description for the GusiiThe Gusii commun...
description for the Gusii
The Gusii community of Kenya is a tribe
that speaks Ekegusii a Bantu language originating from the Niger-Congo group of
languages. They are an agricultural community but also involved themselves with
batter trade during the pre-colonial period. The trade took place between the
Gusii and their neighboring community who were the Luo located at Lake Victoria
basin. The community was made up of polygamous homesteads which housed the
husband, his wives, his unmarried daughters and uninitiated sons (Håkansson, 2007).
Economically the Gusii community were
agricultural people who did subsistence farming where finger millet was their
staple crop. Sweet potatoes, beans and sorghum were planted among the finger
millet to maximize land usage. However, by 1920, maize farming had replaced
finger millet farming therefore acting as a subsistence food and as a cash
crop. Other than the above, the Gusii people also planted cassava, green grams,
bananas, onions, pigeon peas, tomatoes, and potatoes. The Gusii also made iron
tools, wooden implements, and decorations (Håkansson,2007).
During the late nineteenth century, the
community was organized in such a manner that there was a division of labor.
The primary responsibility of women was food cultivation, brewing, cooking,
cleaning houses, fetching water and fetching fuel. The men in the community, on
the other hand, were responsible for building houses, constructing fences,
waging war, herding and clearing new fields for women to cultivate. By the
1990s, men had become more involved in cultivation than women. Herding during
this period was undertaken by young men who had not yet married and boys. The
initiated girls who were yet to be married assisted in cultivation. After
colonization, most of the farm work was left to women (Håkansson, 2007).
Land during the pre-colonial period was
owned by lineage and clan where there was communal grazing, and division in
plots for arable land. However, after colonization, the land was registered to
individual men which gave them right to manage it. Women do not have a birthright
to inherit from their fathers but instead can only access it through marriage.
The husband however, divides land equally transferring ownership to his wives
and sons after his firstborn son acquires a wife. The land is to be division of
land is supervised by male village elders (Håkansson, 2007).
It is the mother’s role to take care of
the children, but when boys turn eight, they are taken out of the mother’s
house. At the age of 10 or 11, the young boys are circumcised and can no longer
be allowed to sleep in their mother’s house. Girls, on the other hand, when
they turn 6, they start sleeping in the stepmothers’ house or grandmothers
house. Initiated girls, on the other hand, sleep in post menopause women’s
house in the family, usually the paternal grandmother (Håkansson, 2007).
activities among the Gusii people
During the development stages of an
infant in the Gusii community, the children hardly ever leave their mother’s
sight. It is between the age of one day and ten months that the child receives
all the attention from the family. It could be attention from the mother and
the other siblings. Unlike an American child who some parts of the day are
spent in isolation, Gusii children hardly leave the mother. An American child
will spend the entire night on a bed alone while a Gusii child will spend the
entire night sleeping next to his/her mother and probably another sibling (LeVine
et al. 1994). A Gusii child will also spend most of the day in social
interactions happening around him/her even though the child does not talk yet.
Due to the family size in the Gusii land where there are more children in the
house, the infant gets to share a little less time with the mother as compared
to the American setup where the mother if not with her other one or two
children has all her time devoted to the infant. It is also worth to note that,
the infants with less than two years of age are sometimes left with their
sisters aged between 6 and 12 when the mother leaves to attend to various
activities that need her attention, therefore acting as their caregiver.
By the age of two, the physical contact
between the child and the mother declines, however, vocalization increases as
the child is taught how to speak. It is at this point that the child crosses
the line from infancy to childhood. There is also a decline in crying by the
child and more movement in the house and around the compound. Given their
visual access to everything that is happening around them, the Gusii children
get to learn a lot. Between the age of 9 to 11 mother, the child is more
attached to the mother than the rest of his/her siblings this may intensify
when a sibling is no longer assigned to take care of the child (LeVine et al.
In a recent research conducted that
compared the teachings of mother to an infant for a Gusii and that of an
American of between six and ten months, it was observed that avoidance of
complement characterized Gusii’s teachings based on demonstration. The Gusii
mother would take time to show the child what to do. She would also repeat it
several times for the child to master the process. The American mother, on the
other hand, would teach the infant and at the same time encourage them. The
process sparked some difference in how the children reacted. The American
infants showed some distress through crying and moving away from the setting
more often than the Gusii infants (LeVine et al. 1994). The teaching process of
the child shows how cultures are variant. For the Gusii, they believe that the
child should learn by emulating the elder one’s actions. For the American
culture, they encourage personal exploration and discovery which in turn helps
in shaping and development of an infant to a child and ultimately in life (LeVine
et al. 1994).
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