Syokimau

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Syokimau was born around 1820s, and grew up in Kitunduni village on the Iveti hills, in what’s known today as the Machakos County. Her home was on the opposite side of Iveti hills, which were appropriately named as they were the hiding place for iveti (women) and children, whenever the Maasai warriors raided.

Those incursions by the Maasai and the retaliatory raids orchestrated by the Kamba made Syokimau a household name as she was elevated to serve as the spiritual leader of her community. It was her duty to pray and offer sacrifices to Ngai on behalf of the warriors before they went on cattle raids against the Maasai.

In times of calamity, as happened when the plague broke out, the Akamba community consulted Syokimau to intercede.  So famous was the seer that another prophetess of her time, Syonguu, named the area near Athi River Syokimau, which stands to date.

Syokimau predicted the coming of the colonialists and the railway. She told her people that foreigners would ride in Kenya in the bowels of birds (airplanes) and would speak like birds (foreign languages).

Syokimau also prophesied that the strangers would ride on a snake that has very many legs (train). The snake would have its tail and head in water, accurately presaging the Kenya railway that started off the Indian Ocean and terminated in Kisumu, on the fringes of Lake Victoria.

The seer also served as a medicine woman and exorcised the evil spirits. When she died of old age, single and childless, she was buried in the Iveti hills. Her grave is now an ithembo (shrine) teeming with indigenous trees, including a mugumo (fig), a guarded community resource where culture enthusiasts offer sacrifices to their ancestors.

The land where the Syokimau shrine is located has since been granted a title deed in the name of the community around Kitunduni.

Syokimau’s statue was unveiled in 2013 outside the railway station that also bears her name.