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Pesa otas! How expensive lifestyle is eroding Luo culture


There is a stereotype about the Luos being a people who love engaging in activities that attract attention because of their exuberance, confidence and stylishness.

This perhaps, in part, explains the genesis of Jaluo ok sechi (Luos do not beg) and Pesa otas (Money is like a piece of paper) phrases among the Luos.

It also explains why a Luo man would put on expensive clothes, drive a big car but fail to eat.

Others live large, including buying expensive palatial homes in cities, but fail to build even a hut back in their rural villages.

Azimio la Umoja – One Kenya Coalition leader Raila Odinga with Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga during the Piny Luo cultural festival at Homa Bay High School in Homa Bay town on June 30, 2023. PHOTO | GEORGE ODIWUOR

These are among the contemporary challenges eroding the culture of the community, according to Luo elders

The Luo elders are concerned that these are some of the reasons other communities look down upon the Luos.

The elders now want members of the Luo community to go back to their roots and engage in activities that were traditionally used to identify a true Luo. That includes marrying many wives.

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According to Dr Mary Goretti, lavish lifestyles make men tempted to engage in extra marital affairs. She says most men from the community kiro kodhi oko (have children out of wedlock).

“One man would have several children but with different women. This is a practice that is common and we discourage it,” Dr Goretti said at Piny Luo Extravaganza, a two days cultural event in Homa Bay.

According to Dr Goretti, the solution for the problem is for Luo men to have as many wives as he can manage.

ODM leader Raila Odinga is shown some Luo traditional tools during the Piny Luo cultural festival at Homa Bay High School in Homa Bay town on June 30, 2023. PHOTO | GEORGE ODIWUOR

Cases of gender based violence where women are attacked by their husbands was also discussed at the festival. It was established that many women suffer in the hands of their men.

Elders revealed to the younger generation that this never used to be the case in the past. According to Dr Goretti, a woman who wrongs her husband should not be punished by being beaten.

“You should take her to the bedroom for intimacy. That is the form of punishment that our forefathers used to practice,” she said.

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Newly installed Luo Council of Elders chairman, Mzee Odungi Randa, also lamented the erosion of Luo culture. He said many Luos have now placed wealth ahead of tradition.

For example, the Luos were known to engage in wife inheritance. When a man died, another man was supposed to inherit the widow to take care of her and the children of the deceased man.

According to Mr Randa, the practice is still there but not in the way it used to be in the past.

Women participate in boat racing at Achich beach in Homa Bay town on July 1,2023 during the Piny Luo extravaganza. PHOTO | GEORGE ODIWUOR

“Inheritance used to happen within the same village. Today, men cross to different locations away from their villages for the same practice,” he said.

According to Mzee Randa, some men are only attracted by wealth left by a deceased man when engaging in wife inheritance.

He expressed concern that the flamboyant lifestyle that many Luos have embraced is likely to completely erode the culture of the community.

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