We knew him as Maruki. Later in life, some of us realised he actually was Maluki not Maruki. His ancestral home was somewhere in Ukambani. He was one of the many people from that end of the world who migrated to Kirinyaga and got completely assimilated and adopted.
In fact, I doubt he bothered tracing his aboriginal home after he settled down at the Karani wa Difatha homestead.
Characteristic of this versatile man was to always have a bow and a quiver full of arrows. Reminiscing Maluki decades on since I last set my eyes on him easily conjures the image of the last of the hunter~gatherers we were told about in history classes.
On a more personal level, I recall the occasion when Maluki and a whole cavalcade of hunter~gatherer protégés alongside tens of mongrels pulled out a porcupine from my grandparent’s farm.
Before then, I never once imagined there were any remaining porcupines in Njoga, Rîagîcherû, Mîrera and Kagongo Gaceke, the four ridges which together make up my ancestral village. But alas! There was Maluki and Co with a spiky catch. To date the thought of that creature I saw back then held as a meal still grates my mind. However, I must admit that encountering the prospect of a porcupine as food much later in life in Ferdinand Oyono’s ‘Houseboy’ was a little more than mere déjà vu. It was a welcome confirmation that Maluki was for real.
When Maluki was not on a mission to conquer antelopes, hares, honey badgers and other such creatures, he assigned himself to general duties at the local market ~ Difathas. He’d offer, for instance, to glean the last of the meat left on cow skin by skinners who were mostly in a hurry. He’d later subject the cleaned~up raw skin to a process that involved salting and drying ahead of sale. The remnants of meat rescued from the fresh cow skin would be Maluki’s reward and meal.
Other times, Maluki would prepare germinated grains—loosely referred to as mumera—to an open~air fire ritual that culminated in some traditional beer. The beverage resulting from that process was viewed as a lowly alternative to the more sophisticated stuff village elite wannabes were associated with.
What I remember though is that a bull by name ‘wakambo’ owned by one of the politest neighbours I ever had the privilege of knowing once consumed the machicha (macica) from the mumera roasting ritual and a spectacle of its kind was recorded in the whole of Murinduko!
The otherwise graceful bull pulled the cart home at a speed hitherto never known in the entire location. Wakambo was so drunk on macica that in its mind the next big thing to do that day was to get home the fastest way possible!
It’s the same Maruki who once shot at the cloth screen of the watoto~kaeni~chini movie event at Difathas when the cowboy horses seemed hellbent on crushing the audience in a stampede typical of those Wild West shows…