The County Government of Kisumu together with the National Museums of Kenya on March 28, unveiled the exhibition of the famous snake – Omieri. This is the first time in 30 years that she is being shown to the public. She is quite intimidating to see and has been perfectly preserved. Her scale is staggering.
Facts on the legend – OMIERI
The Luo community traditionally valued pythons as bearers of good fortune. In the community there was a couple that once woke up to the sight of a 16 ft. python weighing approximately 58 Kg on their farm. It was sighted brooding over her eggs. The couple started feeding it goats and chicken & eventually made it their pet. Villagers developed an interest in the python and thought that it was some sort of god for it would bring good luck to the community.
The python was famously referred to as “Omieri”. It is believed that it was named after a man who was thought to be living next to where she used to appear. He had died and people speculated that he had resurrected through the snake. The community believed that it had mystical powers which was a harbinger of good tidings including rainfall, good luck and tourism.
Omieri is believed to be among the very rare reptiles along the shores of Lake Victoria to grow to the size of 58kgs. The locals asked visitors to pay a small fee which would be used to fund the snake’s diet. Visitors travelled far and wide to see her – both locally and internationally.
The appearance of Omieri had divided the entire region and even nation on spiritual and ideological ground. What exactly was this python?
An Anglican bishop disagreed with the locals’ perception on the said python. He faced enormous resistance from the locals because according to him he believed that the snake was being worshipped and biblically a snake is portrayed as demonic/satanic. (He believed that the universal God is supposed to transcend specific histories)
On the 27th February, 1987 some locals at Pap-Onditi Nyakach set fire on the place where Omieri lived by then, they wanted to see her. However the fire was so immense and got out of control. Omieri succumbed to burn injuries. The locals reported the matter to Kenya Wildlife Services, who came with officers from the Kisumu Museums and took the python away. She was spooned moved to Nairobi National Museum for treatment on 13th March, 1987.
On 21st May, 1987 it was later transferred back to Kisumu Museums where it was hoped it would improve due to the warmer climate in Kisumu as compared to Nairobi. On 16th June, 1987 she was returned to National Museums of Kenya as her condition was not improving. She was removed from the public domain and monitor it under quarantine.
Most of the residents in Nyakach appealed to the National Museums to return back Omieri after treatment. Dr. Richard Leakey who was the director and he told the residents that the removal was temporal and would be returned back after it had recovered.
Omieri died on 9th July, 1987 at the Nairobi Snake Park. The autopsy revealed that she died of gastro-intestinal tract blockage from a ring of round worms. Internal injuries caused by 3rd degree burns from the fire and a rotting mouth in which she lost 10 teeth in the upper jaw may have also contributed.
Nyakach people declared 3 days of mourning. The country was sad that try are lost this enigma that was Omieri.
The County Government of Kisumu in collaboration with National Museums of Kenya is planning to bring back Omieri to the Nyakach community for viewing at Pap Onditi. The exhibition will also take place at Sports Ground, Kisumu. Thereafter she will be returned to the Nairobi museum to be shared with the world.