Koitalel Arap Samoei was a Nandi leader who fiercely resisted the British during the construction of the Mombasa Kisumu Railway and the advent of colonial rule before he was murdered by a British colonel. The museum in Nandi houses his remains and other material artefacts and symbols of Nandi culture. PHOTO|COURTESY
A tour of culturally rich Nandi Hills Town cannot be complete without a stop at the Koitalel Samoei Museum.
The museum is a renovated colonial house on the road to Kaptumo.
The mausoleum houses the remains (except the skull) of Koitalel who was the spiritual leader (orkoiyot) of the Nandi when their land was being invaded by the British. How he was assassinated in 1905 and the treatment of his brothers is grim but fascinating history.
The statue of the great Nandi political, Koitalel arap Samoei, stands majestically in the compound.
Standing tall in the compound are also two huge fig trees, one of which is believed to have grown where the hero was buried more than 100 years ago.
Next to the museum are two grass-thatched huts or kot ab gaa, complete with Kalenjin regalia and names of the community’s main events. Its parts are labeled and their role in the daily life of the people is well explained by the curator or his assistant.
The outer wall of the Koitalel’s mausoleum was built using stones that have been painted white. The name Koitalel means white stone.
The tomb has two doors, with the main entrance facing north-west towards Mt Elgon, believed to be the entry point of members of the Kalenjin community into the country during the migration period.
The rear door, which faces the south, is small and one has to bend when going through. It is used mainly during ceremonies, especially after boys are circumcised.
On the eastern side of the mausoleum is Koitalel’s symbolic grave, designed with marble to show that his head is missing.
“He was shot dead in October 1905 at Ketbarak after a seven-year rebellion against the British,” says Mr Samuel Ng’etich, an elder.
The colonialists decapitated the body and took the head to London.
Next to the museum is the Nandi Bears Club, locally known as Ketbarak.
The Nandi bear, kerit, a mysterious beast, is believed to have lived near where the Bears Club stands many years ago before facing extinction.
“This was where the community members met to receive blessings from elders before Koitalel and his messengers were killed,” says Mr Ng’etich.
The inner roof of the mausoleum is supported by four pillars just like the kalenjin traditional stool used by elders.
It signifies stability and unity in the community.
Koitalel mausoleum is fast transforming into an important tourist attraction site.
Incorporating the mausoleum of this great national hero, the centre is now a display of the cultural heritage of the larger Kalenjin community.