Evolution in the Religious Beliefs and Practices of the Abamarama of Kakamega County, Kenya, C. 1850–1960
Otswondo, Wilberforce William
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This study is a historical analysis of the evolution of religious beliefs and practices among the Abamarama of Kakamega County who belong to the larger Abaluyia ethnic group. The study traced the evolution and development of religious beliefs and practices of this community as occasioned by decades of encounter and interaction with Christianity. This study makes a contribution to our knowledge from a historical perspective of the Abamarama culture and the Christian missionary enterprise. Among the objectives addressed in this study were, to: analyse the indigenous religious beliefs and practices of the Abamarama from c. 1850-1885; examine the response of the Abamarama to mission Christianity, 1885-1930; establish the extent of adoption of western Christian beliefs and practices by the Abamarama 1930 to 1960. Literature on the cultural history of the Abamarama and other related studies were reviewed for purposes of establishing gaps of knowledge in this study. The research was informed in the Symbolic Interactionism theory and the Conflict theory of religion. The study employed qualitative research design in gathering data for this theses. The study used purposive-stratified and snowballing sampling techniques to select the informants. The study used both primary and secondary sources to gather information. Primary sources included oral interviews and archival sources from the Kenya National Archives and the Christian mission archives in Butere. Focus Group Discussions (hereafter FGD) and oral questionnaire for the interviews were employed as research instruments that assisted in gathering primary data. The data was analysed qualitatively because of the qualitative nature of this study. Data from the archives, oral interviews and library was analysed in corroboration with that from secondary sources. The research begun upon receiving authorization letter from Kenyatta University. Research permit was issued by the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation. The study acknowledged all the authors that were cited in this research. Names of informants were not shown on the interview guide sheets for purposes of confidentiality. From the study findings; Abamarama had developed social, economic and political organization in the pre-colonial period. They had well-established religious beliefs and practices based on ancestor veneration and the belief in the Supreme Being. The interaction between Abamarama and Christianity caused resistance from Abamarama who later accepted and blended Christian values with their indigenous culture and formed a new hybrid religion. The Christian community that was formed among the Abamarama by 1960 was not pure Christianity but a syncretic religion. The findings of the study may be used by other scholars to conduct studies on transformation of culture among other ethnic groups within Kenya.