate Erithi. With love, marriage, traditions, cultural practices and politics being notable thematic concerns the emergent subgenre of Oral literature forms a fertile base for the integration of teaching linguistics and literature.
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