Sport is a vital part of Kenyan culture, and several indigenous traditional sports have prevailed from the earliest history. A noticeable one is bullfighting among the Idakho and Isukha people, sub-tribes of the larger Luhya community.
The sport happens on some Saturdays and public holidays at the Malinya grounds, Kakamega. It involves bulls fighting each other, unlike the Spanish corrida de Toros, where a man fights the bull.
The event has become popular among the locals and tourists that the national government funded the construction of the Malinya stadium in the Ikolomani constituency to facilitate it.
In the olden days, the sport marked key events in the community, such as funerals, and also promoted peace as it brought people together. Lately, however, it not only acts as a source of entertainment but also generates revenue for bull owners because, after every fight, the owner of the winning bull goes home with some cash.
The bulls that participate in bullfighting are usually prepared by keeping them in zero-grazing situations and isolating them from other cattle to turn them wild. In addition, the animals are pampered and fed a specific diet featuring supplements and local herbs.
On the eve of the fight, a selected person sings war songs and talks to the bull, preparing it for the fight. Some bulls are fed with a local brew known as busaa so that they may turn aggressive, while others with a few puffs of marijuana.
The bulls are also exposed to traditional drugs and sorceries to avoid bewitching by the opposing community. This practice is sacred and a vow that remains concealed between the bull owner and the beast itself. The rituals observed are shocking. Women in their menstrual cycle and drunkards are not allowed near the bull.
On the day of the event, traditional war songs and isukuti chanting take over the stadium. Before the bull is let out of the homestead, sacrifice is offered to invoke the ancestors' spirit. The bull owner then leads the beast out, singing war songs to fire it up and trumpets blowing to signal what is about to happen.
The competing bulls are then led to the field to counter each other in a battle lasting about 4 to 30 minutes. The losing bull always flees, posing a danger to the onlooking spectators as it can heavily injure someone on its way.
People of the village where the winning bull comes from escort it back home in songs of praise. The owner of the winning bull receives a cash price. Later on, celebrations fill the village with locals enjoying the traditional brew.
It is important to uphold such traditional sports. They are authentic and identify with our specific cultures presenting the need to enhance their continuity.
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