The River Between

by

Ngugi wa Thiong’o

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Kameno Symbol Icon

Kameno, one of the two Gikuyu villages where the novel is set, represents the Gikuyu’s traditional tribal identity. Most notably, Kameno is the home of the Kiama, a governing council that enforces the tribe’s demand for ideological purity. It was also home to Mugo and Chege—two men who, in their lifetimes, warned of the white people’s threat to Gikuyu culture. After being kicked out of a school run by white missionaries for having “pagan” parents, Waiyaki builds his first school in Kameno, signifying that it is a school for Gikuyu children and not a school that will aim to replace Gikuyu beliefs with Christian ones. And when Muthoni wants to be circumcised and embrace her tribal identity, she moves to Kameno to put her plan into action, further cementing it as a symbol of the Gikuyu’s traditional tribal identity.

Kameno Quotes in The River Between

The The River Between quotes below all refer to the symbol of Kameno. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Colonialism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The River Between published in 2015.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The ridges were isolated. The people there led a life of their own, undisturbed by what happened outside or beyond. Men and women had nothing to fear. The [white people] would never come here. They would be lost in the hills and the ridges and the valleys.

Related Characters: Waiyaki
Related Symbols: Makuyu, Kameno
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

The ridges slept on. Kameno and Makuyu were no longer antagonistic They had merged into one area of beautiful land, which is what, perhaps, they were meant to be.

Related Characters: Waiyaki, Chege
Related Symbols: Makuyu, Kameno
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

Many teachers came from all over the ridge to see him, and many elders and children came to him with various problems. But in spite of all this Waiyaki was losing that contact with people that can only come through taking part together in a ritual. He was becoming too obsessed with the schools and the widening rift and divisions.

Related Characters: Waiyaki, Joshua, Nyambura
Related Symbols: Kameno
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 26 Quotes

The land was now silent. The two ridges lay side by side, hidden in the darkness. And Honia river went on flowing between them, down through the valley of life, its beat rising above the sark stillness, reaching into the heart of the people of Makuyu and Kameno.

Related Characters: Waiyaki
Related Symbols: Makuyu, Kameno, The Honia River
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The River Between LitChart as a printable PDF.
The River Between PDF

Kameno Symbol Timeline in The River Between

The timeline below shows where the symbol Kameno appears in The River Between. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
In Kenya, two ridges sit side by side, facing each other. A village called Kameno sits on one ridge, and Makuyu sits on the other. They face each other like... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
Long ago, the ancestors, Gikuyu and Mumbi, blessed the ridges and the Gikuyu lands. Both Kameno and Makuyu claim to be particularly favored by Gikuyu and Mumbi. Kameno’s claim appears stronger,... (full context)
Chapter 2
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Waiyaki’s father, Chege, is a renowned elder from Kameno. He is a widower, after the latest famine killed his wife and one of his... (full context)
Chapter 4
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...“the tree of Murungu.” Waiyaki feels small in its presence. He turns toward Makuyu and Kameno and sees that, from this vantage, the ridges no longer look separate and “antagonistic.” Rather,... (full context)
Chapter 5
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
...the villagers rejected Mugo, Mugo left and returned, disguised as someone else, and resettled in Kameno. Mugo is Chege’s and Waiyaki’s forefather—they are Mugo’s “offspring.” Mugo died on the very hill... (full context)
Chapter 6
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...not to tell Joshua about this. She is planning to go to their aunt in Kameno, who will be able to organize her circumcision for her. Nyambura pities her sister and... (full context)
Chapter 7
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
Kameno’s people are restless and blame Joshua for the white people’s intrusion into their hills. There... (full context)
Chapter 8
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...who cannot find Muthoni, Nyambura finally admits that Muthoni has gone to their aunt in Kameno to be circumcised. Joshua seizes Nyambura, enraged, and she is terrified of her father. Eventually... (full context)
Chapter 9
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
On the eve of initiation, Kameno holds a tribal dance. Word of Muthoni’s rebellion against Joshua has spread across the ridges.... (full context)
Chapter 11
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Muthoni dies in Siriana. Waiyaki returns to Kameno to inform Nyambura and Miriamu. Before she died, Muthoni had told Waiyaki to tell Nyambura... (full context)
Chapter 12
Colonialism Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
Rather than return to the mission school in Siriana, Waiyaki remains in Kameno to look after Chege. He recalls the day they stood together on the sacred hill,... (full context)
Chapter 14
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...people and hostile to the rest of the tribe. Makuyu becomes the Christians’ village, while Kameno becomes the tribespeople’s village. In the middle of it all, Waiyaki’s influence grows and the... (full context)
Chapter 17
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...Joshua’s words unsettling, since they imply that there is no middle ground between Makuyu and Kameno. He thinks of Chege’s commitment to the tribe and wonders if he is betraying his... (full context)
Chapter 18
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...from Siriana or Nairobi. He also feels compelled to call for reconciliation between Makuyu and Kameno—between Joshua’s followers and the rest of the tribe—though he knows this could threaten his popularity.... (full context)
Chapter 19
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...two of his own schools to rival Waiyaki’s. He then holds an evangelistic meeting in Kameno and makes a few converts, giving him a small foothold against his opponents in their... (full context)
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...its focus on love and sacrifice. He missed his opportunity to call for reconciliation between Kameno and Makuyu, but he tells himself he will make that call next time he has... (full context)
Chapter 26
Colonialism Theme Icon
Christianity, Tribal Customs, and Identity Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
...never survive as long as it remains at odds with itself, divided between Makuyu and Kameno. Enraptured by his words, the crowd rises to kill Kabonyi where he stands, but Waiyaki... (full context)
Colonialism Theme Icon
Unity and Division Theme Icon
The ridges fall silent, “hidden in the darkness.” The river flows between Kameno and Makuyu, separating them. The rushing water is the only sound amidst the new stillness. (full context)