I was born and raised in a place called Manyatta, Kisumu County. Most people here are settlers from Gem and we interacted mostly with people from Kanyakwar who to them, we had encroached on their land. We are many here you could be forgiven if you referred to the place as Gem Republic.
My great grand father in the 19th Century together with his younger sister and brother, started a journey that would see us migrate and settle in Kisumu, a place we call home. He became a Chief in the early 1900’s. The late Ex Chief Simeon Akech was a hardworking man. His position enabled him to amasse great wealth in terms of land. We are told of how he owned land from Fanana in Kondele to Kachok now Nairobi bypass to Kisumu Social Hall. He later had to let go of some of the land as the Government had plans to develop the city.
Simeon had three wives, my great grandmother the late Anna Ojinyo being the Second wife who bore him four sons. My grandfather the late Zakayo Oloo being the second born son. I lack words to describe this great man whose legacy has touched every ebb of my being. I stand tall and proud whenever his name is mentioned. You may not know him, and that is the main reason as to why I introduce this piece to you.
It was in 1918 when Anna Ojinyo delivered a bouncing baby boy to the Ex Chief Simeon Akech. They saw it fit to name him Zakayo (please do not assume he was a short man like Zakayo of the Bible) Oloo (named after his father’s brother Daniel Oloo). I know little of his school years, but what am certain of is that he was one industrious and hardworking man.
My grandpa met my beautiful grandma Deborah Onyango-Oloo (Nyakager) in the early 1940’s. Their union was blessed when my late dad Eliud Henry Otieno was born in July 1943. He would narrate to us how he grew up in Railways staff houses behind Aga Khan Primary School in Kisumu in the heart of juacali down town.
Mzee Zakayo Oloo as he was popurlary addressed was working at the Railways company until he met with a small accident at the workplace that saw him leave his place of work after being compensated. He was a wise man and invested the money he got in purchasing some parcels of land out of town to do farming. He loved farming so much that our home never lacked food. He later decided to work at a Hindu shop in Oginga Odinga street that sold household items.
He had eleven children though three passed away in infancy. So we grew up in a place near Love bar adjacent to Arina Estate. So this is where my life began. I recall how every August holiday he would gather young men around our place to go help him harvest maize in his Koru farm. We looked forward to this day because to us his grandchildren, it was like a feast and he would gladly tell us it was his birthday. So my grandma could select the largest cooking pot referred to as nyuol ber in my local dialect as it would make alot of food to be served to many at ago. We would help her in setting the fire place and arrange the maize in the pot.
My cousins, siblings and I would play cheerfully but not going far away as our eyes were glued on the pot. The flames would get fiery at times and the more it did, the merrier we became. The sweet aroma of boiled maize would reek the compound, and we would salivate awaiting the prize. Occasionally grandma would add firewood so that the maize would come out well. And we would gather around her lest we were engrossed in our playing and forgot about the prize!
Grandpa as usual was in the house watching his favorite news channel as he conversed with his sons. Tea would be prepared and everyone would sit down to enjoy our prize. Everyone would eat to their fill as their was too much we could not finish at ago. This was in preparation to the subsequent activities that would take place in the coming weeks…..