THE RIVER AND THE SOURCE BY Margaret Ogola


THE RIVER AND THE SOURCE

 CHAPTER ONE: IT’S A BABY GIRL!!

Aketch, the second wife of Chief Odero Gogni delivers a baby girl to the surprise of the chief who expected a baby boy. The chief appreciates the light of the girl by wisely saying, ‘A home without a girl is like a spring without a source’pg1

The girl is named Adoyo since she was born during the season when farmers were busy weeding. The second name, Obanda, is given to the child after the father and grandmother have a dream about the recently dead medicine man. The child would again be called Akello after her step grandmother who died childless. Now adoyo was very noisy and she got the name Akoko.

The above outlines how naming took place among the Luo. Naming was a sacred way and it had to be respected. Most often, the child would receive the name of a season it was born as the parents waited to see which ancestor would send a dream. Thereafter, if the child developed some kind of complication, for example a bout of colic and screaming, an elder had to be summoned for spiritual incantation. Nyar-Alego, the grandmother of the child was summoned when the child developed such symptoms. She broke into enchantment marching up and down beseeching the ancestors. She mentioned her immediate dead relatives and that is how Akoko got the name Akelo. Akelo was the sister of Nyar-Alego who had been brought by to serve as a co-wife as per the customs. (pg3) Lastly, the child would be named according to its character and behaviour.

Being the only girl, Akoko had to learn how to survive in a homestead full of boys. She was vigilant. She not only earned love from her brothers but also from her father. She grew rapidly into a beautiful woman and soon young men were flocking into chief Odero’s homestead.

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN CHAPTER ONE

  1. The birth of Akoko.
  2. The naming ceremony.
  3.  Position of a girl child in the community.
  4. Luo customs and beliefs

QUESTIONS FROM CHAPTER ONE

  1. What is your experience about the naming of a child? Is it in any way related to what occurs in chapter one of The River and the Source?
  2. What is the position of a girl child in The River and the Source?
  3. What do you think Chief Owuor Kembo meant by the uttering, A home without girls is like a spring without a source?

OBSERVATIONS MADE FROM CHAPTER ONE

a)      The second wife of chief Odero Gogni is called Aketch. The name Aketch, according to the Luo is given to a girl child who was born during the season of famine. When we come across the household of Odero Gogni, one significant feature is, there are no girls, could Aketch be symbolic of the fact that the homestead ‘lacked’ girls?

b)      Adoyo Obanda is also called Akelo. Akelo among the luo means she was brought. From what Nyar-Alego mentions in her enchantment/monologue, she brought her sister from Alego to be her co-wife. What is the significance of marriage in this community?

c)       The first words uttered by Akoko were, dwaro mara-want mine. Do you think this has anything to do with her destiny in life? Would she as a woman have a right to own anything.

d)      Most often, barren women or impotent men are not named after. In this context, Akoko is named Akelo-who was barren. Would this name affect Akoko’s life in a way?

CHAPTER TWO: THE YOUNG CHIEF OWUOR KEMBO- A MAN OF NYADHI

Chief Odero Gogni turns down twelve suitors. Akoko is beside herself with fear that, if this goes own, she might lose a potential husband and remain in her father’s homestead. The thirteenth suitor, however, is a man of Nyadhi. The entourage came from Sakwa.

Chief Odero is pleased with them. the young man-chief Owuor Kembo, urgently needs a wife. According to tradition, one cannont be chief until he is married. The qualifications of this young man are startling. It was rumoured that, Chief Odero wanted the potential suitor to be chief and preferably his daughter to be the first wife-mikayi.

As a proud father of beautiful daughter, the chief sets the bride price relatively high. To his surprise, the potential in-laws accept the challenge without question. The celebrations went on after the people had inspected the ‘Jewel’ from yimbo.

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN CHAPTER TWO

  1. The arrival of young chief Owuor Kembo at Chief Odero Gogni’s home. His coming was full of Nyadhi (great style). It is important for one to represent himself with great style to appeal to potential in laws.
  2. The role of the jawang’yo and how effective they were. It is said that even as far as Sakwa. Akoko’s spirit and beauty had been heard.(Pg18)
  3. The role of spokesmen and how they knew how to negotiate coining words and daring their opponents with admiration and expectations.
  4. Marriage negotiations and their value, essence, flexibility and test of wealth.

