Pan African Heritage: Kenya

3 Oct

In my Pan African heritage series, today, I honour our brothers and sisters from Kenya.

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Kenya, is an East African country. Its capital and largest city is Nairobi. Kenya’s territory lies on the equator and overlies the East African Rift covering a diverse and expansive terrain that extends roughly from Lake Victoria to Lake Turkana and further south-east to the Indian Ocean. It is bordered by Tanzania to the south and southwest, Uganda to the west, South Sudan to the north-west, Ethiopia to the north and Somalia to the north-east.
Kenya has a warm and humid tropical climate on its Indian Ocean coastline. The climate is cooler in the savannah grasslands around the capital city, Nairobi, and especially closer to Mount Kenya, which has snow permanently on its peaks. Further inland are highlands in Central and Rift Valley regions where tea and coffee are grown as cash crops which are major foreign revenue earners. In the West are Nyanza and Western regions, there is an equatorial, hot and dry climate which becomes humid around Lake Victoria, the largest tropical fresh-water lake in the world. This gives way to temperate and forested hilly areas in the neighbouring western region. The north-eastern regions along the border with Somalia and Ethiopia are arid and semi-arid areas with near-desert landscapes. Kenya is known for its world class athletes in track and field and rugby. Thanks to its diverse climate and geography, expansive wildlife reserves and national parks such as the East and West Tsavo National Park, Amboseli National Park, Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru National Park, Aberdares National Park and white sand beaches at the Coastal region, Kenya is home to the modern safari and has several world heritage sites such as Lamu and numerous beaches, including in Diani, Bamburi and Kilifi, where international yachting competitions are held every year.

The country has at least 40 different ethnic African groups (including the Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin tribes, Luo, Kamba, Somali, Kisii, Meru & Embu, Mijikenda, Turkana and Maasai) who speak a variety of mother tongues.
The different languages in Kenya fall into three categories – Bantu (Niger-Congo) languages which are spoken by around 65% of people, the Nilo-Saharan group of languages spoken among another third of the population and the Cushitic language, an Afro-Asian tongue spoken in the north by around 3% of the population.

One of the most popular forms of pop music is Benga, which combines traditional African drum and dance rhythms with modern electrical sounds and melodies.

The undeniable most common Kenyan food staple is ugali – usually made from cornmeal that is added to boiling water and heated until it turns into a dense block of cornmeal paste. Ugali has the consistency of a grainy dough and the heaviness of a brick. For many Kenyans, ugali along with a small amount of cooked vegetables or saucy stew is a normal meal.

irio

Irio is one of the most famous dishes in Kenya, a food that originated as a Kikuyu staple and spread throughout the country.
Green peas and potatoes are boiled and then mashed up before whole kernels of maize (corn) are added to give the mash some extra starch and texture. This hearty and heavy Kenyan food is famous to eat with roasted nyama choma meat (nyama na irio) or just some Kenyan style stew.

githeri

It’s not too complicated, a Kenyan dish that consists of boiled beans, corn kernels, and possibly mixed in with a little bit of vegetables. The combination of Githeri is a filling, highly nutritious, and can be quite good when complimented with salt, pepper, chilies, and even a chapati. One of the most popular vegetable Kenyan dishes is sukuma wiki (known as collard greens or a form of kale in English). The nutritious green leafy vegetable is often cooked in oil with a few diced tomatoes, onions, and flavored with a sprinkle of mchuzi mix (Kenyan food secret flavoring salt – MSG) or stock cube flavoring.

masai-warrior-clothing-250x250

A few tribes have largely kept their traditional dress and life style. The Masai Maria are the most famous, but this also goes for the Samburu (which are closely related to the Masai) and the Turkana peoples, who live in the north.

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Masai women typically wear vast plate-like bead necklaces, and colourful wraps called kanga. The men are famous for wearing a red-checked shuka (Maasai blanket) and carry a distinctive ball-ended club. For Masai, red clothing stands for power. Many Masai wear simple sandals, sometimes soled with pieces of motorcycle tires. When males become ‘morans’ (warriors), around age 14, they traditionally dye their hair red with ochre and fat.

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