Kenya Culture

The meeting of the arable Bantu peoples with the shepherd peoples of the Nilots and Cushites resulted in a highly differentiated cultural life, especially since the Kenyans often orient their thinking more on their tribal affiliation than on their nationality. The cultural contrasts between town and country are widely perceptible. In addition, there are strong western influences in the big cities, which are still noticeable today as relics of the British colonial era, especially in Nairobi. In contrast, Arab immigrants have had a strong influence on the Islamic East, as in the old trading town of Lamu is expressed on the east coast. Among the Kenyan rural population, superstition, ancestor worship and necromancy are still partly widespread. Traditional handicraft products include jewelry, masks, human and animal figures made of wood or soapstone. Colorfully painted shawls (kangas) are still typical women’s clothing.

There are numerous orally transmitted stories, fables, legends and fairy tales, but also a highly developed modern literature, which is primarily devoted to socially critical topics and is written in English. The most famous writers include G. Ogot,Ngugi wa Thiong’o and M. Mwangi . The numerous small theaters distributed all over the country serve not only to perform plays and dances, but also to provide information and education. In the up-and-coming film industry, which until now has often only become known internationally through foreign productions set in Kenya, there are increasingly their own productions and their own themes. Music, mostly in connection with dance, plays a major role in Kenyan cultural life. A preference for choral singing is typical. Some folk songs show Arabic influences, while pop music (hip hop, African rumba) is influenced by the west.

According to indexdotcom, the most popular sport in Kenya is football, but the greatest international success has been achieved in long-distance running. The official world records in the 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2018 marathon, all set in Berlin, were achieved by Kenyans.

World Heritage Sites in Kenya

World Heritage Sites (K) and World Natural Heritage (N)

  • Mount Kenya National Park (N; 1997, expanded to include the Lewa nature reserve in 2013)
  • Lake Turkana National Park with Sibiloi Islands (fossil mammal site) and South Island National Park (N; 1997)
  • Old town of Lamu (K; 2001)
  • Sacred Forests (Kayas) of the Mijikenda (N; 2008)
  • Lakes of the Rift Valley as part of the East African rift system (N; 2011)
  • Fort Jesus in Mombasa (K; 2011)
  • Archaeological site Thimlich Ohinga (K; 2018)

Thimlich Ohinga archaeological site (World Heritage)

Thimlich Ohinga archaeological site (World Heritage)

Meter-high walls, piled up from loose stones without mortar or cement: Thimlich Ohinga in Kenya shows the remains of fortified settlements made of dry stone walls that have survived for centuries. The technology and use of dry stone masonry testify to the culture and craft of the shepherd communities who settled the Lake Victoria region from the 16th century. Another surviving example of drywall techniques in sub-Saharan Africa are the ruins of Greater Zimbabwe, which were formed between the 11th and 15th centuries.

The archaeological site near the town of Migori consists of four larger settlements. Each complex has a large-scale enclosure made of massive dry stone walls, which are separated into smaller areas and recesses for dwellings by lower dry stone walls. The Ohinga (settlement) probably served to protect the population and livestock. At the same time it was a small economic, religious and social center.

Thimlich Ohinga Archaeological Site: Facts

Official title: Thimlich Ohinga archaeological site
Cultural monument: four dry stone wall complexes (Ohinga Kochieng, Kakuku, Koketch and Koluoch) on a total of 21 hectares, built since the 15th century, with outer walls between 1.5 to 4.5 meters high and an average of 1 meter wide
Continent: Africa
Country: Kenya
Location: northwest of Migori in the Lake Victoria region
Appointment: 2018
Meaning: extraordinary testimony to the history of migration and settlement in the region around Lake Victoria

Fort Jesus in Mombasa (World Heritage)

The fortress in the port city of Mombasa, built at the end of the 16th century, is one of the best-preserved Portuguese forts of that time.

Fort Jesus in Mombasa: facts

Official title: Fort Jesus in Mombasa
Cultural monument: Stone fortress built by the Portuguese 1593-1596 by the Italian master builder Giovanni Battista Cairati to protect the port of Mombasa and as a base for the sea route to India; Realization of the Renaissance ideal of harmonious proportions in plan and structure; central courtyard with four bastions at the corners and a platform for cannons facing the sea; Outer walls still preserved, only remains of the chapel, water reservoir, well and commanders’ quarters; Main part of the fort carved into the coral rock and thus part of the coastal landscape
Continent: Africa
Country: Kenya
Location: Mombasa
Appointment: 2011
Meaning: Outstanding and well-preserved example of Portuguese fortification in the 16th century; remarkable implementation in the style of the humanistic principles of the Renaissance; Milestone in the history of fortress construction and in the history of the east coast of Africa and the trans-Indian trade route; Symbol of the exchange of cultural values ​​and influences between the respective European, African and Arab rulers of the fortress and the trading partners

Kenya Culture

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