Gusii - Orientation

Identification. "Gusii" or "Abagusii" is the people's name for themselves. A Gusii individual is an Omogusii." "Kisii" is the Swahili name that the British colonial administration used, and it is still the common name used by other inhabitants of Kenya. The Gusii are divided into seven clan clusters: Kitutu (Getutu), North Mugirango, South Mugirango, Majoge, Wanjare (Nchari), Bassi, and Nyaribari.

Location. Gusiiland is located in western Kenya, 50 kilometers east of Lake Victoria. Since precolonial times, abundant rainfall and very fertile soils have made Gusiiland one of the most productive agricultural areas in Kenya. The proportion of cultivable land ranges between 70 and 80 percent. The region is demarcated by the coordinates 0°30′ and l°00′ S and 34°30′ and 35°00′ E. In 1989 Kisii District was divided in two; one segment retained the old name, and the other was called Nyamira. The Gusii are still the sole ethnic group inhabiting these districts. The area is a rolling hilly landscape on a deeply dissected peneplain at elevations of 1,190 meters in the far northwestern corner of the territory and up to 2,130 meters in the central highlands. The mean maximum temperatures range from 28.4° C at the lowest elevations to 22.8° C at the highest. The mean minimum temperatures are 16.4° C and 9.8° C, respectively. Rain falls throughout the year; the annual average is between 150 and 200 centimeters. There are two peak seasons of rainfall: the major rainy season (March to May) and the minor rainy season (September to November). In the nineteenth century much of present-day Gusiiland was covered by moist montane forest. Today all forest has been cleared; scant indigenous vegetation remains, and no large mammals are found.

Demography. In 1989 the number of Gusii was 1.3 million, and population densities ranged from 200 to over 600 persons per square kilometer. This population, increasing by 3 to 4 percent per year, is among those exhibiting the most rapid growth in the world. The average woman bears close to nine children. Infant mortality is low by sub-Saharan African standards about 80 per 1,000 live births.

Linguistic Affiliation. Ekegusii is a Lacustrine Bantu language.

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