In 2010 I made a bussiness trip to Tusker Brewery in Nairobi. Tusker is the most famous bear in Kenya. The brewery is owned by Diageo and we (GEA Refrigeration Netherlands) upgraded the refrigeration plant.
From all Kenyan tribes I like Maasais the most and I am proud to say that some of Maasais are my good friends.
Maasais are highlland pastoralists living life in accordance with their traditions which hasn't change in a centuries. "God gave us cattle and grass, we don't separate the things God gave us", says the Maasai. They strongly believe that since the creator took both man and the cattle from the same pit, all the cattle on entire Earth belong to the Maasai people, who must protect and take care of them. It is why Maasai have been known for their raids to take other tribes animals since they believe that they have been stolen from them.
The whole livelihood of the tribe is dependent on the rising and utilization og cows, goats and sheep. Their huts are made of wooden poles and cow dung mixed with soil, usually in several rounds with a central paddock in the midle where animals are kept at night.
From the early days the Maasai children will learn everything that is needed to know about the cows, goats and sheep. The newborn baby animal will sleep next to the children in the hut, and it is the responsability of the young children to take the calves from the hut to their mother for feeding.
Maasai are able to identify any of their cow by looking at its horn, besides, all cows of the herd also have markings on their flanks in order to know from which Clan or to whom the animal belongs. The whole existence of the Maasai people depend on their cattle. Cattle is the only meansto determine social status in the Maasai society. Even today a Maasai is not considered wealthy unless he has large herds of cattle, irrespective of his financial status in paper money!
Besides milk, blood is also a part of Maasai diet, they tying a rope around the cow's neck and then an arrow is shot into the swollen vein from a short distance. When enough blood has been taken, the little hole in the neck is sealed using a mixture of soil and cow-dung.
The Maasai society is very hierachial, one cannot overstep the boundaries of the levels. The "Oloboni" (a shaman), which is inherited title is the highest authority in the community. There is another important title in Maasai society, to be a "Murran" (a warrior).
The Maasai men are polygamous and the number of wives is only decided by how many one can afford.
"Lashoro" is a traditional drink made by boiling maize and mixing it with cultured milk. Men drink it from "kibhyu" (calabash). It is wife's duty to prepare lashoro every morning for her husband, before he leaving hut to take care of the cattle.
Songs are very important in social life of Maasai people. In the evenings, after dinner time, they gathers by the fire and the women tell tales or sing. The children will grow up learning theses song and through them the traditions and the history of the tribe.
I can't tell the exact distance from the city centre but should be no more then a 5km. The best is to take a taxi but first negotiating the price which shouldn't be more then 1.000 shillings. Anyway, it's not far from the Animal Orphanage at Langata rd.
Bomas of Kenya was established in 1971 by Kenyan Government with the idea to preserve and maintain the diversity of rich tribal cultures which excisting in the country. It is good to know that there live people from 42 different tribes in Kenya, with hundreds of sub-tribes and large number of Clans. Part of that very rich tradition could be seen in Bomas. "Boma" is kswahili term for the homestead.
I have spend half of a day at Bomas and it was enjoyable experience.
Luhya ot Abaluhya are Bantu people living in the agriculturally fertile western Kenya. They are second largest ethic tribe after the Kikuyu, making up 14% of the Kenya population. Luhya consists of 18 sub-tribes among which Bukosu and Maragoli are the two largest. According to their own oral literature, Luhyas migrated from Egypt. During British colonial rule they lost their most fertile land, but strongly resisted and fought many unsuccessfull battles to regain the land. Traditionally, the extended family and the Clan are in the centre of the Luhya culture.
Luhya practicing polygamy, which excisting even today, but no longer widely practiced because of big dowry which has to be paid. Marrying from one to another clan is considered taboo. They are very enthusiastic about sports, especially rugby and soccer. Bullfightings are traditionally very popular among Luhyas. Luhyas practicing farming and agriculture, growing sugarcane mostly.
