TAMADUNI ZETU

Having a gift in hand is a tradition worth preserving

A ritual passed down in some families is forgotten in others

In Summary

• I learnt that some have never even bought the basic milk and bread some of us were taught to carry when we go visiting.  

• "Waswahili husema, 'Mgeni njoo, mwenyeji apone'," my mum would say. 

A visitor gifts groceries to his host
A visitor gifts groceries to his host
Image: FREEPIK

One thing I have noticed that has started dying a slow death in my generation today is the culture or bringing something with you when visiting someone’s home. 

For context, in my friend group, I am always the planner. 

For trips, game nights, hangouts, birthday celebrations, surprise parties; every single group activity that requires planning, they always know I am the person to do the planning. 

Recently, one of my closest friends from my friend's group fell ill and was admitted, but he was also almost immediately discharged. 

A few friends and I then decided to pick a flexible working day to go visit him and find out how he is faring. 

We met up with some of my friends before we headed out to visit him and even before we went into the supermarket to grab a few things, I had already told everyone that we would be picking a few things to carry with us. 

When we got to the supermarket, one picked a cart and I proceeded to ask what they would like us to pick. 

“I have never done small shopping to take to someone’s home,” one guy said. 

“Actually, I think you can help guide us on what to pick because we have never done this before.” 

“You have never visited family or friends with your parents, and then they often stop to buy a few things here and there before reaching their destination?” I asked.  

“Nope,” they responded. 

“Hata kununua maziwa na mkate?” I asked again.  

“Mi sijawahi jua mtu hubeba vitu akienda kwa nyumba ya wenyewe,” another guy responded.  

Of course at this point I wondered how many people at my age still follow the tradition of bringing something with them when they visit somebody else’s home. 

Fast-forward to another small gathering we had as friendsm, and the same topic came about. A lady in my group said she never visits a person’s home without buying the host something small. 

“It is a way to appreciate the host,” she said.  

At this point, I almost felt like it was becoming a feminine tradition.  

Bear with me.  

Speaking to a male colleague, he mentioned that he would definitely carry something small with him when he is out visiting his parents or in-laws or family or a sick friend. 

“Sometimes, when it comes to friends, it might depend. I do not feel it is necessary to get something for them if you are so close to a point where you can gate-crash their home.” he said. 

Okay, so it is not a feminine tradition.  

I was brought up in a home where I learnt to be carrying something small with me as I visit whoever I am going to see.  

“My mother and grandmother always taught us to be carrying something with us,” my mother once told me. 

“They taught me that sometimes, whoever you are visiting may not be doing well financially and cannot afford to even make you tea.

“Hence the small thing you bring hides the shame and they are able to make you a meal based on what you brought them. 

“Even with children, always be carrying something for them. It can be a small snack like sweets, biscuits or even crisps. Ni kama tu venye Waswahili husema, ‘Mgeni njoo, mwenyeji apone’.” 

It was interesting to find out that most of the people I hang out with and are around my age do not see the need to carry something with them when they go visiting.  

Some have never even bought the basic milk and bread some of us were taught to carry when we go visiting.  

They can either be visiting their relatives, friends or family.  

Which made me wonder, do some of our parents just willingly avoid imparting such traditional knowledge in us as a way to avoid micro-grooming the black tax tradition? 

But again, why is it that some people never buy something when they go visiting somebody else’s home? 

Do you find it imperative to carry something small with you when you do decide to visit a home? 

Is it something we should be doing more often? Food for thought.

All I know is for my friend group, when we visit each other today, we always have to bring something small for the host. 

Yes, I imparted that old tradition with them, and it has actually stuck with them. 

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