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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Local culture: the legend of Mwauzi Tumbe

Once upon a time, five centuries ago, the Shirazi people sailed across the Red Sea in seven boats lead by Sir Hasssan bin Ali, coming from the old kingdom of Persia. Some sailed to Lamu, others to Zanzibar and some to Zanzibar, and one to Mombasa. On the boat that landed in Mombasa there was a King’s daughter that settled in Msambweni, a little further up the coast from Shimoni., and a village was named Vumbe in her honor. Later, the Shirazi moved along the cross and settled down in Wasini Island, in Mkwiro village.
The people from Mkwiro were famous for being master drum makers and known to possess magical drum beats. The Vumbe were jealous of the skills of their new neighbors, and decided to attack them to steal their drums.  For that, they decided the best strategy was to marry a girl from the Shirazi village and use her to “cry wolf”. The girl, called Mwauzi Tumbe, loved her husband so much that she agreed to participate in the plan. She went to her village and yell “war, war!”, and the Shirazi ran out to protect their village, only to discover that there was nobody out there. Some days passed and once again the girl called for war again. The people from Mkwiro went rapidly to defend their possessions once more, and once more they found out that nobody was attacking them. A few days later, she cried out again but, this time, nobody believed her. And it was this time when the people from Vumbe attacked Mkwiro, ransacked it and stole the drums.
Mwauzi Tumbe came back to her husband after betraying her people, but the Vumbe were not too impressed with her neither: if she could betray to her own people, why wouldn’t she do that to them? So they took her to the tiny island of Kisite and let her there to die.
But the gods were not happy with this, and famine felt over both villages: no rain and no fish in the sea. The Vumbe and the Shirazi went to visit the shaman, who told them the gods were unhappy with their behavior and the way Mwauzi Tumbe had been treated: they should amend the damage done. The two tribes sailed to Kisite, brought back her body and buried it in the sacred forest Kaya Bogoa, close to Mkwiro.
Nowadays, this is still a cult place, signaled clearly and treated with respect, and the story of Mwauzi Tumbe and the drums from Mkwiro is still known in the island.