Luo people, also called Joluo, are part of Nilotic group of tribes originating from South Sudan. They comprising more than hundred clans and sub-tribes, inhabiting the area on the banks of Lake Victoria. Joluo are the third largest community in Kenya. The main Luo livelihood is fishing, farming and pastoral herding. They pay much of attention to education, what I have noticed personally during my visits. Fact is, Luo people in generally speak much better english then other tribes.
Music is very important part in life of Luo people. It is functional and used for ceremonial, religious, political or incidental purpose. Their music, which is called "benga", is shaped to life patterns of individuals and therefore distinguished from the music of other tribes. Lyrics and vocals making the most important part in Luo music. Th usual performing is chants, kind of recitatives with irregular rhytms and phrases which carring a messages.
Kisii or Gusi inhabit western highlands, east of Lake Victoria. The yare small group and therefore being always on the move. Kissi people finally settled in the hills where was easier to defend themselves from constant attackings of Maasai. Kisii men are respectfull warriors and were conscripted in large numbers into the British army. They traditionally live in large families, married sons together with their parents in a single compound, so that could exxiciently defend their vital interests.
Kisii are primarly cattle keepers but also practicing some crop cultivation. They practicing the same in the initiation ceremonies as their close relatives Kuria.
Kalenjins are fourth largest tribe and traditionaly pastorialists. There are ten sub-groups among Kalenjin people and Kipsigis is the largest of them. Actually, they belong to Nandi speaking tribes but deliberatelly a tribal identity for themselves around 1950s in order to gain more political power from their numbers. They territory is in Great Rift Valley.
Polugamy is allowed in Kalenjin culture but not widely practicing because too costy.
Kalenjin tribe have the unusual notoriety having a great number of athlets in marathons and other running competitions. Since 1968, when great Kip Keino won olimpic gold medal for the 1500m race, Kenyans have won 38 more medals and 75 percent of all top runners in Kenya are from the Kalenjin tribe. Distance running is a real pride of all Kelenjins.
There are speculations regarding some kind of genetic predisposition of Kalenjins towards distance running, though no concrete evidence has been established.
Meru people are a Bantu ethnic group inhabiting the Meru Province in the eastern Kenya. Actually it is a fertile agriciltural slope of Mount Kenya and thus the Meru are primarly a farmers.
Meru are traditionally governed by elected and hierarchial councils of elders from the Clan. The council is the only traditional judicial system recognized by the Kenyan state.
Meru people have a strong educational foundation provided by Christian mission schools and are among the most influential ethnic groups in Kenya. Kenya Methodist University (KEMU), established by Meru people, is one of the most presigious university in whole of Kenya. Leah Marangu is first woman to be a college professor in Kenya.
Family tradition of Meru people is very specific, from the time of circumcision boys no longer have contact with their mother and the separate house is built for the sons.
Meru, Embu and Kikuyu, who all are of Bantu origins, are understandable to one another and it is one of the reasons for their strong coalitions in the politics.
Kuria people are residents of Nyanza Province, a very small tribe with less then hundred thousands members. They are mainly farmers planting maize, beans and cassava. They also grow tobacco due to the near location of the BAT tobacco company. They are alo cattle herders and it is probably the reason why they have gotten into scrupples with the neighbouring Maasai over cattle rustling, which in the past ended by scattering of Kuria.
It is said that Kuria and Kisii have been one people until a vicious attack by Maasai in the early 19th century, scattered both population in different directions.
Kikuyu or Gikuyu are Bantu people and the largest ethnic group in Kenya, making 23% of entire population. They are concentrated in the central parts of the country, around Mount Kenya and in Nairobi. Kikuyus are known as great farmers and their country is full of food and shrewd business men. Besides farming and business the Kikuyus are involved in a small industries too. They are cheerful and laughter-loving people who soon forgetting their problems. Kikuyus have a great sense of justice, which in their language is called "kihooto". The nation of Kikuyu people is divided into nine clans, about which excist an interesting legend.
