Kaya fungo, the sacred shrine of the Giriama

Kaya fungoKoma at the entrance of Kaya fungo

From outside it looks like any other ordinary forest. Sounds of crickets and birds singing is the welcoming message you get.

But inside this forest is very different for this is Kaya Fungo, The Headquarters of the Giriama. Kaya fungo is a sacred forest. It is much respected by the larger Giriama community which believes that what goes in there is strictly secret and only the few qualified old men chosen are in the know.

Kayafungo is in Kilifi County, Kaloleni sub County. From Kaloleni Township, you take a rough road heading to Bamba through Mwabayanyundo and Gotani. It is a few kilometers from Gotani. Cutting trees, charcoal burning, fetching firewood or any other activity in this forest is strictly prohibited. Going against this practice would lead one dire consequence.

Inside this natural forest are huge and old trees. It is so thick that one cannot see very far. Many visitors, both local and foreign from all corners of the globe visit this place to have a bite of the historical aspect and cultural practices of the Giriama community.

One has to have a prior arrangement with the Kaya elders before a visit.All the nine tribe Giriama, Digo, Duruma, Chonyi, Rabai, Ribe, Kauma, Jibana and kambe that make up the Mijikenda group have their own Kaya. At the main entrance there are some carvings erected at the side. Each of these carvings represent an important personality in the community who passed away long time ago.

Regardless of where one is a local or a foreigner, there some strict rules and regulations which you are to observe when visiting this sacred forest.Shoes are strictly prohibited inside the shrine. No taking photographs. Those who go against the rules and regulations are fined and to a worse situation the spirits of the dead might haunt you.

The custodians of this sacred forest are kaya elders. They are old and have different titles depending on the roles they play in the shrine. The most common titles are Vaya and Gohu. Gohu is superior.

Most of the visitors to this place are historians who normally come to learn much about the culture and practices of the Mijikenda community as a whole. Tourists also get to this place to fatten their souls. Visitors are taken to specific areas of the forest.

There are some areas which are completely out of bound except only to Vayas and Gohus.For one to ascend to the rank of Vaya or Gohu you must have undergone some rites and many other secret procedures. Kaya elders are respected people in the whole Mijikenda community.UNESCO recognizes Kayafungo as one of the most important historical sites in the country which hold much about the local community’s cultural practices and belief.

3 Comments on "Kaya fungo, the sacred shrine of the Giriama"

  1. Knowing your values and preferences prevent mistake..many a kikwenu kikusaidhie mwenye

  2. How can the mijikenda community use these kaya to enhance education, conservation, culture and interclan conflicts resolutions. It is past the time that such respects and aspects were amicably handled without rushing to courts that do more injustice than the cultural systems would. Its time we the mijikenda amass our past knowledge for the betterment of kaya system of justice.

  3. Should we the researchers and scholars develop a KAYA journal so that the kaya forests management systems are discussed and models or structures developed.

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