kintu and nambi painting

Kintu and Nnambi: A Ganda love story from Uganda.

Long ago, a legend is told of the great love story of Kintu and Nnambi. Kintu was an earth dweller as told by the Ganda of Uganda. And according to this legend, Kintu was the first person on earth, the father of all people.

Kintu, the first man, lived alone on earth except for one cow, which was his only friend and source of food. There he lived for many years on the milk his cow gave him. He built a grass hut and lived in peace.

Kintu and Nambi Painting
Kintu and Nambi Painting by Gloria Ssali

Ggulu the creator of all things, ruler of the sky,  lived up in heaven with his many children, who occasionally came down to earth using a rainbow to play.

And it is on one such occasion, that Nnambi, daughter of Ggulu, along with some of her brothers Kayikuzi, Lubale and Walumbe encountered Kintu and his cow. Nnambi instantly took a liking to Kintu and decided to stay back on earth with him while her brothers returned to heaven.

On returning to heaven without their sister, their father the great King of the Heavens was furious with Lubale and Walumbe and instructed them to return to earth and bring their sister back with them.

The Love that wasn’t supposed to happen

Nnambi’s brothers returned to earth on the next rainbow and pleaded with her to return to heaven. As her childish romance would only anger their father.  Kintu is kind and generous,” she told her brothers. “I wish to marry him. He is the finest man I’ve known.

Nambi’s brothers became very suspicious of the Kintu and feared he had bewitched their sister. “He may be a magician or an animal in disguise,” they said. “But he has built himself a hut and has a cow,” Nambi said. “Animals do not live in huts.”

Ggulu even instructed his sons to secretly return to Earth and carry away Kintu’s cow. They thought that if Kintu lost his cow, he would die of starvation but so Kintu instead feasted on leaves. After her brothers pleaded with her, she returned to heaven with Kintu to ask for her father’s permission for the marriage. The couple wanted to marry, but Nambi’s family considered Kintu too poor and ignorant.

Ggulu, Nambi’s father, then arranged several tasks in which Kintu could prove his worth. He didn’t expect Kintu a simple human, to complete any of the tasks successfully.

Also Read: The Tale of Kintu: The First Ganda King.

Nnambi, couldn’t bear seeing him suffer so she told him that his cow was in heaven. Kintu travelled to heaven to retrieve but when reached heaven, he couldn’t believe his eyes. People were living in beautiful huts of golden grass. Herds of cattle roamed the green fields, Goats and Sheep and Chickens ran through groves of plantain trees.

In Heaven, Ggulu imprisoned Kintu who he later subjected to a lot of difficult tasks. Kintu had to successfully complete all the tasks. If he wished to get Ggulu’s blessing, to take Nnambi’s hand in Marriage. Luckily for him, out of sheer luck and a great deal of help, Kintu was able to successfully accomplish all the tasks.

Life on earth after the tasks

Ggulu was not pleased, But he blessed the marriage and advised Kintu and Nnambi to leave heaven secretly, so that Walumbe, one of Nambi’s brothers would not find out about the marriage until they had left. Ggulu feared that if Walumbe (bringer sickness and death“) followed them to earth, he would bring them great misery.

Kintu and Nnambi set out for earth, taking with them cows, a goat, fowl, sheep, a plantain tree, a few things that Nnambi packed, and her chicken. While they were descending, Nnambi remembered that she had forgotten to bring the millet that her chicken would feed on. Kintu tried to persuade her not to return to fetch the millet, reminding her of her father’s warning.

Kintu and Nambi
Kintu and Nambi Painting by Gloria Ssali fineartamerica.com ·

Unfortunately, over the protests of Kintu, Nambi left him and returned to fetch the grain she had been forgotten. On the way back from fetching the millet, she met Walumbe. Even though she didn’t tell him where she was going. Walumbe being very canny and filled with curiosity, insisted she tell him the truth.

Although she lied and tried to run away from Walumbe (Death), she was unsuccessful. Walumbe secretly followed the couple to earth. And after many years of happiness on earth, Walumbe (Death) began bringing illness and death to Kintu and Nnambi’s offspring.

Neither Nnambi’s persuasion, Ggulu threats or Lubale’s attacks (great bringer of thunder) were able to subdue Walumbe. Up to the present day, Death has lived upon the earth with no one knowing when or whom he will strike. Walumbe’s presence on earth caused suffering and conflicts. That, according to the Ganda oral tradition, is how sickness and death started.

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