giriama-culture

In the past, Giriama people lived in homesteads (mudzi), which were composed of a number of houses located within one fenced location. The open area between the houses was called a muhala. Giriama was the dominant tribe of Malindi (and still are).

Every single aspect of the life in the homesteads was operated using set standard or etiquette that has prescribed by elders and passed from one generation to another. Every age group had its own task, and not a single person disobeyed what the elders say.

Where am I going with this? Malindi has been hit with a long spell of uncleanliness. Every corner of the town and its environs littered with every kind of dirt. Many pretend not to see it until not so long, our billionaire investor decided to make a threat of not investing any more in Malindi town. Then everybody decided to take notice of the filth.

The ways of the “Ancient” Giriama of Malindi

There were strict rules on how to handle different kinds of waste. Wastewater could be disposed of anywhere within the muhala. Kitchen waste was disposed outside the muhala in a specifically designated place called the dzala.

Animal waste was also disposed at the dzala. Human waste would be disposed of in the bush in an area designated for this purpose. People would dig a hole, relieve themselves, and cover it again immediately afterward. When this site became too dirty the old male household heads (muthumiya wamudzi) in the homesteads held a meeting and decided to change to a new site.
Other forms of garbage such as coconut shells and remains of maize cobs were considered farm waste and burned outside the muhala. However, sometimes the coconut shells would be used as cups for eating maize porridge or millet porridge or turned into a mug with a handle (khaha) for drinking water. They could also be used for fuel.

giriama-homesteads

Giriama homesteads in Malindi

Wastewater was disposed of by anybody who was responsible for washing on a particular day. This was usually a woman but if a wife was away her husband would wash his own clothes and dispose of the wastewater. Likewise, kitchen waste was handled by anybody who was responsible for cooking on a particular day. This person was mostly a woman but if a couple had no daughters a son could assist his mother.

Regarding human waste, everybody was responsible for their own waste except for the children. Children would gradually learn to go to the bush but as long as they were infants their mothers would pick up their waste and take it to the dzala.

Animal waste was mostly handled by the old men (and sometimes women). They woke up early in the morning, cleaned the chicken sheds and took the waste to the dzala. Usually, they would then sweep the whole muhala helped by their grandchildren.

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Komzinski is a Research and Monitoring Assistant at the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT). He enjoys the outdoors and travelling. When not travelling, Athuman enjoys volunteering at the local beach management unit, playing soccer, and coding together with friends planning on their next tech startup project.

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