How familiar are you with your ancestry? Taita Taveta has been the setting for a documentary that will be released soon. The documentary focuses on the intermarriage between Abyssinians and the Taita people. This is a piece of history that many Kenyans are unaware of. According to legend, there was a time when tall, light-skinned wanderers arrived in Taita Taveta county via the Maramunyi forest. The locals welcomed them and allowed them to settle at the foot of the rocky Wongonyi Hills. 

The newcomers were captivated by Taita’s beauty and the warm hospitality of its people. They made the area their home and established their own village over time. Violent lightning abruptly disrupted their peaceful existence, resulting in the deaths of most of the village’s residents. It caused extensive destruction, wiping out the visitors. 

After the natural disaster, only a few Abyssinians survived. They integrated into the community and adopted local Taita names. The tragedy was so severe that there are stories of elders making a pact to never speak about the incident.

I recently spoke with Dr Livingstone Mgenyi, a local cultural researcher and the National Chair of the Domestic Tourism Association. According to Dr Mgenyi, there is evidence of interaction between Abyssinians from Ethiopia and the local Taitas, reflected in the complexion of some of the Taita people. He mentioned that the visitors were from current-day Ethiopia, and there are rumours that the gemstones and minerals in the area were part of King Solomon’s mines.

Abyssinian visitors from current-day Ethiopia arrived and settled in Taita Taveta. It is rumoured that the gemstones and minerals in the area were part of King Solomon’s mines.

Many anthropologists and cultural researchers are beginning to accept the authenticity of this oral story. Meanwhile, senior officials from the Association of Kenya-Ethiopia Friends (FKE) have embarked on verifying this lineage. However, this is challenging as they are working with seventh-generation descendants. Furthermore, they only have oral accounts and stories passed down from one generation to the next to go by.

Mzee Mwachaka Mghenja will be in the documentary. Born in 1954, Mzee Mghenja is familiar with the story of the Abyssinians arriving in Taita. He says that before his grandmother passed, she disclosed the story to him, including how the light-skinned settlers perished in a lightning catastrophe. Mgenja did not think much about the story, but according to his grandmother, he may be one of the potential descendants of this intermarriage.

Mzee Mghenja, an 8th generation descendant, is familiar with the story of the Abyssinians arriving in Taita. He says that before his grandmother passed, she disclosed the story to him, including how the light-skinned settlers perished in a lightning catastrophe.

This upcoming documentary will cover the efforts undertaken so far to establish links. It seems Taita Taveta is quickly becoming a hot bet for cultural tourism. During the documentary’s shooting, we experienced laughter, hospitality, and interaction, providing evidence of Taita’s spell-binding effect on all its visitors. 

Are you a light-skinned Taita? Maybe you are part of this long-forgotten ancestry. 

According to Dr Livingstone, “Individuals and even the Governor claim that they belong to the Abyssinian clan (the Habesh) from Ethiopia. According to the Bible stories, the Queen of Sheba of Ethiopia also belongs to this clan. When they came to Taita 800 years ago, they discovered minerals here in Taita Taveta, such as iron ore and various gemstones. It is believed that some of King Solomon’s mines are located here.”

Researchers have uncovered artefacts used by Abyssinians. Dr. Livingstone and the National Museums of Kenya are collaborating to reveal this forgotten history.

Will keep you updated about the documentary, it will surely be a treat.