Representation before Colonialism





Various historical accounts show that man's desire for order as part of self-governance, produced a social equilibrium in which the interests of everyone were represented. Thus modern forms of representation have simply evolved in-step with the changing of times and are not an invention of any particular civilisation.

Closer home, and contrary to popular belief, the Kikuyu, for example, had an age-old system whereby the immediate family was the unit of being and belonging, and from which many customs, practices and traditions were mapped. Everyone (and women in particular) had an important part to play and was appropriately recognised by the community and hence well represented in matters affecting the community. "Those women who became first or senior wives of a man were certainly not mere drudges and servants of their master. Their position was one of considerable importance. All the more important rites and ceremonies in the home were centered around them, ....... . Their husbands were expected to consult them in all matters which affected the home, ........ . The love and respect which a Kikuyu man showed to his mother was quite touching, and exceeded that shown to his father." (Leakey, 2007). Leakey's account of the lives and times of the Southern Kikuyu many times demonstrates that everyone had a say and freewill in how they wanted to live within the customs and traditions of the community. Indeed, this is just one narrative of many similar ones among the peoples of Kenya before the coming of the colonialist.

Beyond the home, the Kikuyus had a simple but organised hierarchy in decision-making that was more horizontal than it was vertical. "In spite of the many references to 'chiefs' in the works of early travellers into Kikuyu country, it is quite clear that Kikuyu social organisation did not include the system of chieftain. Not only was there no such thing as a paramount chief, there was no such thing as a territorial chief. The fundamental basis of Kikuyu social structure was that the people ruled themselves, through an organised system of committees....... . Every village had its own kiama council of elders" (Leakey, 2007).


More to follow soon......




1. Leakey, R (2007). The Southern Kikuyu before 1903, LSB Leakey. Richard Leakey.


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