The manifestation of Nationalism in Bukusu funeral oratory


Khuswala kumuse (funeral oratory) is a central rite among the Babukusu. It is a significant ritual that defines their worldview and how they relate with their cosmology and themselves. Given its centrality in the Bukusu cosmology, it is important to examine how the orator puts to use language to construct meanings that enable this society to understand itself. This paper is an investigation of how Nationalism is constructed in the Bukusu funeral oratory. Data was collected from pre- recorded cassette tapes of speeches of Manguliechi (a renowned Bukusu orator) and video tapes of the performance of khuswala kumuse ritual for the late Vice-president of the Republic of Kenya Michael Kijana Wamalwa (purchased from Kenya Broadcasting Cooperation, marketing department). These were transcribed and translated into English and generalizations made on how different aspects of the Bukusu nation are constructed. It was for example noted that the ritual is laden with social, ethical, political and economic aspects that constitute the Babukusu nationhood. Bukusu legends are exalted in the ritual and the people’s identity is portrayed as unique with aspects such as circumcision setting them apart from non-Bukusu. At the same time, Bukusu nationhood is set in the overall Kenyan nation highlighting a sense of unity. Nevertheless, the oratory is still highly valued by Babukusu even if they no longer live in traditional set up since it acts as a mark of identity, a means of social differentiation.

Key Words: Funeral Oratory, Nationalism, Culture, Oral Literature

Maelo Michael