The Embu tribe, also known as Aembu, are a Bantu tribe closely related to the Kikuyu and Meru.
Aembu inhabit Kenya’s Embu district, a fertile agricultural region located at the foothills of Mount Kenya. They speak the Embu language.
History of the Embu
Like most other Kenyan Bantus, the Embu are believed to have come from Central Africa during the Bantu migration. Embu oral traditions, however, give somewhat conflicting versions of their historical origin. One of the most widely accepted versions traces the origin of the Embu tribe to regions around the Nyambene hills, north of Mount Kenya.
The story says that Mwene-Ndega, the first Embu ancestor, lived with his wife Nthara in a grove near the present day town of Runyenjes. From here, Mwene-Ndega’s descendants spread out and occupied other parts of what has since become the Embu district.
Mbeere Tribe – Cousins of the Embu People
The Mbeere people are a Kenyan tribe very similar to the Embu. Mbeere and Embu oral histories indicate that the two tribes were originally one Embu tribe. The Mbeere split from the Embu after an inter-clan war that the Embu clan won. After the victory, the Embu pushed the Mbeere to the drier and less fertile Kiangombe hills south of the Embu region. Despite this split, the two tribes co-existed peacefully. The Embu tribe often assisted the smaller Mbeere tribe in times of drought or when other tribes, such as the Akamba or Maasai, attacked them.
Culture & Lifestyle of the Embu Tribe
Embu and Mbeere tribes share many common customs and rituals. Traditionally they had jointly owned sacred places called Matiiri. As with most other Bantu tribes, circumcision is an important rite of passage for Embu and Mbeere boys.
Among the Embu, the clan or extended family had less influence on family life than in other Bantu tribes. When an Embu man married, he would build his own home away from his father’s home and would manage his family almost independently.
Embu Economic Activities
Embu people are an agricultural tribe, growing maize, millet, sorghum, beans, cassava,and yams among other crops as subsistence food. They also rear domestic livestock in addition to growing cash crops such as Macadamia nuts, coffee and tea. Since the Mbeere’s land is drier and less fertile, they can only rear small herds of domestic livestock. The Mbeere, therefore, often depend on their Embu cousins for food supplies, especially in times of drought.
Like the Kikuyu, the Aembu believed that their god, Ngai, lived on the top of Mount Kenya. Prayers and sacrifices were traditionally made to this god. Today, most Embus are Christians.
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