Gikuyu Science

The ordinary Gikuyu people, before the introduction of convectional education, took science as mysteries and subjected it to medicine men. Otherwise, they had an insight in the general application of basic science in their everyday life, just like any other community elsewhere. In any society, the basic application of science was either inherited from their ancestors or a discovery of their own, which in time became a component of their own development process.

An example of traditional science at work;

The Gikuyu women are known to remove boulders and other hard rocks from their farms by setting up a big fire on the rocks, then pour cold water on the heated rocks, when the expanded rock because of high temperatures is cooled instantly, as it contracts, it breaks into small fragments to create a new farming space. Gikuyu women did not know the process of exfoliation from scientific point of view, but they knew from experience, hot cooking stones break when they come into contact with cold water. The transfer of that science from the kitchen experience to the farm created more land for production.

The rock breaking process, pottery, massage, weaving, midwifery, counting knots etc are regarded as domestic wisdom. This wisdom was confined to a woman’s territory- the homestead and the garden. Domestic wisdom has never been handled in secrecy because it uplifted the much needed general welfare of the society. But traditionally advanced scientific exploits in areas such as military, medicine and iron works were in men’s domain.  Information on any of the three was shared in secrecy. But metal workmanship was passed from father to son in a particular clan after administration of oath to respect the law of silence. This oath confined the trade within the family. It is no wonder in many African societies black smith families marry from blacksmith families. Similarly the highest level of science and its application within Gikuyu community were referred to as esoteric wisdom thus entirely entrusted to the college of seers. The college of seers is comprised of twelve seers who each of them have a special role in a particular branch of esoteric wisdom.

Seers are in a class of their own. First they have committed their service to Ngai and the welfare of their society. Second, they have no taste to be tempted to bend justice. Third, they operate in total secrecy bound by a very powerful oath of office. As a rule they must be of the Wanjiru clan, and knower’s of the Gikuyu traditions and psych. They live in segregation with their highly sharpened brains because they are the community’s think tank.

Information touching on some areas of science discipline is not accessible to the ordinary members of public because seers say it is Ngai’s invisible hand.  For instance there are two categories of herbs. The general herbs administered by the general public, and the classified secret herbs administered by seers in activation of the brain of elders undergoing the rite of passage to enter the seerhood fraternity.

Copyright: Gikuyu and Mumbi Cultural Museum