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?