NDOME (Agīkūyū dancing shields)

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Ndome was a carved wooden arm-shield that was worn on the upper left arm by uninitiated boys (ihīī) during pre-initiation mūhīīro dancing ceremonies such as mūmbūro; in the right hand they carried ‘ndorothi ’ - a  long, plain, undecorated wooden staves. The ndome dancing shield suggested the liminal state of the initiates, representing both the 'natural', feminine world which they are about to leave, and the 'cultural' masculine world of the warrior and manhood. The ndome always had three colors; red ochre which represented the earth  (mūmbi), dark blue which represented the sky (Gīkūyū) and white which represented ‘ira’ (purity, life-force and Ngai - the Supreme being)  

The ndome was painted a design of curved serrated lines on the inside of the shield while the design on the outside of the shield had insignias which varied according to the particular age-set and territorial unit of the initiate. Again, the inside part of the shield represented the feminine aspect of Agīkūyū life and the outside painting represented the balance of both masculine and feminine concepts. These designs were then adopted on the war shields of the newly initiated junior warriors.

After initiation, the neophytes returned the ndome to their families where the old design would be crapped off in readiness for a new one to be applied, relevant to the initiate of the next age-set. The designs were known as ‘thirata’ and they were equivalent to today’s logos or brand identity. The thirata on the ndome was literally the logo for that particular age-set.


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