Pilot Inventories of Local Youth Culture and Arts Resources of Kenya

How much do you think you know about Kenya? 



Brief history and cultural background of the country:

Kenya was a colony of the United Kingdom from 1920 until 1963. Since the independence, the country is a republic. There are more than 40 ethnic groups living in the country and more than 60 languages are spoken as almost everyone speaks more than one of them. 

The total population of Kenya by 2016 is estimated at 46,790 million, as the urban population is 25.6%.

Primary school is free in Kenya, but many children need to help their families by working the land, tending cattle, cooking, or fetching water which result in early school drop-off.
Music and storytelling are important parts of Kenyan culture. For centuries, tribes throughout the country have used songs, stories and poems to pass on their beliefs, history, and customs.

Popular / Internationally Recognized resources

Geographic Landmarks:

  • Name: MOUNT KENYA,
  • Location: Kenya, KE, Africa;
  • Type: mountain.
  • Name: MAU MAU CAVES,
  • Location: Abedare National Park, Kenya, KE, Africa;
  • Type: caves.
  • Location: Great Rift Valley, Kenya, KE, Africa;
  • Type: crater.

Historical Heritage:

  • Location: Gedi, Kenya, KE, Africa;
  • Type: ruins.
  • Background: Gedi was a bustling city during the 13th century but by the 19th it had been abandoned.
  • Name: FORT JESUS,
  • Location: Mombasa, Kenya, KE, Africa;
  • Type: fort;
  • Background: The fort was built by the Portuguese at the end of the 16th century at the entrance of Mombasa's Old Port. Fort Jesus helped to make Mombasa main center for trading with Portugal.
  • Location: Kilfi District, Kenya, KE, Africa;
  • Type: ruins;
  • The ancient Mnarani settlement dates back to the 14th century. It contains the remains of two mosques and several tombs.

International events: 

  • Name: The Maralal International Camel Derby,
  • Location: Maralal, Kenya;
  • The Maralal Camel Derby is Kenya’s best known and most prestigious camel race, attracting both local and international competitors.
  • Name: Lamu Cultural Festival,
  • Location: Lamu Archipelago, Kenya;
  • Lamu Cultural Festival is a three-day event celebrating Lamu’s heritage featuring musical performances and dances, henna competitions, dhow and donkey races and traditional craft presentations.
  • Name: Mombasa Carnival
  • Location: Mombasa, Kenya

Mombasa Carnival is apparently the most popular festival in Kenya as Mombasa has always been the major cultural hub in East Africa, depicts both the Arabian and African cultures in a unique way. The festival features multicultural floats, music, dance performances and colorful parades with people in amazing costumes.

Snapshot of the main challenges of the country

  • Education and employment- Literacy rate it Kenya is better that in most African countries but students graduate and find themselves unable to apply what they have learnt in school simply because they can not find a job. Many end up on the streets, jobless, living below the poverty line.
  • HIV/AIDS Pandemic – Child and especially girl-child education is helping in fighting the HIV/AIDS infections. Even though, the HIV/AIDS is still a serious problem for the Kenyan population.
  • Corruption – Corruption and poor leadership in Kenya are the reasons the country is still in poverty despite the abundance of resources. Corruption nowadays is considered as a normal thing, prevalent from the Government to the streets.
  • Climate change – As 75% of the population is into subsistence farming in times of crop failure due to unpredictable climatic conditions in Kenya (droughts and flooding) most of the these families go starving.

Snapshot of the main potential fields for growth, employment and tackle of social problems

The country is currently engaged in the "Vision 2030" program to make Kenya a new industrialized country through five-year plans. The program seeks to improve the economic performance, as well as the living conditions of the population. The program includes large investment projects, which should, in addition, compensate for the infrastructure deficit.

Kenyan assets are numerous. Firstly, its geographical position and its economic situation have made the country a real hub in the fields of transport and trade.

Moreover, Kenyan economic development is singular. It is not based on the exploitation of raw materials like many African countries, but on a dynamic and innovative service sector.

Sustained efforts to raise Kenya's Doing Business ranking in 2016 have borne fruit: the country was ranked in 2017 92 out of 190, compared with 113 in 2016. This should allow Kenya to attract new foreign investors on its territory.

In the long term, however, the IMF says tourism recovery, cheap barrel prices and regional integration should continue to support growth.

Traditional Cultural Characteristics and Art forms

The culture of Kenya can be seen through the arts and crafts designed by different communities. They are made of locally available materials and include wood and stone carvings, making beaded necklaces, bracelets, masks, baskets, figurines etc.

Still, there is no universal Kenyan art. The art present in the country is an expression of the culture of the various different communities that reside in the country; slightly over 42 communities or there about. Art in Kenya is a translation of the way of living of the people; it is an expression of strongly held beliefs that were passed from generation to generation.

Literature. Kenya has a strong oral tradition. Many folktales concern animals or the intervention of the spirits in everyday life; others are war stories detailing soldiers' bravery. The stories are passed through the time, often in the form of songs. Contemporary Kenyan literature draws extensively from this oral heritage, as well as from Western literary tradition.

Graphic Arts. Kenya is known for its sculpture and wood-carving, which often has religious significance. Figures of ancestors are believed to appease the inhabitants of the spirit world, as are the elaborately carved amulets that Kenyans wear around their necks. In addition to wood, sculptors also work in ivory and gold. Contemporary sculptors often blend traditional styles with more modern ones.

Performance Arts. Dancing is an important part of Kenyan culture. Men and women usually dance separately. Dance is often an element of religious ceremonies, such as marriage, child naming, and initiation. Costume is an important element of many traditional dances, as are props: dancers often don masks and carry shields, swords, and other objects.

Form of Arts popular among the young people

Music: Many young people use music to differentiate themselves from the mass. Pop music as a genre has had the greatest appeal and impact to the majority of the youth in Kenya.

Dance: Masai and Samburu dancing are the best known forms of Kenyan dancing which are still popular among Kenyan youth. In their energetic dancing, the tribe warriors have displayed their strength by leaping high in the air. Nowadays, traditional moves are implied into the modern dance styles.

Theater performances are mostly practiced by the youth in Nairobi region.

Speaking about literature, the oral narratives are the oldest form of literature in Kenya and they are still important in many communities.

Craftwork is also popular among youth as the products are being sold to the tourists for profit.