 

 

QUESTIONS FROM CHAPTER TWO

  1. 1.       Explain the importance of bride wealth in African communities in relation to The River and the Source.
  2. 2.       Was Chief Odero Gogni fair in raising bride price to such a high level? Explain

 

OBSERVATIONS MADE FROM CHAPTER TWO

  1. Aspect of marriage gives so much liberty to the father of the girl who has a choice of manipulating it the best way he wants. It is evident that Chief Odero Gogni uses his privileges but he is caught in his own game.
  2. Akoko is a girl of new mettle. She confidently walks into the room and surveys her guest unflinchingly.
  3. There was some kind of thourough research before one decided to marry from a certain community. This diminished chances of relatives marrying.

CHAPTER THREE : THE BRIDE PRICE AND MARRIAGE CEREMONY

The thirty head of cattle are brought to Yimbo. Dashing young men perform stunts,  singing and shouting their brevity. They were welcomed to the homestead of Chief Odero Gogni where they dined and drunk kong’o until the dead of the night.

Early the following morning, the young men, stole Akoko. They ran as Akoko wailed for help from her people. The rest of the Sakwa men engaged in a mock fight with the young men of Yimbo. They broke free and were on the way with their bride.

Arrival in Sakwa was greeted with great anticipation. Everyone wanted to see the beauty that had attracted such a huge bride price. Everyone consented to the beauty and Akoko was installed as Chief Owuor Kembo’s mikai.

Counting began and nine months after her arrival, she gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. The child was named Obura. She would later get another child, a girl and they named her Nyabera.

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN CHAPTER THREE

  1. Bringing of bride price.
  2. Young men eloping with Akoko very early in the morning. (Taking of the bride price)
  3. Installation of Adoyo Obanda as the Mikai of Chief Owuor Kembo.
  4. The birth of the first and second child i.e Obura and Nyabera.

OBSERVATIONS MADE FROM CHAPTER THREE

  1. The chapter voices the role of the Luo woman. It points to the direction of continuity of the generation and that is why, being a chief’s wife, people were relieved to learn that, the chiefdom would continue in the hands of Obura Kembo.

CHAPTER FOUR : A JUOK!

Akoko was not giving birth as was expected of her. Her mother-in-law, maro, was so agitated. The chief too had remained with one wife, a thing unheard of. Whispers flew in the air. Several pleas had gone unheard as the council of jodongo appealed to the chief to have another wife.

The chief’s young brother had now two wives and children were now increasing in numbers. This worried the maro who even accused Akoko for having cast a spell on her son. She claimed that her son was not marrying maybe due to the spell.

Akoko was not pleased with accusations leveled against her by her maro. She kept silent and gathered her courage. The following morning she wailed attracting the attention of several people who came rushing. She gave a passionate speech and thereafter left back to her paternal home.

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN CHAPTER FOUR

  1. The pressure on Chief Owuor Kembo to marry another wife.
  2. The accusation that maybe Akoko had bewitched him into monogamy
  3. Akoko leaves her two children (matrimonial home) and heads back to yimbo (paternal home).
  4. The people of Sakwa are received coldly when they went to yimbo to claim their wife Akoko.

QUESTIONS FROM CHAPTER FOUR

  1. Discuss the advantages of polygamy basing your illustration on the book The River and the source
  2. Do you think Akoko was right to confront her mother in law in public as she did? Explain?
  3. What would be your reaction if your child was accused of Witchcraft? Explain?

OBSERVATIONS MADE FROM CHAPTER FOUR

  1. Akoko is a different woman, in her own words when she was young, dwaro mara, she earnestly demands for her own right to be respected. She stands out as a woman who would do anything to fight for her own rights.
  2. There was some kind of conflict resolution that bonds this community. The society has maturity in solving its conflicts without resorting into violence. They display a maturity which needs to be embraced even in modern times.

CHAPTER FIVE: THE COLD RECEPTION

Being accused of witchcraft (juok) was grave and no community among this people took it lightly. The people of Yimbo were not pleased with it. When the people of Sakwa came calling, they were received coldly. Kong’o was not served and the case went on.

