Elders in Vihiga County have for the first time in 40 years publicly revealed that Mama Hannah Atsianzale Mudavadi founded the Maragoli cultural festival that is observed every year on December 26.
The wife of former minister Moses Mudavadi and mother of ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi will be buried on Saturday at her Mululu home in Sabatia Sub-County.
The elders, under "Imbinga yu Mulogoli" — an association that promotes the preservation of Maragoli culture — said Mama Hannah brought them together in 1980 when the organisation was born.
Speaking when he led a delegation of elders to meet members of the Mudavadi family at Mululu Friday, Mr Jotham Isaji, the chairman, said the Maragoli cultural festival was crafted under the leadership of Mama Hannah four decades ago.
During the annual celebrations, thousands of residents converge at Municipal Grounds in Mbale town.
Elders dress in traditional regalia and traditional songs are sung as they remind the younger generation of the community’s cultural practices that should be maintained.
Exhibition stands are also erected showing cultural artefacts, traditional foods among other items.
At least 4,000 mourners, among them senior leaders, are expected to attend the burial of Mama Hannah at her Mululu home.
The annual event that brings together the Maragoli — the largest sub-tribe in Vihiga County — is observed annually on December 26.
"Imbinga unites the Maragoli. We are here (at Mululu) to mourn someone who brought elders together," said Mr Isaji.
He went on: "Her idea was to see a growing culture. She called elders to her house and started the idea of celebrating our culture... Since then, elders have been meeting in her house regularly to look at the gains achieved from the annual cultural celebrations."
The elders said the fallen matriarch was the glue behind "our unity".
Her late husband then took over as the organisation’s first patron and was succeeded by his son — the ANC boss — following his death in 1989.
"Our culture has grown over time and has led to the establishment of national Utamaduni Day that was established by President Uhuru Kenyatta," said Mr Isaji.
The elders called on the youth to uphold their culture as an honour to Mama Hannah.
They also urged other elders from the sub-tribe to join in preserving the community’s culture.
Mr Tom Muhinji, an elder and member of Imbinga yu Mulogoli, lauded the role played by Mama Hannah.
"She is the backbone of the revival of our culture that we have celebrated for many years," he said.
She died on December 28 last year while undergoing treatment in Nairobi.