In Luhya land, bulls are highly honoured as they play a greater role in the cultural life of the Abaluhya community. Among the Isukha and Idakho people, famous for the bull fighting, the elders are accorded a befitting send off, in cases of death. To show respect, bulls are used to fill up a man’s grave with soil. For it is believed that in doing so the deceased spirit will rest in peace and if this custom is not followed the deceased soul will haunt the family.
Bull fighting is a cultural practice that has become famous in western Kenya. It is majorly practiced by the residents of Kakamega County specifically in Shinyalu and Ikolomani constituencies. In Ikolomani constituency, the fight happens in Malinya Stadium, where thousands of spectators gather to watch. The event happens on some Saturdays and public holidays. Bull fighting has been the pillar of fostering peace among the communities of the Luhya tribe. Unlike the Spanish corrida de toros where man fights bull, the Kakamega bull-fighting involves bulls fighting each other.
All bulls used for the fights are well prepared in advance and also subjected to a balanced diet. Bull fighting is endowed with a series of rituals in which, a special person is selected objectively to sing war songs to the beast on the eve of the fight. The person talks to the bull, preparing it for the fight.
All bulls are made to live in isolation from other animals as a way of keeping them wild. Young bulls are trained for battle and are paired with their peers during training. Some of them are fed with busaa, a local home-made brew that is believed to make them charged, while some with a few puffs of marijuana introduced hours before the fight. The bulls are also exposed to traditional drugs and sorceries to avoid bewitching from the opposing community but this practise is sacred. A vow that remains concealed between the bull owner and the beast itself. The beast is only fed by a specific person who maintains a single set piece of clothing, besides bright colours are not allowed. The revelation of rituals here is shocking, for instance women in their menstrual cycle are forbidden for getting near the bull. This also applies to drunkards, as the bull will turn wild becoming dreadful.
As the golden rays of the sun rises on the horizon a shrill horn blows piercing the Luhya kingdom making everyone in the tiny village of Khayenga alert. Traditional war songs and isukuti chanting takes over the afternoon staring excitement in the tiny village of Khayenga. Incarnations to invoke the ancestors spirit is done before the bull is let out of the homestead. As the bull owner leads the beast out, singing war songs to fire up the beast, trumpets are played penetrating the village, sending signals of what is about to begin.
The beats of the famous and most celebrated isukuti drums rises the crescendos turning the whole stadium into a frenzy. The drumbeats are a clear message that the contender is being escorted into the stadium. Elders swing the ritual rod in the air as the indicator splinted match in the stadium. The swing rod cannot be held by anyone but only an elder.
During this bloodletting game, there are key items that must be present; the isukuti, a special whistle and a ritual rod. The whistle, once blown the bulls commence fighting.
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