Akoko was called and she repeated her version of the story. Owuor was also summoned and he told his own story. The elders advised them both and cautioned Akoko about her quick anger. There was appeasement where a goat was to be given by the people of Sakwa to the Maro. Later Kong’o was served and friendship returned to normal.

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN CHAPTER FIVE

  1. The Arrival of people or Sakwa and the cold reception.
  2. Akoko is called to repeat the account on why she left her matrimonial home.
  3. Owuor Kembo explains the circumstances surrounding his wife leaving without issue.
  4. The council of Jodongo deliberates on the matter, cautioning Akoko about her quick anger.
  5. Feasting and drinking as friendship forged in marriage is reignited.

QUESTIONS FROM CHAPTER FIVE

  1. Do you think the Luo way of solving conflict is good? Explain.
  2. Were the elders wise in agreeing to let Akoko go back to her matrimonial home after such grave accusations?
  3. What is your own opinion about witchcraft? Do you believe in it? How has it affected your society?

OBSERVATIONS MADE FROM CHAPTER FIVE

  1. Reasonable resolution of conflicts heals the wounded heart and everyone leaves happy and contented. This is observed in the way the two communities share a meal despite what had transpired between them. It is essential to listen to a case rationally so as to make sound decisions/deliberations.
  2. Anger can motivate one to make irrational decisions without forethought. Akoko leaves her children behind as she goes back to her people. Her rush decision makes her even forget to consult her husband. It is important for individuals to learn on how to control her anger.

THE RIVER AND SOURCE by Margaret Ogola


PART ONE: THE GIRL CHILD

Akoko Adoyo Akelo Obanda is the name of the girl. Her naming was unique and everything about her went successfully during childhood. In Part One of The River and the Source, we meet a rather jubilant and loved Akoko Obanda. She is vivacious, beautiful and endowed. She grows rapidly and wins love from family including her father. 

From Part One we draw most of the Luo cultural practices. The first among the many is the expectations from birth. Many will look at this as mundane, but it sets the book apart. Despite already having seven sons, chief Odero is unafraid of getting more sons. The writer highlights the importance of girls but we see a society which in more occasions recognizes the boy child than it does the girl child. The fact that Chief Odero was expecting a boy child proclaims how biased this society is.

Another significant cultural practice is naming. The luo draw names from four different places or aspects. The first is the time of the season which earns Akoko the name Adoyo. Secondly, names can be brought through dreams and we see Akoko getting the name, Obanda. Thirdly, a child can develop complications such as a bout of colic and crying because of certain displeased ancestor like in the case of Akoko- her step grandmother Akelo. Lastly one can obtain a name from their character and this earns Adoyo Obanda the name Akoko which means the noisy one.

Akoko grows and blossoms into a beautiful young woman. Nak is performed as was tradtion where her six lower teeth were removed. Nak ceremony  marks a period in life where a girl child is groomed into the rogors of adulthood. After the ceremony, Akoko’s father gave himself two years before he could start receiving suitors.

The love of a father to a girl child is manifested when Gogni Adinda, Akoko’s father turns down 12 suitors. He purposely did so because, in the men who flocked his compound, none reached the standards he had set. The chief wanted a man who would treat his child well. He was looking for either a potential chief or chief, who was in search of a mikai, the first wife- conditions which not many would fulfill.  Wealth was not really the matter but also was at the back of his mind.

When Owuor Kembo comes at Chief Odero Gogni Adinda’s homestead, the chief is pleased with what he saw. He finally is ready to give his daughter out as a wife. He sets the bride price high but to his surprise, the proposal is accepted without challenge. 

There is a lot that evolves in the first part of The River and the Source. It evolves the book into first paced revolutionary change. It churns the story and puchlines the fact that monogamy can be a matter of choice not religion. It puts Chief Owuor Kembo  in an advantageous position of being the first man to practice monogamy. It shatters the myth of societal influence on the choice of a lean family and dooms the pessimistic views of what if the few children die?

Moreover, The Girl Child surprises us with the immense strength of a woman. Akoko Obanda is an epitome of wealth. She works hard to set a pedestal unimagined. Basically, many would have thought that Akoko would have embraced the chiefly manner and sat around bossing the villages to provide for their leader. Most often this is a misconception that is reminiscent in many African countries. Turning around the leaf, Akoko provided for herself and built her own family wealth. She encouraged and trained her children to be hardworking and disciplined. She promoted self reliance and mutual relationships with her subjects.

