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Contact with Europeans affected the lives of Africans in many ways. For many Africans, learning to live with the influence of western ideas was challenging.


In his novel The River Between, Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o describes the changes experienced by the Gikuyu people of Kenya during the period of colonialism. The novel deals with the conlict between Christian and traditional beliefs.

Two Worlds

Waiyaki, the main character from The River Between is a boy growing up in Kenya in the 1930s and 40s. He is caught between the traditional world of his people and the world he inhabits as a student at the mission school where he is sent by his father to learn the ways of the Christians in order to refute their land claims.


Waiyaki is forced into a difficult situation after the death of a Gikuyu girl during a traditional initiation. In the end he attempts to reconcile the western and traditional cultures he knows.



Gikuyu Creation


Ngai, the supreme god, divided the universe and gave Gikuyu and Mumbi, the first parents of the Gikuyu people, all of the land surrounding Mount Kenya. He commanded them to build a homestead. Gikuyu and Mumbi had nine daughters who became the clans of the Gikuyu.





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