A few days ago, I visited Mama Mwihaki (mum) and in her kitchen, there was this odd looking yellow jerrycan. For as long as I can remember, there has been a red one. Within reach. Right next to the kitchen sink.  It has been there for so long the kitchen seems incomplete without it.

I always told her we did not need one in the kitchen, especially after water was piped to the house, but she would always reply, “You wouldnt know the importance of a jerrycan” In Kiuk that sounds worse. Somehow any statement in kiuk can have a dash of rude sarcasm. So little me would always shut up and keep keeping it.

On seeing this ghastly yellow can in its place, I ask, “Kwani kamtungi ka red kako?” Terrible language. I know. Looking at this picture (above),  I’m not even sure the damn thing is red, but it has always been our red kamtungi.


Wait. What? Kalitoboka?

The jerrycan whose mouth my hand used to effortlessly fit in one day right to my elbow. I don’t know why any sane human would want to do that but as a child you derive pleasure in little things.

This jerrycan we used to fetch water to put in the house for overnight use. This was before we upgraded to a house with inbuilt taps. We had this hundred litre container that we would use to store the water. For about an hour, three of my siblings and I would attempt to fill it but we could never. Funny thing is only five jerrican-fulls would suffice. But no. We just couldn’t.

This Kamtungi that made me think Mama Mwihaki was a superhuman. (I still think she is) In my eyes you needed to be hulk to lift it, full of water.  And she would do it so effortlessly. Like a little feather in the wind.

This jerrican that we used to water our Kei apple fence. Everyone has a kei apple fence where I come from. The thorny bush  attempts to keep chicken and goat thieves away but they always seem to find a way through.  The annoying rounds of fetching water over and over again every morning and evening until the little shrubs are strong enough to tap water themselves.

This Kamtungi that has been part of every Easter, Chrismas and ruracio in Mama Mwihaki’s home. These are the days most water is used while cooking. And its not just for the soup.

This Kamtungi now leaks. After a lifetime of service, it leaks. And it has already been replaced. I thought it would always be there. I thought wrong.


  1. Mbuchi

    September 30, 2017 at 4:58 am


    Your sincerely of Art is way beyond beautiful. And am proud to be your Bro.

  2. Soh Ojiambo

    September 30, 2017 at 6:08 am

    Hehehe…. indeed you thought it wrong…. but it can also be repaired. Kuna hope hehehe

    Nice read!

  3. RuthyStevens

    September 30, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    Was there today, apparently the yellows seems to yellow. Well everything has a lifetime.

  4. Esther Mungai

    October 2, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Hey Ruthy, reading about the red kamtungi…a jerry can of memories made me walk down memory lane…you see before you knew that jerry can, actually before you showed up..it had done wonders. Those were the days when there was no piped water in the village. Anyone with water in their compound was literally worshipped, for they sustained life in the village. That Kamtungi knows the path to Mama Beths, it knows the route to the ministry of water…it knows the path to Mr Tameno’s…and it has carried thousands of litres of water. It has been carried on the head, carried on the back , carried on the wheelbarrow by the two men that are now serving the nation – one in Somalia and One in emirates – while they fought about who was not putting enough energy in balancing and pulling the kamtungi up the hill. Reminds me of the days i came walking from school, with my books and my little frame, and found mama with that Kamtungi, already filled with water… waiting….so we can walk home together, carrying the last of the days water load, before i could even have a meal. It reminded me of Ngunu…that strange and beautiful cow, that would swallow the contents of the red kamtungi in 3 gulps…and then moo as if to say,…, not enough! And then one Kibiko water project happened, from the ngong forest to the Ngong hills…and the miracle happened! There was a tap at home, and it was real, flowing with water…but then it happened, that i was at that age when i was leaving home, so i never really enjoyed the transformation, of the role of the red-kamtungi! mmmmh memories of the red kamtungi.

  5. Kiprotich Chumoh Kirui

    November 3, 2017 at 11:44 am

    i feel bad for ‘kamtungi ka red.’ i love how you use your language

  6. lord

    December 18, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    This is great writting


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