Bernard Chabari comes from Kithuri, the clan of the spiritual leader of Tharaka, the Mugwe. Mugwe delivered people of Tharaka from Mbwa to Tharaka, the Promised Land with bees. This is how the bees became Bernard’s totem. He grew up with his father learning from apprenticeship how to take care of bees and to harvest honey traditionally. At childhood, he spent most of his time in the wilderness grazing, hunting and gathering. His family lived very close to his clan’s sacred natural sites at Nkunguru Rock and Irii ya Mwambia. Bernard is born after his grandfather M’Kiguri. He was a traditional medicine man. M’Kiguri was well known for his specialized skills in catching and handling snakes. He wanted to leave behind this skill to his sons. Unfortunately, Bernard’s father was already converted into Christianity. At one point Bernard found himself torn between living a Christian life (because of his newly converted father) and that of his uncles who were practising traditionalists. During his initiation, this paradox came into play. His uncles had to steal him so he could be initiated in the traditional way. While working at the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government in the Department of Immigration, he came together with his longtime friends, Simon Mitambo and Agostine Mwaniki. The three founded the Society for Alternative Learning and Transformation (SALT). Bernard became the founding President / Chairperson of SALT. Bernard holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Moi University in Political Science and a Masters Degree in Public Policy, and Administration from Kenyatta University.
A remnant of the aboriginal clan of Tharaka, the Gankuyu, Simon Mitambo is an initiated African leader, whose totem is Leopard. He has undergone many rigorous transformative nature-based rites of passage. Simon is a graduate of Earth Jurisprudence (EJ) Course run by Gaia Foundation, UK. His calling to walk the Earth-centred path initially came as a divination by Mukwarimburi M’Kaiguari. When Simon’s mother went to seek divination after losing the flock of her sheep, Mukwarimburi told her the divination could only see a boy standing by Kiguru sacred natural site in Kijege Mountain. The image of the boy was covering the whole mountain. This divination has come to be the greatest inspiration for Simon in walking the ancestral path. Simon has worked extensively with indigenous and local knowledge systems across Africa and beyond. He has demonstrated the nexus between culture and empowerment. He has showed that indigenous knowledge is innovative and forward thinking. This is contrary to the belief held by many elites and policy makers who think that indigenous knowledge is static. Together with other dreamers, Simon pioneered the formation of Society for Alternative Learning and Transformation, (2013) and the first Earth-centred school in Kenya – The Kithino Learning Centre, (2016). In May 2018, Simon received a Global Influence Award (Lush Spring Prize) in the UK. This was a collective recognition of his work with African Biodiversity Network and partners across Africa in Benin, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Simon holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nairobi. He is undertaking Masters Degree in Public Policy and Administration from Kenyatta University.
Agostine Mwaniki aka Mwanaah, is a young and energetic man who has great passion for cultural revival and revitalization. He is a member of Gankuyu clan whose totem is Leopard. Whenever you come across Mwanaah speaking about Tharaka culture, you will always feel that you are speaking to an elder at 90s. He speaks with great passion and fun like someone who is very clear about the space of the indigenous knowledge in the 21st century. Mwanaah will always leave you wondering where such a young man got the great wisdom and the deep knowledge about his ancestors. The secret is that he has grown up very closely interacting with his grandparents – Muguongo, Ntugu, Matende, Kiburia, Mathaani and Nthiga. Mwanaah is a representation that young generation too can find space for learning through intergenerational knowledge transfer. Mwanaah is a great singer and a dancer. He knows how to dance all manner of traditional songs and styles. His favourite dance is Mboboi. He lost his mother at a tender age prompting him to grow very close to his father. His father too has great wealth of ancestral wisdom. At initiation, he was mentored by Simon Mitambo and Bernard Chabari. He joined the council of elders of the Njuri Ncheke, who are the traditional custodians of indigenous knowledge of the Ameru. Mwanaah is the Treasurer and the Program Coordinator for the Society for Alternative Learning and Transformation. With support of other core members of the team, Mwanaah facilitates SALT’s work on ground. He holds a diploma in Sales and Marketing and Hospitality, where he weaves lived skills and work experiences.
Belonging to Muruguru clan, Evangeline Kagwiria aka Kariithi joined SALT for the first time in March 29th 2014. Kariithi’s totem is Mbugi. She had learnt about SALT from social media. Her initial interest was to see how she could engage SALT on knowledge management. A Christian by upbringing, Kariithi stands out as a true testimony on how SALT and EJ processes are transformative. While young, her mother guarded them against any engagement with cultural practices of the community they lived in. The first time Kariithi saw images of Mugwe, she thought he was a witchdoctor. She had refuted that Mugwe would never pray or touch her. On arrival to SALT, the same Mugwe through prayers healed her joint pains in the knee and later ‘baptized’ her with a Kitharaka name, ‘Kariithi’. Kariithi too brought a revolution in SALT by championing revival of traditional dress and eating of traditional foods during SALT community dialogues. Recently, Kenya government has directed civil servants to wear African attire on Fridays. Kariithi had already been wearing her traditional dress on Fridays. Through her influence, her family has conducted some traditional rites of passage for the first time. Her brother, former army Captain is a devoted member of SALT. In summary, Kariithi has this to say: ‘In the knowledge economy, the richest country will be the one that will utilize their available knowledge including the indigenous knowledge which creates the wealth to communities’. Kariithi is a student of EJ course run by Gaia Foundation, UK. She holds Msc. degree in Information Science (Knowledge Management) from UNISA. She is an ISO Auditor, where she is involved in developing Quality Manual Systems.