Explainer: Kikuyu traditional Ithemba ceremony that Julie Gichuru attended


• Julie Gichuru praised after recent traditional ceremony

• Ithemba is an Agikuyu cultural celebration marking the homecoming of young men from their initiation.

Julie Gichuru and hu by at Ithemba ceremony

With captivating images and insightful commentary, former journalist Julie Gichuru recently provided a glimpse into an age-old ritual, Ithemba, within the Agikuyu culture that continues to shape the lives of countless individuals within the community.

Ithemba is loosely translated as a Thanksgiving ceremony where parents, relatives, and friends meet to ceremoniously welcome the newly initiated back to society.

It also acknowledges their growth and transition to manhood.

The old ritual rooted in the Kikuyu culture holds deep significance as a rite of passage for young men as their initiation journey can not be considered complete without the ceremony to mark the milestones.

"Ithemba is an Agikuyu cultural celebration marking the homecoming of young men from their initiation. The group of boys who go through the initiation together is known as a riika. They separate from their families for this journey into manhood, where they also explore their histories, support each other through the process, and build strong bonds. The bond of a riika lasts a lifetime," Julie Gichuru explained.

Though is a traditional culture that a few of the new generation don't abide by as it keeps evolving to newer simplified versions.

The Ithemba ritual stems from the initiation from childhood to manhood.

Mothers play a pivotal role in the Ithemba ritual where they get to offer blessings to their sons, symbolically detaching their counsel to their young boys, a responsibility that is then left to their fathers and uncles.

The moment signifies the end of childhood and the commencement of adulthood, making a pivotal milestone in the lives of the initiates.

Fathers and uncles serve as pillars of support and guidance and assume crucial roles in shaping the journey of these young men.

Unknown to many during the ceremony the father is required to produce a goat which is slaughtered for feeding by a clan before the initiate is born to join manhood.

The traditional ritual is held to mark the end of the circumcisions' journey for young initiates.

The initiation journey begins with a group of boys forming what we term, 'riika', then they embark on a transformative experience that involves separation from their families.

During this period they delve into their histories, offer support to one another, and form lifelong bonds that endure beyond.

Over time the event has evolved to encompass elements of faith-based teachings, allowing individuals from diverse backgrounds to engage in the festivities.

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