Lake Kivu – A Creation Myth & Cautionary Tale

Long ago, back in the mists of time, the area which is now covered by Lake Kivu was a hot, dry grassy plain where the people toiled to scratch a living from the scorched earth.

One kind-hearted man helped his older neighbours to farm the land and harvest their crops. This was much to the annoyance of his wife who scolded him for spending so much time filling the grain stores of others at the expense of their own.

However Imana (the creator) had observed the man’s deeds of kindness and rewarded him with a cow that not only yielded milk but also millet, beans and peas! As this was a very special cow, and one that might be coveted by others, the man had to milk it in secrecy and tell no one.

His wife wasn’t sure where the increased amount of produce came from but scolded her husband a little less.  

One day the man was called away from the land to do some work at the court of the Mwami (King). He was anxious about his cow and spoke to Imana who said he could now reveal the secret to his wife so that she could milk the cow while he was away, but in no circumstances should she tell anyone else.

With her husband out of the way his wife invited a young man to her house where she fed him on the fine produce provided by the cow. He couldn’t believe that such a poor piece of land could yield so much and set about using all kinds of devious questioning and persuasion to uncover the secret.

Eventually the woman weakened and milked the cow in front of him. The young man couldn’t believe his eyes and immediately ran to tell his neighbours that there was no need for them to toil away on the land anymore as the secret cow would produce enough for everyone.

Imana heard of this and was annoyed that the woman had not been able to keep the secret. He prepared a punishment.

Before retiring at night it was customary for the woman to go out into the fields and relieve herself. On the next occasion that she squatted down the flow from her bladder was unstoppable. It flowed relentlessly flooding her home, field and the surrounding land. It became so deep that it covered the trees and the woman herself disappeared below the surface and drowned.   

When the sun rose the next morning it illuminated the shining surface of Lake Kivu as we see it today.

When the woman’s husband returned from his work at the Mwami’s court he found a lake, brim full with fish and water birds, gently lapping at the edge of his now fertile fields.

The cow had disappeared but a huge pile of millet, peas and beans were left behind which the man planted and thereafter the newly irrigated land always yielded a rich crop.

Imana was pleased for the man and smiled. He had also had the last laugh as far as the wife was concerned, he’d certainly taken the p—-!

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