THE STORY OF NYAMGONDHO WUOD OMBARE
Mai the son of Ombare was popularly known as [Nyamgondho Wuod Ombare in Luo]. He lived between the late 14th and 15th centuries on the shores of Lake Victoria in the present day Nyandiwa Village, Gwassi Location, Suba District, Kenya.
He was a member of the Waturi tribe [Bantus] who migrated to Tanganyika [Tanzania] in the 18th century. The other Bantu tribes in Gwassi Location by then included the Wategi, Wagonjo, Wasio and Wagire. Most members of these Bantu tribes also migrated to Tanganyika, leaving only a few behind. The Luos who lived in Gwassi location at the time also migrated and settled in the present day Kamagambo location.
Nyamgondho came from a very poor family of fishermen and was himself a very poor but God-fearing fisherman. The fishermen including Nyamgondho used to set fish traps [called Mgondho in Luo] every evening. One early morning when Nyamgondho went to check his traps he found a strange woman in one of his traps. This frightened Nyamgondho but the woman told him not to be scared and asked him to take her to his home and light a fire for her to warm herself. When they were leaving for home the woman asked Nyamgondho to take a long her goat, which she had left in a nearby mass of floating vegetation on which she and her goat had drifted for a long time.
Nyamgondho was very good to the woman who later agreed to marry him. Nyamgondho continued to work very hard and through the good luck brought by his new wife and her goat began to accumulate riches, including large herds of goats, sheep and cattle. As his wealth increased over the years, Nyamgondho not only married more wives but also began frequenting drinking places and drunk heavily. Nyamgondho’s first wife did not oppose his new marriages or heavy drinking but admonished him never to abuse her now, show contempt towards her just because he had fetched her from the lake. Nyamgondho’s first wife was popularly known as Nyar Migodho [meaning the daughter of Migodho] in reference to the fish trap in which she was found. Mai, her husband also became popularly known as Nyamgondho.
Nyamgondho often came home late at night from his drinking sprees and abused his wives .One night he returned home late and very drunk and found all his wives had locked their doors. No wife opened the door for him, his many calls for them to open the door for him notwithstanding. He ignored the early warning and the promise he had made and told his first wife that even the woman he fetched from the lake could not open the door for him. The harsh words upset his wife who nevertheless opened the door for him but decided to take revenge.
The following morning the cows became wild making it impossible for Nyamgondho to milk them. Nyamgondho’s first wife told him she had decided to return with all her wealth to Lake Victoria and that he would be as poor as he used to be before they met. She took her walking stick, smoking pipe and a few personal belongings. She then called out the rest of Nyamgondho’s family and all the animals Nyamgondho had had to join her on her return journey to the Lake. The rest of Nyamgondho’s family and all the herds of goat, sheep and cattle as well as birds followed her.
When Nyamgondho saw all he had possessed valued streaming to the lake, he followed them and tried in vain to stop them. As his first wife and the animals disappeared into the deep waters in Lake Victoria, Nyamgondho felt the pain of his total loss, stood on the water’s edge, rested his chin on his walking stick and was mysteriously transformed into a tree. To this day one can still see the footprints of Nyamgondho’s family and the animals entering the lake and the tree into which Nyamgondho was transformed.
Where Nyamgondho’s first wife came from remains unknown to this day but legend has it that she was a goddess. She is believed to be same woman who performed many other supernatural acts on the shores of Lake Victoria, including the sinking Simbi Nyaima in Rachuonyo District [Kendu Bay]. If so, then her name should probably be Anyango Nyar Gwassi [Anyango the daughter of Gwassi].
The story of Nyamgondho has interesting parallels to the Biblical story of Lot’s wife. Both stories portray people who disobeyed God’s directives because of their love for material wealth and were punished by death while looking in the direction where their wealth lay. Moreover, the destruction of Simbi Nyaima was due to the immorality of its people bears close resemblance to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Biblical times.
Thomas Okanga Atsango
Chairman, Suba Council of Elders