An analysis of the context and meaning of the poetry within the Babukusu Khuswala Kumuse funeral ritual
Musungu, Joseph Juma
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The theme of death and dying in Africa has attracted a lot of studies mainly from anthropology, sociology and religious studies. Such studies include: Abrahamson (1951), Goody (1962), Sangree (1966), Mbiti (1969), Adeyemo (1979) and Gehman (1999). These studies have mainly focused on the causes of death, the meaning of death and the destination of the souls of the dead. In literature, few studies have been made on this theme. These studies have been broad covering many communities in Africa. Also, they have been general in the sense that they lack a specific guiding theoretical framework. These studies include: Finnegan (1970), P'Bitek (1974), Nandwa (1976) and Akivaga and Odaga (1982). It is in the light of the foregoing that this study comes up to study the poetry performed within the Babukusu khuswala kumuse funeral ritual. The study employs the ethno poetic theory to locate the poetry within the ritual to the community's setting. This theory provides an opportunity for the researcher to have a closer interaction with the community under study through field work. Such an interaction is vital in analysing the given poetry. In field research the study used participation and observation, interviews as well as review of documents to collect data. Our research team attended and participated in four funerals from different parts of Bungoma District. The funerals attended were limited given that this ritual is restricted to a few elderly male members of the community. The people interviewed were selected through purposive and snow-balle sampling techniques. The exercise set off with interviewing ten opinion leaders who were identified by ritual performers. These leaders then identified ten more people. The sample encompassed people from different parts of Bungoma district. The documents reviewed included textbooks, dissertations, articles in journals, government reports and review commentaries. In this study, it is revealed that the poetry within the ritual of khuswala kumuse is disseminated during the funeral of elderly male members of the Babukusu community. It has also been established that the poetry performed within khuswala kumuse transcends the funeral context. This poetry educates the community on matters of life and death. In relation to these findings, the credibility of this study is established.