Lupita Nyong'o: New Pride of the Luo People

Lupita Nyong'o: New Pride of the Luo People

Mar 13, 2014| by administrator

Lupita Nyong’o’s Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actress in the acclaimed film "12 Years a Slave" garnered pride from people all over world.

Born in Mexico City, the 31-year-old actress grew up in her family’s native country of Kenya. Her parents, both descendants of the Luo people, immersed Nyong’o and her five siblings in the culture.

Kenya houses 42 ethnic groups, with the Luo forming the second largest. The Luo people comprise about 12 percent of the population. According to history, they migrated to Kenya from the southern region of Sudan as part of a large community. This community then branched off into three groups. The Kalenjins, settled in the mountains, the Masai settled in the planes, and the Luo followed the Nile River, eventually settling along Lake Victoria, hence the name of their people, which means “to follow”.

Once known for their unique cultural practices, modern Luo see most of them as retrogressive and seldom follow them. Among the most controversial is wife inheritance, where brothers or close relatives of deceased males inherit their widows.  Their initiation ceremonies formerly involved removing six teeth from the man’s lower jaw to as an act of valor.

The Luo also played a major role in politics during Kenya’s struggle for independence. Some of the country’s most famous government leaders are Ochieng Aneko, Robert Ouko, and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, who pioneered the birth of opposition politics in Kenya. Nyong’o boasts political roots in her family as well. Her father, Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, currently acts as representative of Kisumu County in the Kenyan Senate.

Realizing the importance of diversity in education, Nyong’o’s parents sent her to school in Mexico to study Spanish at the age of 16. Today, the actress is fluent in English, Swahili, Spanish, and her native Luo.

By winning the Academy Award, Nyong’o accomplished three firsts in the world of film. She became the first African actress and first Mexican actress to win the award and the first Kenyan ever to win an Oscar. How fitting that the name of her people should mean “to follow”. This talented young woman followed in the footsteps of many renowned actors before her to reach a new level of greatness.