A little-known community that we would refer to as a sub-tribe of the Akamba known as the Angulia are found mainly in Kikumbulyu in Kibwezi District of Makueni County. Kibwezi is a cosmopolitan area that is half-way between Nairobi and Mombasa. Due to its rich soils, people from different parts of Kenya settled there to farm using irrigation.
Though the Angulia are now regarded as part the Akamba, they retain distinct dialects and physical characteristics that set them apart from their neighbours. While it is possible to identify a Ngulia from their pronunciation of Kamba words, many are loath to be called by that name.
The reason for this is that the name Ngulia is taken to be derogatory implying low intelligence and backwardness.
They can however be regarded as being advanced in traditional sciences and the art of hunting. One of the darker aspects of the Angulia way of life is expertise in magic. Apart from the better known black magic referred to as wooi by the Akamba, the Angulia are adept in a trance inducing variety known as ngeevu.
This type is reputedly used to tame wild animals making them easy hunting prey. The use of magic in hunting is incremental to the Ngulia reputation for tracking. They are said to have a good understanding of animal habits and an acute sense of sight and smell.
Though there are multiple accounts of their origin, two hunter-gatherer groups may be credited with this. The first group of hunters and gatherers is known as the Aliangulu/Aliangulia that dwelt in the Kikumbulyu area of Kibwezi. An alternative name was Akikumbulyu which roughly translates to people of the wilderness (bushmen).
Little is known about this community except that they were sparsely clothed, had straight hair that reached down to their shoulders, and subsisted on berries (known as nduva in Kamba), honey and game meat. Mention of a community similar to this one is made by Ng’ang’a (2006) referring to a race of wild-looking hunters and gatherers in the region around Mt Kenya.
The Angulia may therefore be a variation of the Agumba. The Angulia were very shy and avoided contact with incoming European (sisal farmers) and African settlers. When game retreated from human habitation it is likely that the Angulia moved on probably to follow their main food source to a place unknown till now.
The second possible origin of the Angulia is a migratory hunter and gatherer community whose origins may be in the southern slopes of the Kilimanjaro. They moved to new hunting grounds that straddled south-western Kenya in what is now known as Ngulia Hills in the Tsavo West National Park.
This was until 1937 when they were moved by the colonial government after their hunting lands were converted into Crown Lands – the precursor to the national park status of the area.
As a minority, they still exist on the periphery of the modern economy whereby many are still very poor. Most Angulia of Kikumbulyu serve as manual labourers in sisal plantations in Kibwezi The poverty cycle is perpetuated by the low education standards among the Angulia. Many children lack motivation to proceed beyond primary school, and end up eking the same subsistence life as their parents.
As with other indigenous communities in Kenya, there are a number of characteristics of the Angulia that are unknown and unpublished. Very careful and focused research is required to reveal more about the ancient Ngulia language, culture and history.
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