Luhya (Luhia) is spoken by about 3,000,000 in the western area of Kenya.
Luhya is made up of different dialects that form the different Luhya groups. They do not all speak the same language. For example we have the Bukusu, Nyore, Hanga (Wanga), Idakho-Isukha-Tiriki, Saamia and Maragoli.
The Luhya or Baluyia as they call themselves tribal homeland is located in western Kenya north of Lake Victoria. This area is very densely populated.
A good percentage of the Luhyas has migrated to major business centres like Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa. There are various migration traditions among the different Luhya groups. Some believe they migrated from Egypt. Other Bantu peoples as well as Nilotic peoples, have a tradition of origin in "Egypt." Referring to a northern area from the Sudan or Ethiopia farther north.
The Luhya’s were led by Kings. King Mumia had many encounters with the White and his reign was characterized by skirmishes between the Luhya and the white men.
The Luhya are classified as a Bantu people, based on their language. The name Bantu means "human beings." It appears that over a period of centuries, successive groups of Bantu speakers migrated into the area. There was thus a common underlying origin and language-culture base, but with diversity over the years.
The different dialects and people groups among the Luhya indicate that various small groups of Bantu-speaking peoples settled over a period in these areas. They developed a political unity during the latter stages of the colonial period.
Over the years, war was common with their Nilotic neighbors, the Teso, Nandi, Maasai and Luo. Records of these wars date back to the 1750s. Despite this enmity, many Luhya families have intermarried over long periods with the neighboring Luo, a Nilotic people. It is common to find Luo names among Luhya, particularly the Maragoli.
The Luhya groups do not all speak the same language. There are different dialects of the Luyia language . Others speak what are classified as the languages of Bukusu, Nyore, Hanga (Wanga), Idakho-Isukha-Tiriki, Saamia and Maragoli. Each sub-tribe has its own traditional language and customs. The traditional language is spoken in the home almost exclusively. There is similarity between the different dialects and overall the Luhyas can understand each other despite the differences.
Being one of the top three tribe in Kenya, the Luhyas
play a major role in the politics of Kenya especially in larger cities
such as Nairobi.
The traditional religion practiced is animism and spiritism. To date many still continue to give honor to the ancestral spirits. Witch-doctors and wizards commonly referred to as night runners are common. They can be spotted running naked at night.
There has been a strong Christian witness among the Luhya in the recent past. All of the sub-tribes have been evangelized and profess Christianity. Yet many mix Christianity with traditional religion.
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