The Bukusu of Kenya

Folktales, Culture and Social Identities

by Namulundah Florence

Tags: African Literature, African Studies, African World Series, Africana Studies

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200 pp  $30.00

ISBN 978-1-61163-025-1
eISBN 978-1-5310-2977-7

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This title is out of print in hardcopy but is available as an ebook.

The Bukusu of Kenya: Folktales, Culture and Social Identities explores the social history in Bukusu folktales compiled in From Our Mothers' Hearths: Bukusu Folktales and Proverbs. Folktales mirror life by reflecting what people do, what they think, and how they live, as well as what aspirations they hold; thus, they are both descriptive and prescriptive. The heroes of Bukusu tales are farmers, shepherds, stepmothers, husbands, orphans, ironsmiths, hunters, neglected wives, scheming stepmothers, shepherds, and barren women—ordinary people from all walks of life. For many Africans, structures and values in folktales affirm their cultural identity, drawing on familiar words and expressions.

The Bukusu of Kenya shows how folktales bring value and pressures to behavior. For instance, except in a few tales, females rather than males fall prey to ogres, commit social breaches and require male direction and protection. Most stories depict the triumph of the despised and weak, such as orphans and neglected wives over those who abuse power or good fortune. Folktales offer a poignant critique of the pervasive consumerism and individualism in society, celebrating, collaboration, honesty, diligence, and familial ties. Tales integrate the ordinary and extraordinary, depict human interactions with and among animals and portray human control over both the animate and inanimate worlds. On the other hand, the conspicuous omission of other ethnic groups and the depiction of the inanimate as lesser beings create an ontological hierarchy. The vast range in tales, depicted social roles, and narrators testifies to the creative power of individuals and communities in defining and transforming the social structures in which they live.

Growing interest in cross-cultural experiences and culturally-relevant pedagogy highlights the importance of books like The Bukusu of Kenya: Folktales, Culture and Social Identities. Folktales appeal to audiences across age, time, and location, providing a link to a heritage of tellers, listeners, writers, and readers.

This book is part of the African World Series, edited by Toyin Falola, Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities, University of Texas at Austin.

As a School Board Administrator, I seek unique books and materials on people of African descent to recommend to teachers. Having readFrom Our Mothers' Hearths: Bukusu Folktales and Proverbs(Florence, 2005), most of my teachers and students have been eagerly awaiting the follow-up.The Bukusu of Kenya: Folktales, Culture and Social Identitiescould not have come at a better time. Folktales have played a very important role in the Bukusu culture. This book is an important educational tool."

— Leonard Wandili, Program Officer International Languages and African Heritage, Ontario, Canada

"I write to applaud the publication of this new book by Dr. Namulundah Florence. This book is another outstanding collection of Bukusu folktales coming soon after the remarkable From Our Mothers' Hearths. The book serves as a permanent record of our culture, a long-awaited documentation of the values and aspiration of our forefathers captured and immortalized for future generations. The stories provide our people a rich resource from which they will not only learn and be entertained but will be guided for centuries to come."

— Everett Wakoli, Past President of Abeingo Association Canada

"The Bukusu of Kenya: Folktales, Culture and Social Identities comes at a right time to enable Bukusus, especially the younger generation who may be eager to know their history, culture, tradition, music, marriage ceremonies, customs, etc. These folktales serve an educative role among the Bukusus of Kenya and connect the same people with the cultures and traditions of other tribes the world over. The growing cultural diversity in America calls for an acknowledgement of the origins but also contributions of individual groups to national traditions. Success in promoting cultural inclusiveness begins with training teachers from different locations but also knowledge of different traditions, many of which have shaped students' lives. The market is ready for this book."

— Fr. Christopher Wanyonyi

"Florence's book offers an overview of Bukusu peoples' beliefs and practices through time. The book celebrates our Bukusu cultural identity as much as it portrays the community's aspirations. Other cultural groups acquire a glimpse of Bukusu core values. Such discussions create awareness about the need for a comprehensive cultural analysis. As an author, I have waited long for this research."

— F.E. Makila, Author of An Outline History of the Babukusu and Bukusu Folktales
In this book, Dr. Florence combines her literary training and her personal knowledge and experience of Bukusu life to produce an anthology rich in folklore, cultural traditions and social ethos. Though the focus is on the Bukusu community, the author also draws examples from other communities in the East African region. The product is certainly a document that will be of interest to students and professionals in cultural anthropology, sociology, literature, history, and comparative ethnography. The book should also be of interest to any reader out for leisure reading."
— Professor Simiyu Wandibba, Editor of History and Culture in Western Kenya: The People of Bungoma District Through Time