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?