Facebook connects family of man with 100 wives

Acentus Akuku, a famous Kenyan polygamist, dies. Given that he had more than 100 wives, how can the whole family be informed of funeral arrangements and, indeed, of their existence? Enter Facebook.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

I fancy there are many readers of these pages who are fascinated by polygamy. Intellectually speaking.

But perhaps few might have considered the astonishing utility offered by social networking to families that have been extended beyond the usual boundaries.

The death of a famous Kenyan polygamist, Acentus Akuku, has brought this issue into quite exalted relief. Akuku was, so ABC News tells me, rather a fetching specimen of humanity. So much so that he appears to have fetched more than 100 women to the altar.

The power of his presence earned him the nickname Danger Akuku. Though perhaps some might think that a mere extension of his first name to Acentury might have been just as appropriate. Especially as he lived to enjoy almost 100 years, dying only last month.

However, when he finally experienced his permanent slumber, there was the funeral to consider. And how was it possible to get all of his family members--including, reportedly, 200 to 300 children--to the ceremony?

One of his no doubt hundreds of grandchildren, Nickson Mwanzo, became inspired. He created the Akuku Danger Family Facebook page.

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

The official burial isn't till December 4, so Mwanzo is using Facebook to see if he can create perhaps the most polygonal family tree ever known.

Akuku reportedly had so many kids that two elementary schools were created just to educate them. He married a set of four sisters. He married at least two other women who were sisters too. But the tributes that have poured in have been heartfelt and positive. Although one wonders just how those who have left messages can prove that they were indeed his kin.

Some of messages on the Danger Akuku wall are very succinct. Monica Nkatha writes: "Am your great great great grand daughter." Just that. No more. Not even a question about the will.

Meresa Auma Otulo simply offers: "R I P grandpa we will miss you." Can one man with such a multitude of progeny have really been so universally loved? And can Facebook's insistence on real names and e-mail addresses help to establish whether those who claim to be related really are?

The Daily Nation of Kenya reported that Facebook replies from members of his family (or, one supposes, at least those who could be) have come from all over the world.

Mwanzo, while hoping that the funeral will be well attended, explained to the Daily Nation: "We are so many that it is hard for us to meet in one gathering, so we set up a Facebook page to track Akuku's lineage."

Twelve of his wives won't be able to make it, because they're dead. But wife number 13 explained to the Daily Nation how living with Danger was a happy experience: "Although he had many of us, there was no feeling that he favored any of us. He would knock on the door in the middle of the night and, because he rarely visited, one would feel very happy."

Therein, some might say, lies the secret of a happy marriage: Don't see your spouse too often.

Still, if it wasn't for Facebook, how else could the vast expanse of the Akuku Danger Family communicate? How else could strangers offer their wishes? Have you ever read a book of condolence once it has been filled out and the funeral is over? Where else would people know that they might find others to whom they want to talk at any particular time?

This Facebook page stands not only as a tribute to someone who was clearly beyond the ordinary, but also as a simple means for his family to make contact. What might also strike many as utterly extraordinary is that as you read down the wall messages, not one is of the hurtful kind that seems to appear so often these days (although I did see one slightly misplaced condom joke).

Even the posters who aren't members of his family offer humor, rather than jealousy, greed, or invective. Take Joy McGee Nasimiyu, who offers an example of, well, joy: "maybe am the lost daughter!! lol!!!"

Maybe there's a few of you. Keep watching the Akuku Danger Facebook page.