Being a 2nd Generation Luhya in The Time of Luhya Memes

I was recently at a loss of what to write, so, as I occasionally do, I asked one of my friends for a topic idea.

โ€œChicken,โ€ he said.

Chicken? How would I write about just chicken? What would the point be?

…and then I wondered, did he suggest ‘chicken’ as a topic because I am Luhya?

The rest, as they say, is history. The title of this post could have been chicken, but the inception of that idea led me down a slightly more interesting rabbit hole, in my opinion. Here we are…

My parents are both westerners, ie. both come from (formerly)western province, so as lineage dictates, I must be a westerner myself. No? I bet when you read westerners your first thought was geographically much further west than Western. ๐Ÿ™‚

Westerners, as I shall continue to refer to us, are known to love chicken, tea and ugali, more generally, food. Now this is a classic case of which came first, the chicken or the egg…ha ha!

I love chicken! I love roast chicken in particular. Or any kind of chicken that my mother makes really. I love it when a certain aunt of mine has a family function at her house because there is always a 99.9% chance of roast chicken! I am a westerner and for this reason, my love of chicken is immediately assigned a root cause. Ahhhhh, you are from the west, of course you love chicken.

I have many non-westerner friends who love chicken as much as I do, in some cases perhaps even more, yet somehow for them, it is a mere preference in the eyes of the world.

Correlation does not always equal causality.

I also happen to love ugali, again, observers will claim my roots explain it.

Tea, not so much. I have never been able to comfortably drink milk, (lactose intolerance, that is all you!) so ever since I can remember, while people around me drank tea at breakfast or at tea time, I had juice or a soda. An older more health conscious me now opts for water, or green tea. Green tea I love, again, an observer will conclude that it is the westerner in me, my ingrained traits taking what little control biology has taken from me and manifesting my true being, a lover of tea! Again, might I comment that many of my fellow ugali and (green) tea enthusiasts who do not have the correlating trait of being westerners(some are even triple threat, chicken, ugali and tea lovers) are, just themselves, lovers of chicken, ugali and tea. To an observer they are simply being themselves.

On that note, I’d just like to chime in that both my brothers, when given the option, will always always(did I mention ALWAYS) opt for rice rather than ugali. There could be freshly made ugali for dinner but as sure as I am that my surname is *Siminyu and not the more common Simiyu, I can bet that if there is cold leftover rice in the fridge, my little(younger, he is nearly twice my size now) brother, will warm that rice rather than have ugali.

*Intricately intertwined with the story of my life is the question, โ€œAre you sure it is Siminyu, not Simiyu?โ€ If I had 10,000USD for every time someone ‘did me the favour’ of ‘correcting’ my name from Siminyu to the more common Simiyu, I would be a dollar millionaire!

Onto Luhya memes, they are everywhere!!!

They are funny.

You there, reading this, I am sure you have at one point or another forward one of those memes.

They annoy me.



an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by internet users, often with slight variation.

My knowledge of Luhya, the language, is sparse and rudimentary at best. The sparse I speak of here is closer to non-existence than anything really. I do not know Luhya.

Let me first point out that there is more than one version of Luhya. Each sub-group has it’s own…strain of the language. My parents belong to different sub-groups, which is an obstacle in my learning of the language. I can’t tell which is which. I have grown up listening to my mother, who speaks and understands both hers and my father’s(Bakhayo), speak to him in his strain and I have also been privy to her speak to her sisters in their strain(Tachoni). I can understand snippets of both, enough to understand when I am being told off, to keep up with gossip, to be sent…but when it comes to forming my own words and thoughts, when I finally speak, it is often to be told that I am speaking a near incomprehensible version of the two strains. My older brother and I shall perhaps codify this language, not, he is the only one who understands me and I him when we attempt to speak Luhya. Am I still a westerner if I do not speak the tongue?

My poor grandmothers are always disappointed when I respond to their queries posed in Luhya in Kiswahili or English. In a worst case scenario, I will hesitantly smile and ask for a translation, knowing that what will follow is a (mini-)lecture. If my mother is present, it shall be directed at her, a scolding for not speaking to us more often in our mother-tongue. If I am on my own, a sigh from my grandmother or relative in question, I assume a disappointed one, then the scolding. I am used to it now. I wonder if these actual westerners still consider me a westerner. If I could at this point tell my grandmothers and relatives how even though I may not look like it or sound like it, my inexplicably strong affinity for chicken, (green)tea and ugali …in some circles has me indisputably labeled Luhya! Heh heh! I wonder if they would buy it.

In all the 22 years of my life, I would be surprised if I found that I have cumulatively spent more than a year of my life up country, in the west. We visit, but I reckon not as often as we should. When we do visit, it is for a short time, a week, maybe two, then back to life as we know it in the city. On one occasion, our trip up country had to be extended by a little over a week due to some unforeseen events. This was tough on my brothers and I. We were like divers. Imagine a diver who goes underwater with an oxygen tank, they know the capacity of the tank and what amount of time this translates to. That is how much time they can survive in the foreign element, in water. We were taken out of the city for what was supposed to be a short and fixed period of time, so we prepared ourselves for this span of time. On the eve of our anticipated return to our natural element, we realise that that homecoming is a little further than we were made to believe. The diver’s oxygen is running low, in your imagination right now, do you see the veins in his neck popping out and turning blue? Do you see his movement slow down, his mind becoming fuzzy…he is losing consciousness…

Okay, I exaggerate, but being up country a whole extra week was tough on us, that is what I am trying to say.

So, you may be asking yourself what the point of the previous 1213 words is, I know I sure am. The way I see it, I am teetering on a thin line. On one side, are actual westerners, the ones who possess more distinctive traits than a surname whose true north always points west, on the other side, is the rest of the world that keeps forwarding to me all the luhya memes they can lay their hands on!

๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜›

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  1. 7

    It is a generational thing may be..Unfortunately i cannot relate as such as i’m cut from the old chip..And i keep telling people there is not tribe called Luhya. Nice read.. But do your aunties speak Tachoni? Lol

  2. 11

    I can totally relate to this. sometimes it makes me sad though… this luck of understanding . but i don’t think it makes us lesser luhyas. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I believe our aunts speak Kinyala.

  3. 14
    Siboe IW

    I know the Aunty who always roasts chingokho. BTW some of your Aunties are not different from you….Am available to tutor.

  4. 15

    Funniest one yet Kat!

    “My older brother and I shall perhaps codify this language, not, he is the only one who understands me and I him when we attempt to speak Luhya” tihihihi

    I speak Kihayo only because mum used to speak it all the time growing up – I think I can only speak it in present tense though… I struggle with the other tenses hadi I end up mixing them – much to the amusement of my mum. But I am often told I speak luhya with a weng… how now, I always asks. ๐Ÿ™‚

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