TRACING THE ORIGIN OF IMBALU
The history and origin of Imbalu is traced from a Murwa girl of Burwa clan in Masai – Kenya. She enticed Fuuya – son of Mukhama of Mutoto into circumcision as a pre-condition for her marriage to him.
It is said that as the young Barwa girls of the Masai tribe were playing in their homestead, they saw a smoke in a far distance – far away from their home. The girls picked an argument among themselves and argued as to whether it was possible for anyone of them to run and reach the fireplace and return.
At the height of the argument, one brave blonde called Nabarwa offered to take the risk. And immediately she started to journey into the unknown. She ran as fast as her legs could lift her – as her friends watched in bewilderment. She ran as her image diminished further and further – until she completely disappeared from her watchers. Nabarwa ran until she got lost into the forest of Mt. Masaaba – so called Mt. Elgon.
Deep in the forest, Nabarwa met Fuuya – the great hunter – from Mutoto of Ngokho Clan. Fuuya looked in full admiration of a strange beautiful girl standing before him. He looked at the whole anatomy of Nabarwa and instantly fell in love. Nabarwa too was smitten by the brave-handsome-muscled man standing in the wild. She couldn’t resist the love offer.
But Fuuya had to undertake Imbalu as a precondition to his marriage to Nabarwa. Because of his great love for her, he did it.
However, Imbalu did not catch on immediately. It was not until Fuuya’s sons caught a rare life-threatening sickness that Imbalu caught the attention of the descendants of Masaaba.
It is said that Aramunyenye, the brother-in-law to Fuuya, paid a visit and found his nephews on the brink of death. That upon examination, he discovered that the spirit of Imbalu afflicted the boys. He recommended immediate circumcision in order to restore their health.
Aramunyenye thus circumcised the boys and upon recovery, their health was restored to fullness. The boys became men, built own homes, married and started own families. Neighbours were wowed. They were surprised and equally excited. They voluntarily surrendered to the act of to the knife that cured Fuuya’s sons. Neighboring communities followed – and so are the communities that neighboured neighbours. Imbalu news spread like bush fire. It was not long before the custom spread throughout Masaabaland.
Imbalu starts with Bumutoto clan before to spreads to other clans of Inda Ya Wanaale, Inda Ya Mubuuya ending with Inda Ya Mwambu.
From that time upto today, and tomorrow, imbalu has remained an imperishable custom among our people – the Bagisu. Neighbouring tribes like the Banyole, Bagwere, Itesots, and Japadhola have had some of the sons offer themselves for Bagisu way of circumcision. Imbalu can only be modified… it can’t be stopped.
Once circumcised, a man becomes the clean slate upon which society inscribes its accrued indigenous knowledge and morals.
Upon circumcision, a young man is taught by his circumciser – Umukhebi – to think with the community and to see the world from a broader perspective. Imbalu signifies the right of passage from boyhood to manhood, marriage, parenthood, elderhood and finally ancestorhood. Imbalu is a badge that differentiates a true Mumasaaba man from the rest.