Part one which began with energy, love and huge expectations ends sadly. Akoko’s son, Obura ran from home and joined the King African Rifles (KAR). He dies in war. When Owang’Sino is just about to mary, the chief Owuor Kembo, Akoko’s husband passes on. Before dust could settle, Owang’Sino chokes on a bone and dies leaving behind a very tender boy, Owuor Sino. Akoko is left with no one to lean on. She tries her plea to the Diyoo in the Government office. She is promised that her young grandson, when he comes of age, he will regain the chief’s stool from the arrogant Otieno Kembo. Akoko returns to her paternal home and lives in her brother Oloo’s house.

The sudden turn of events towards the end of part one significantly reduces this book into the fight to survive in the male dominated society. Otieno acts as block that hinders the natural flow of the river. By impeding the river, he changes its course towards a different course.

Were the deaths of the three pillars of Akoko necessary? Without them, Akoko would not have felt vulnerable to change her perception. She would not have found away to try her hand in the new ways of conflict resolution where she sought the white Diyoo for support. It should be noted that, in the struggle to survive, Akoko had to make several decisions. This therefore begs the question: what motivates change?

THE RIVER AND THE SOURCE


General Overview

Is change a cover for problems? Does change heal wounds? Is the willingness to change born from problems? These are questions that are self evident as one flips through the pages of The River and the Source. The book stands in the middle of resistance and collaboration as two forms of colonial response in Kenya. It unravels the advantages of collaboration as opposed to colonial atrocities such as land alienation. The book evades the questions of leadership and escapes the story of the struggle for independence. What stands out though is the struggle to keep the social fabric intact as much as there is a strain that threatens to break it apart?

Chief Odero gogni of Yimbo gets a daughter from his second wife Aketch. At the beginning, the chief believes that the wailing child is ‘another rock for my sling’ (boy) (pg1) but on realizing that it’s a girl he proclaims wisely, ‘a home without a girl is like a spring without a source’ the girl is named Adoyo. (a child born when farmers are weeding, plants the height of young kids)

Naming among the luo takes various forms as seen in the naming of the girl child Adoyo, who is famously known as Akoko (the noisy one). She grows to conceive her own river which flows through four generations.

The River and the Source also looks at the central role of an African woman. It explores Akoko’s ineptitude and strength at the heart of a male dominated society. In this society a woaman owns nothing. Evidently, the back of building family wealth lies on the woman. Akoko, in her hardwork makes her family extremely rich. She and her family floats in abundance but she is reduced into almost nothing when her husband Owuor Kembo and her remaining son Owang’ Sino dies. Her daughter Nyabera too, realizes that a woman without a son does not earn respect and property from her in-laws. With her only daughter Awiti, she is forced to leave her matrimonial home to start a life in Gem, in the Christian mission centre.

Regarding continuity of generation, Akoko shapes her own destiny and changes the course of the river in the direction unimagined. She cruises past tradition, infuses the new religion and acknowledges her central role as a hard worker. She builds a home wherever she goes and ironically, she Akoko of the ‘noisy one’ is seen to be keen at letting emotions speak than words. She is reduced into reading the tests of time, into understanding her role, accepting her position and making instrumental decision.

As the book goes on, one can slowly realize that in the course of changing the fortunes of time, the lineage of the great Chief Owour Kembo is totally wiped out. The tradition of male dominated societal continuity is forgotten as Nyabera’s blood now runs into the third and fourth generation. The Kembo’s are reduced into the greedy bloodthirsty leaders who not only accrue to male domination and female damnation which sent Akoko parking hence changing the course of the river.

Francis Imbuga in Aminata said, “The time tested ways of our days are best, yet O Lord make us wise that we may accept change.”  In Accepting change in the River and the source, one thing is evident. Change came as a matter of I have no other option, not as the best option. Akoko decides to see the Diyoo (D.O) not because she wanted to but because, in a male dominated society, her voice fell on deaf ears.

Her daughter, Nyabera, follows Christianity as the last option when all that she desperately needs falls into abyss. This can be seen in part two of the book when after baptism of her mother ,her daughter awiti, and her niece Awuor, she decides to move out only to come back beaten by the pain of life.

Is change a slave?