Kenyan Characters

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by Cynthia Vukets on September 21, 2009

 

Alex kneels at one of the Nganyi shrines and blows bubbles for a rainmaking elder to analyze

Alex kneels at one of the Nganyi shrines and blows bubbles for a rainmaking elder to analyze

Name: Alex Okonda

Age: 33

Profession: Entrepreneur by day, rainmaking apprentice by night

Alex tells me he has known he had the “art” since he was a little kid. He wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes, knowing it was going to rain. Since childhood those feelings have gotten stronger and when his father passed away three years ago, Alex was initiated into his clan’s traditional gift. The Nganyi people – sometimes called the “rain clan” – claim they are able to summon rain or hail and strike people down with lightning.

During times of drought, the Nganyi of Western Kenya believe Lake Victoria has pulled the rains into itself, so they practice magic with herbs and “rain stones” to draw the water back out of the lake. They are also gifted forecasters and generations ago were revered by surrounding communities. People would bring food and gifts to the Nganyi so that the rainmakers could practice their art full time and not have to worry about petty distractions such as growing food or earning a living.

Not so now. The art is dying out, says Alex, but he hopes to be able to carry it on once he reaches the required age to become one of the clan’s predictors. That won’t be for another 27 years, so he has time to stockpile food and cash for the time when he’ll be bringing rain full time. Traditionally, women weren’t allowed to know any of the Nganyi secrets, but the clan elders assure me I won’t be cursed. I’m staying away from tall trees during thunderstorms just in case.