Emanga: Kisii’s mysterious hill

Emanga: Kisii's mysterious hill

The Abagusii community associate themselves with Emanga ridge which is located at the top of Manga hills in the region.

The ridge, which is about 100 acres, divides both Kisii and Nyamira counties marking their boundaries whereby Nyamira county takes the top of the cliff while Kisii takes the lower part.

Standing on top of the rocks called Rigena rie Manga, one can easily see the beautiful landscapes of the Southern parts of Kisii up to the lake regions.

The ridge also has an endless hole called Engoro ya Manga which is believed to have been connected to Lake Victoria. Care is therefore required from those touring the area to avoid potential accidents.

The area has been ear-marked as a historical feature and carries special significance for the Abagusii community.

According to 94-year-old Samson Obae, who dwells at the foot of the cliff, Emanga was the first place the Abagusii settled before they spread to other parts of Gusii region.

“Our ancestors first settled here purposely to hide under the huge rocks and also at the top of the ridge they were able to see the enemy before they attacked them,” said Obae.

The elderly man points out that the area is full of caves and massive rocks that provide a perfect hiding place and vantage point to launch an attack.

He also said during the colonial era, the ridge served as the first community court which was called Ritongo.

“All the proceedings would take place at this ridge before these activities were eventually moved to Nyamira town,” he said.

While some cultural aspects pertaining to the ridge have changed with time, Obae says the area’s significance as a place for blessing has not waned. Many local musicians still write songs referring to Emanga as their community’s heritage and source of blessings.

“We still have a blessing that we invoke upon a person in reference to the hill. ‘Okine okine oreng’ane Emanga’ meaning ‘may you stay many years on Emanga ridge’ is spoken to wish good will upon someone,” Obae said.

It was also upon this ridge that the community’s first chief, appointed by the white man, sat to determine dowry prices and or solve marital disputes.

“When two families sat together to talk at this ridge, they did so amicably due to the site’s sacredness and it was easy for them to agree on the number of cows and goats to be given,” Obae said.

He continued: “Also, when a couple was having marital problems, they would both be summoned to the ridge by the elders. Here they would iron out their differences, be reunited and go home happily”.

Because the place is still considered holy to date, there is a specific procedure that all who want to see it must follow.

According to locals, you must tie a bundle of green grass, then collect some pieces of fire wood which you throw into the hole so that ancestors allow you access.

It is also here that community elders come to offer sacrifices and offerings to their ancestors when faced with disasters such as drought, famine and floods.

It is believed that when the region becomes very hot and dry, the ridge will burn itself and then there will be heavy rains.

Obae says residents at the foot of the ridge would, at night, see fire burning bushes but when they visited the place the following day, they would not see any damage caused by the mysterious fire.

Recently, the ridge was seen burning in the evening and after a few hours later, heavy rains pounded the area. The community is now receiving rains after experiencing drought for three months.

So important is this ridge to the Abagusii that Kisii county Director of Culture Obino Nyambane said they are ready to build a museum as a way of preserving the community’s heritage.