Kikuyu Culture and Traditions

The culture and traditions of the Kikuyu tribe is not that different from other communities under the expanded Bantu nation, especially the Meru, Mbeere, and Embu ethnic groups. They live around Mount Kenya.

Also popularly known as the Agikuyu or Gikuyu, this community is the largest and most popular community in Kenya, representing about 22% of the total local Kenya population.

There is also a big population of people from this tribe who have settled in the western region of the Rift Valley, the traditional Kalenjin land.

Because of their history of economic success, most of the Agikuyu are educated and thus, can easily adapt to emerging realities in life. For that reason, a majority of them, both those living in the rural areas in the cities have embraced the new culture.

Kikuyu Marriage

Customarily, men from the Kikuyuland had the freedom to marry more than one wife based on the size of their wealth and also ability to support a big family. Today, like in the past, paying bride price or dowry is very important among these people.

Kikuyu Beliefs and Religious Conviction

A larger proportion of the contemporary Kikuyu tribe are Christians. But, the Agikuyu, just like their neighboring communities such as the Kamba and Maasai, traditionally worshipped Ngai, a single god. Their supernatural being lived at the topmost part of a mountain and was regarded their provider.

The Kikuyu Food

The typical traditional food among the Kikuyus is a mixture of beans and maize, popularly called in their local language, githeri and mashed potatoes and green peas known as mukimo. They also preferred eating roast goat, chicken and beef, mashed potatoes, corn and dry beans called irio as well as cooked green vegetables like carrots, spinach and collards.

Kikuyu Clans & History

The Kikuyu tribe has a rich history as well as many clans under the larger nation of Agikuyu. Here are some historical aspects of this community you may want to know:

Kikuyu History

Studies indicate that Kikuyus, together with other Bantus, came from West Africa. They also established a robust business and social relationship with their neighboring community, the Maasai with whom they inter-married and regularly conducted trade activities.

But, when the British colonial settlers entered Kenya, they confiscated fertile land from the Kikuyus, leaving the community with a small piece of land to farm. The historic and currently Kikuyu settlement areas include the present Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Nyeri, and Kiambu Counties.

Kikuyu Clans

The Kikuyus, based on their mythology, have 9 clans with two clans such as Agaciku and Acera born out of their contact with their neighboring community, the Kamba people. Of the nine clans, the Anjiru are the largest of them all and were known to produce great medicine men and warriors.

According to the tales of the Kikuyu, their god, Ngai, created the Agikuyu and let them settle in an area referred as Mukurwe wa Gathaga, the current Muranga County.

The clans exhibited hospitality between one another, and in case one member of a clan encountered a grave abuse, the entire clan solidly stood behind the individual to seek justice.

The clans and their mothers are as listed in the table below:

AceeraWanjeri or Waceera
EthagaAkĩũrũ or Nyambura or Ethaga
Agathigia (Airimu)Gathiigia or Wairimũ
Angari (Aithekahuno)mũithekahuno or Wangarĩ
Angeci (Aithĩrandũ)Wangeci or Waithĩra
Aithiegeni (Angui)Waithiegeni or Wangũi

Kikuyu Proverbs

The Kikuyu tribe has thousands of educative proverbs. They used these sayings to pass a message from one generation to the other.

In 1939, the Nyeri Consolata Missionaries compiled some of the best proverbs from this region and translated them into English versions or equivalents to make them understandable to other communities. They have about 1000 proverbs from this community.

For example, they have a saying, Kūngū Maitū na Hunyū Wake. Literally, this proverb is used to mean, “Hail Mother with all her warts and dirt.” In the language spoken by Kikuyu people, the word, Maitū means Mother.

In real sense, Maitū denotes “Our Truth” or Ma iitū. Therefore, the phrase, “Hail Mother” in the proverb mentioned above refers to the process of going to the roots or getting back to the Origin, the Truth or Essence of an issue or any Matter.

For that reason, the Gikuyu saying, “Gucokia rui mukaro”, translated as, “returning the river back to its course”, they mean, the goddess of Gikuyu creation, MUMBI, is the source of all Truth and the Origin of Gikuyu Mother.

Kikuyu Gospel Songs & Singers

These are some of the common Kikuyu gospel singers and songs you may want to hear:

Wendo Ruth WamuyuGeneralJehova Shammah

Amukira Ngatho

James WarachiGeneralGikeno
Sammy IrunguGeneralKirathimo Giakwa
Wendo Ruth WamuyuWorshipNgoro yakwa ni Igukuinira
Nancy WanjaWorshipNdiui ingiuga atia ndi Mbere yaku
Betty BayoGeneralNdimurihire Thiire
Shiru wa GpGeneralAgiginyani
P Jey KongoGeneralNyumbira Ngoro
Nancy MugureWorshipRurumukia Ngoro Yakwa
Hellen WagioGeneralNjehereria Iremithia
Henry Waweru KaranjaGeneralMutumia Ngatha

Thina ugathira ri?

