What is Chege's role in The River Between?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Chege's role in this narrative is to give his son, Waiyaki, the charge of fulfilling the prophecy that he received as the seer of his people. An ancient prophecy was received that said a descendent of Mugo, an ancestor of Chege, would save his people. Chege recognises that because of his age, he is not going to be the one to save the Kikuyu. He therefore gives his son the role of becoming that saviour, and learning everything he can from the whites in order to understand their ways. Note how he describes the importance of this task:

Mugo often said you could not cut the butterflies with a panga. You could not spear them until you learnt and knew their ways and movement. Then you could trap, you could fight back.

Just as you need to learn the "ways and movement" of butterflies in order to fight them, so too Chege is responsible for sending Waiyaki to the missionary school to be educated in their ways and to learn as much about the whites as possible in order to be able to fight against them and the threat that they represent to traditional Kikuyu culture and identity. Chege's main role in this story is therefore to urge his son to go to the Mission school, learn all he can, but at the same time to not forget his own people and the "ancient rites" that are such a vital part of Kikuyu identity. Chege therefore sets up Waiyaki to be the fulfilment of this ancient prophecy, to be the man who would save his people. Of course, the actual way in which this prophecy will be fulfilled would have amazed and shocked Chege, as Waiyaki realises a combination of both tradition and development of aspects of both cultures is needed in order to ensure the survival of his people.

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