According to Kikuyu mythology, all of creation began at the summit of Mount Kenya. "Ngai", a supreme creator, descended from the heavens to his mountainous throne. The mountain became "Kirinyaga", his resting place, and it was from here that he called forth Gikuyu, the father of the Kikuyu people. Gikuyu found woman called Mumbi and they produced nine daughters; Wanjiku, Wanjiru, Wanjeri, Wambui, Wangari, Wacera, Waithera, Wairimu and Nyambura (traditionally all Kikuyu girls should be given one of these names). Each of daughter made her own homestead and nine separates Clans of the Kikuyu were born. The unity of these Clans was known as the "Nuyumba ya Mumbi", in honour of their mother. The peak of Kirinyanga (Mount Kenya) has since remained the sacred home of Ngai (the God).
The highlands of Keya are rich fertile land and it is a great farming area with a great cuisine. When visiting Kenya one should taste "githeri" (a maize and bean stew), "mukimo" (a mashed combination of green peas and potato), but in particularly "irio" (roasted goat).
Kikuyus have always played a central role in the development of the independent nation. In cuisine, cuisine, marriage and everyday family life, most Kikuyus still hold true to their identity and tradition.
Mijikenda are the nine etnic groups along the coast of Kenya; Giriama, Digo, Duruma, Ribe, Rabai, Jibana, Chonyi, Kambe and Kauma. Actually they resides in coastal cities but then settled in the hinterlands to avoid submission to dominant Poruguese forces who were in control al over coastal area. The outsiders gave then name "Nyika" or "Nika", which is derogatory term for "bush people".Mijikenda people are known for creating wooden "kigango" funerary statues
Mijikenda has a sacred forests called "Kaya", a place of prayer conducted by the elders. Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forest consist of 11 separate forest sites containing the remains of the numerous 16th century fortified villages known as "Kayes". Nowadays Kayes are regarded as the abodes of ancestors and are revered as sacred sites maintained by councils of elders.
Since 2008 Sacred Kaya Forests are the part of UNESCO World Heritage.
"Orutu" dance originates from the southern part of Nyanza Province and is traditionally performed by Luo tribe. It is very energetic dance and amazing to watch. The dance has its roots from an old Luo legend of two warriors fighting for the love of a woman. Orutu is usually performed during beer drinking party, so most of people getting tipsy or even drunk.
The Luhya, tribe from from western Kenya, developed a very distinctive dance style called "Sukuti" (or Isukuti), after the local name for a drum. This very energetic dance is usually performed by paired male and female dancers.
Many of the Nomadic tribes share common ground in use of songs and chants, particularly among "Maa" speaking groups. Best known Maasai ceremonial song is the "Engilakinoto", usually sung after a victorious lion hunt. It is song performed by deep male voices only and no instruments at all. It is very characteristic and attractive, while singing warriors ocassionally display their strength and prowess by leaping vertically into the air.
Borana people live in the most northern parts of Kenya and across the border in Ethiopia. They are the most isolated and forgotten of all tribes in Kenya. Borana traditional music is simple but very attractive. The sound comes from indigenous drums, perkussion and voices only but the dance is very lively, playful and extremelly energetic.
Kenyan music originates from several sources, mostly from Central Africa which is homeland of Bantu people (most Kenyan tribes have Bantu origins). Besides African influences Kenyan music combining elements of Arabic rhytms too, especially in the coastal parts of the country.
"Nyatiti" is instrument similar to European medieval lyre, and in commonly played throughout western parts of Kenya. It has very gently and relaxing sound, usually played solo or sometimes accompained by light percussion or "oporo" (a curved horn). The music it producing is call "benga". Nyatiti is five to eight stringed instrument, Luo people usually use eight stringed nyatiti.
The player of nyatiti always sits on "orindi", it is three-legged stool and playaer always carring it with while performing.
Bomas offers presentations of traditional tribal dances on a daily basis but the program changes every day, as I was told. There are 42 different tribes in Kenya and each of them has own tradition. The musicians perfom their music on a simple (home-made) instruments, using mostly drums, sort of simple vibraphones and fifes, but this guys have rhytm in their blood and lots of talents. Do not miss concert when visiting Bomas.