The Embu Tribe (Kenya)

The Embu tribe live on the south-eastern side of Mount Kenya, and are very closely related to a nearby tribe called the Mbeere. There are approximately half a million people in this tribe.

The Embu and the Mbeere live together quite peacefully, but the two tribes were split apart by a conflict many years ago. The two groups were holding a training fight of some kind, and one side (likely the Embu) used real swords instead of sticks, and forced the Mbeere onto the less fertile lands down the mountain. Even with such a hostile split, the two tribes are close today.

History of the Embu

Most Kenyan tribes have folktales about their origins, and from those can establish where a tribe originally came from before setting in Kenya. The Embu tribe have various tales that often conflict, making it hard to pin down their place of origin. Their language marks them as a Bantu tribe, meaning they likely came at some point from central Africa.

One story says that the origins of the Embu tribe was right in Kenya, not elsewhere. A man named Mwene-Ndega and his wife Nthara had children who spread through the land, to become the Embu people. Where Ndega came from is not known.

Their Culture and Lifestyle

The lands of Mount Kenya are quite fertile, though are somewhat prone to regular droughts. The Embu are traditionally agriculturalists and farmers, since the mountain slopes are not really suitable for large-scale animal herding. They grow food crops for their own use, as well as cash crops.

Embu families are not as large or extended as seen in other tribes. Married sons did not continue to live with their fathers, but built their own homes for their families.

Both boys and girls are circumcised to become adults, but Embu society is not made up of multiple age-sets. Each alternating generation is marked with a name, so an entire generation was part of the same age-set. This was a way of marking who belonged to the generation of elders, who were the leaders of the tribe.

Many of the Embu are Christian today, but their traditional god was named Ngai and they believed that he lived on the top of Mount Kenya. Many tribes who live in the area consider the peak of the mountain to be the home of their god.

Related pages:



Tribes in Kenya - Overview
List of the main Kenya tribes

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