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Kenya - Traditions and Daily Life
By Ekaterina Zhdanova-Redman
1 Kenya's population is among the most diverse in Africa. The African peoples of Kenya, who account for about 98 percent of the total population, are divided into three main language groups. The largest of these is the Bantu group, which forms about two-thirds of the population; the Nilotic and Cushitic make up the rest part of Native African population of Kenya.
2 Apart from the African population, Kenya is home to various ethnic groups that emigrated during colonial rule from India and Pakistan, and they are referred to in Kenya as Asians. European Kenyans, mostly British in origin, are the remnant of the farming and colonial population. After Kenya became independent from Great Britain, most Europeans moved to southern Africa, Europe, and elsewhere.
3 Kenya has no state religion. However, the majority of Africans are members of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other Protestant churches. These religious connections came from early missionary activities of colonial times. Along with those religious forms, the traditional beliefs of African population are very strong in a traditional society. Animals (cattle, sheep, and goats), natural objects and phenomena (rain, thunder, lightning, wind, even rocks and mountains) are often associated with God and considered to be sacred. Some people have names for God that mean sky, heaven, or the above.
4 Kenyans love to party, and the music style, known as "benga," is the contemporary dance music that rules. It originated among the Luo people of western Kenya and became popular in the area in the 1950s. Music and dance play an integral role in social and religious life. Rhythm--the most important--is largely provided by drums accompanied by wind and stringed instruments. Kenya's annual events include public holidays such as Kenyatta Day (October 20) and Independence Day (December 12).
5 Kenyan cuisine generally consists of stodge filler with beans or a meat sauce. A National dish in Kenya is "nyama choma"--barbecued meat, usually goat. Kenyan food is not exactly designed for gourmets or vegetarians. It's really just survival fodder for the locals--maximum filling-up potential at minimum cost. Kenyans love beer, and there's a thriving local brewing industry.
6 One of the most striking features for those who visit Kenya is the traditional way of life of its native people. Most of Kenya's population lives in scattered settlements. In the traditional society, tribes or ethnic groups are normally determined by geographical region and common culture. Each group has its own social and political organization. A deep sense of kinship--connection through blood and marriage--is one of the strongest forces in traditional society. It governs marital customs and regulations, determines the behavior of one individual towards another and so on.
7 In traditional society, the family includes children, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters who may have their own children, and other immediate relatives. If a man has two or more wives, which is common, he has as many households since each wife would usually have her own house erected within the same compound where other wives and their households live.
8 The area or compound occupied by one household or joint households is a village. It includes houses, gardens or fields, the cattle shed, granaries, the courtyard, threshing ground, outdoor fireplace, the children's playground, and family shrines. Traditional houses were normally round in shape, built around the village compound so that if there are several houses in one compound they also form a circle or semi-circle. The houses generally face the center of the compound and towards the main entrance into the village.
9 Fire is very important for traditional African societies. Some communities keep or use a "holy" fire for religious purposes. They perform a ceremony of purifying the crops when they begin to bear. Part of this ceremony involves lighting the holy fire and carrying it to all the regions. People look upon it as a "purifying flame," and eagerly wait to catch it with twigs, in order to take it to their homes. It symbolizes the process of death and resurrection, and the concept of renewal over destruction and degeneration.
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