Wendo waweru karanjaWorshipJesu We Unyendete

Ihiga Ria Tene Ma

Ndi Mwihia ona Wanyona

Uka Mwathani Utonye Thiinii

Ngoro Yakwa riu ni igukuinira

Njuguna GichehaGeneralMoko Makwa Nimarathime

Kikuyu Bible

The Kikuyu Bible is not sold to people interested in reading it. Although it was initially published in hard copies, today, you can downloaded it from a user friendly and simple app on the Internet.

Giving out the Bible for free is the only way people from this region think many people can easily feel the word of God in their heart to move closer to their loved ones and to heaven. Putting the Holy book online has made it easy for anybody to carry the Kikuyu Bible anywhere and anytime they go or travel. By doing so, the community strives to enlighten many people’s mind about the God and Salvation.

Kikuyu Music and Musicians

The Kikuyu music and musicians exhibit a much different genre of traditional tune and lyrics. Most of these songs are associated with certain ceremonies, most of which were used to pray for rain from Ngai. This is evident in the community despite a majority of the people being Christians.

These are some of the common traditional Kikuyu tunes and artists you may want to listen to:

Kikuyu Folk Songs

Most of these songs depict Kikuyu folktales. Some of the popular songs under this category include Rose Mwangi’s song for beer parties. The music depicts the Gikuyu value and nature.

It’s hard work song depicting both enjoyment and fun. They sang such songs as people cultivated their land. During their working hours, they sing the song as they roast bananas, sweet potatoes, and maize.

Kikuyu Social Songs

Gakenye, Wambui and Wambugu sang the song, GUTUUHA. The music was a dance song for old women. It urged them to take good care of goats.

The song, KIRIRO sang by Wanjiru wa Kabuagara Gicui was used to lament about the newly-wed women. It urged people to come and greet their spouses.

Kikuyu Grass

Kikuyu grass, for most farmers of livestock, is this little, ever-present species of value pasture that animals like grazing. The name, Kikuyu grass is used to suggest the native Kenyan pasture.

However, many farmers are yet to know the immense value of feeding their livestock on this resilient grass species. If you give your animals this grass at the right stage of growth, you will be providing them a highly nutritious species of pasture. It’s regarded one of the excellent fodder for beef and dairy animals including goats and sheep.

Kikuyu English Translation & Dictionary

The dictionary and translation of Kikuyu words into English can now be found online. No need for you to worry about translating words from this community because, what you simply need is to type the phrase or word you want in the computer’s text box on the left and press the button, “Add translation.” There you are, well translated Kikuyu words into English language.

There are also thousands of hard copy dictionaries translated from Kikuyu language into English.

Kikuyu Greetings and Language

If you are interested in knowing much about Kikuyu language and greetings, no need to worry because here is more about it:

Kikuyu Greetings

Some of the dialects of Kikuyu greetings depend on the region where the individual comes from. These are some of shared greetings by Agikuyu from Nyeri and what they mean:

  • Wanyua – Greetings amongst age mates
  • Wi mwega? – Are you fine?
  • Wakia Awa – Greeting an elderly male
  • Wakia Maitu –  Greeting an elderly female

Kikuyu Language

People from this ethnic tribe speak the Kikuyu language. Despite undergoing immense cultural transformation, the Kikuyus still embrace and speak their language even in urban settlements. A place where many people speak Swahili and English. In fact, it appears like the Kikuyu language is third among the choice of language in Kenya.

Kikuyu Names and Meaning

These are the typical Kikuyu names for both female and male child and there meanings:

  1. Gatete – A milk gourd
  2. Gakere – Muscular
  3. Gakuru – Elderly one
  4. Gacoki – One who returns
  5. Gathee – Elderly one
  6. Gatimu – A spear
  7. Gathoni – She is an in law
  8. Gathii – A wanderer
  9. Gethii – Wanderer
  10. Iregi – A rebel
  11. Githinga – A firebrand
  12. Ikinya – A single step
  13. Gicicio – Mirror
  14. Hiuhu – He is hot
  15. Gikuyu – Founder of the Agikuyu
  16. Gitonga – Wealthy one
  17. Githinji – A butcher
  18. Ita – A war raid
  19. Irungu – Makes right reformer

Bibliography on Kikuyu Tribe or Ethnic Group



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