Mwanahadie Famau’s NAME is recognized by many, especially in the Swahili community of Bajun people of Lamu origin. She is a woman whose grave is recognized as the most traditional in Lamu Island according to the National Museums and Heritage Council (NMK).
Located in Mkomani street on the island of Lamu, the tomb is believed to last for more than 400 years now. Ms Mwanahadie Famau’s full or original name is ‘Mwanadia Wa Mbwarafamau Wa Shee.’ She is a native of Uwani street, Mvundeni village, Mkokoni location located in Kiunga division, East Lamu.
She is a woman who is well known for how rich she was among the Bajuni people. She is also known for her fear of God (Allah). Ms. Famau often completely separated herself from worldly affairs, a situation that makes her to this day respected and considered by many to be a nun of Lamu.
She did not marry because the evidence is based on the fact that she did not leave a single son. Despite this, she lived respecting religion and society to a great extent. She was full of love, volunteering to help the less fortunate and fight for the rights of the Bajuni community.
Ms. Famau is known for the way she used her wealth to fund the war to free the Bajuni community from the chains of enemies, especially the Gallas. In an interview with press the Supervising Officer of National Museums and Heritage, Lamu branch in NMK, Mr Mohammed Ali Mwenje said Ms Famau’s character of fearing God and acting in accordance with the values of religion and society has pushed devotees, including locals, foreigners and tourists visit her grave every time, others perform a prayer to wish themselves well in life.
The tomb of Mrs. Mwanahadie Famau is often considered a tomb of “good luck“, a criterion that has attracted locals, visitors and tourists from all corners of the world.
“As NMK, we believe the grave of Mrs. Mwanahadie Famau is the oldest in this area of Lamu. We estimate it to last for more than 400 years. NMK has listed the tomb among the museums and we are taking care of it. Ms. Mwanahadie Famau is regarded as a monk due to the way she lived following the principles of the Islamic religion and respecting her community.
400 years since her death, her tomb has been turned into an important link of history. People come from far and near to see this unique tomb. There are some who even pray at Mrs. Famau’s grave, believing that they will bring good or good luck in life,” said Mr Mwenje.
Historian and Elder of Lamu, Mr Mohamed Mbwana Shee mentions Mrs Mwanahadie Famau as a woman of great personality and respectability in the area despite her death many years ago. He says the community of Lamu, especially the people of Bajuni respect Ms. Famau, knowing that her efforts in defending the community of Bajuni contributed greatly to the development of the community and the entire Lamu area in general.
Mr Mbwana says Mrs Famau’s obedience, especially in relation to religious matters, was also motivated by the way her parents were recognized as top scholars among the Babajuni community.
“We consider Mrs. Famau’s family to be the center of today’s Bajan community in Lamu. Ms Famau’s brother was known as Mr Lali Wa Shee Mbwarafamau. She was the one who led the fight against the Gallas who were oppressing the Bajan people in our area of Mvundeni, Kiunga division. Mr Mbwaraframau’s family is the one that expanded and found today’s Babajuni in this area,” said Mr Mbwana.
According to Mr Mbwana, who is also the Chairman of the Council of Elders of Lamu, Ms Famau’s wealth came from the way she started farming in abundance, growing maize, chickpeas, wave, millet and so on.
Mrs. Famau was also a rich businesswoman in her days. Some of the residents interviewed by press asked the government through NMK to ensure that the old graves, including the oldest one of Mrs. Mwanahadie Famau, are given special protection.
In addition to 400-year-old tomb of Ms Mwanahadie Famau, the other is that of the former Governor of Lamu, Mr Zahid Ngumi and his wife, all found in Langoni Street in the Old Town of Lamu. The graves have lasted for more than 200 years in the area. It should be noted that far from being a ruler, Zahidi Ngumi was also the chief engineer who led the construction of the Lamu Fort between 1813 and 1821.
“The graves of our past people like Ms. Mwanahadie Famau and the governor, Zahid Ngumi and others should be surrounded by seng’enge. Many have been throwing waste in places where traditional graves are found and it is never satisfactory,” said Ms. Fatma Alwy, a resident of Lamu Island.