Title: Kahiigi (The folktales of Bakiga)
Author: Hans Mwesigwa
Publisher: 8M Publishers
Release date: 2021
Reviewed by Promise Twinamukye
This book has a rural and ancient setting and revolves around communal eating, hunting and farming. This, therefore, gives one a taste that is as raw as possible.
As young children, especially from that rural setting, greed can easily be noticed with food, be it enough or not. Kahiigi, the main character in Hans Mwesigwa’s book, is a handsome, masculine and strong village hero.
But he has a blemish – greed and selfishness. As the Bakiga say, according to the book, “Ha murungi otagira kamogo” (there is no beautiful one without a blemish), so is Kahiigi.
As a young child, his mother stopped giving him food on the same plate as the others because he would eat most of it, leaving the others hungry.
It did not stop there. When Kahiigi was only as tall as the cooking pot, he sneaked into the kitchen, sharpened a stick and used it to hook pieces of meat from the boiling pot.
He was only starting off on an eventful life that saw him do his best to grab whatever he could from others, which eventually led to a tragic end.
In the book, Mwesigwa not only brings to life the morals as taught by our forefathers, but also keeps them alive for future generations before they are completely erased from our minds.
Through the book, we see how greed can kill even the strongest friendships. Kahiigi’s blood friendship with Nshemere, who saves him from a beast when he goes to hunt with his uncle, is initiated.
“He asked for two leaves of ekiko, the coral tree. Then using a spear, he made a small cut below each one’s umbilical cord. He put on each other leaf a few drops of blood from the other,” the book reads in part.
After they become friends, Nshemere teaches Kahiigi about farming and Kahiigi in turn teaches Nshemere about hunting. They become inseparable and the whole village knows about their friendship, including their wives. This friendship is later tested by a natural disaster.
Reading the book helps one see how their friendship goes down the drain just because of a piece of meat.
“Suddenly, Nshemere raises a spear to kill the animal. And suddenly too, as Kahiigi saw Nshemere’s poised spear, well knowing that it was he who had taught him how to throw a spear without missing, an evil thought struck him. He recalled that in hunting, the animal belongs to the first one to spear it. He takes the lion’s share, including the treasured parts, namely the heart, the kidneys and better part of the meat. Kahiigi’s long forgotten greed and selfishness suddenly surfaced, suppressing the blood friendship.”
During time of plenty Kahiigi’s flaws are concealed, but when hunger strikes, he cannot stand losing meat, not even to his blood friend.
Mwesigwa’s intention is laid out in the book from the beginning to the end. With illustrations to lead the mind, he keeps one on track with the time in which the book was based to extract the moral embedded in it.
It is a short book that can be read in a couple of hours. The body of the story covers just 23 pages and later there are questions for reflection and better understanding of what the book is about.
Dubbed in English and Rukiga, the book is able to drive the message home, in addition to keeping the mother language alive. This is why I would recommend it, especially for parents who want their children to rewind with stories of the old and learn how to read in their local languages too.
In the end, the author reveals the intention of the book.
“Elders always used the tragic story of Kahiigi to teach people, particularly the young that although greed and selfishness are natural, too much of it destroys the individual and society.”
According to Mwesigwa, he intends to translate it into other local and foreign languages so that African tales and learning about African history is enhanced.