When I found out that the Seventh Nairobi International Cultural Festival was being held on the 8th of June 2019, I hived off the date on my calendar. For the last two years that I knew about it, my diary and their calender have always clashed, but this year I wanted us to be insync. The festival is hosted annually by the National Museums of Kenya, providing a platform for citizens of all countries represented in Kenya, to present, share and engage each other on all facets of their culture ranging from music, dance, cuisine, handcrafts and fashion. The event was held at the Nairobi National Museum and was Free for all attendees. It was indeed an exciting Festival with lots of funfair and engaging experiences for all in attendance.
The first element of the festival that welcomed me to the grounds was this painting of the Kenyan flag, that seemed to Welcome all to the Nairobi International Cultural Festival, as well as be the gatekeeper to the rest of the activities happening behind it-how befitting.
First up, I’ll start with the “Best Cultural Experience Exhibitor ” according to Wangechi Gitahi Travels. This award was won by the Japan Information and Culture Centre stands. Their representatives not only verbally engaged all who visited their stands, but, they also provided varied platforms for individuals to “Experience ” and be “Immersed” in Japanese culture practically.
For all who visited their stand, one was offered a cup of Japanese Green tea, adequately served from a “Japanese” pot. Next up, one received a “Map” of the different engagements on offer. The twist to it however, is that they made it competitive by offering a certificate and *gift (limited), to those who got all the stamps from the different engagements. You should have seen the smile on peoples faces as they successfully engaged in the activities and then received the precious stamp. Yes, I definitely immersed myself in this and received a certificate after successful completion of all the activities. My only sadness is that they were not selling any of their artefacts as I really want to own a Yakata and a Kimono.
The Somali tent was also really well adorned with various Somali cultural artefacts on display. They had food available for people to get a taste of “Somali cuisine”, to many ladies getting their hands adorned in Henna.
To an extent, the Somali community and more so the women have been viewed/stereotyped as being “mysterious” and “contained.” The ladies however who performed at the festival put cracks into these “stereotypes” to even shattering others. These women gave us a glimpse, a deeper look into Somali music and dance, that we hardly get to see. These women were not putting on a show for our pleasure, they seemed to be at home, having a blast at a women’s party, and we were granted front row seats to see and enjoy. The sound of the drums reverberated, the women flung their hands , they stomped their feet, they moved their bodies, they battled each other at dancing, they did body flips- I kid you not, they laughed, smiled and made merry. Listening to the other visitors pleasant surprise at what they were witnessing, truly reveled the stereotypes previously held by many about the ladies and the community. Thank you ladies, you did a commendable job in showing people the unknown truths about Somali culture and women.
The Turkish tent was really nice as I not only got to learn about various places one should visit when they travel to Turkey, but I also got to sample several Turkish delicacies being prepared. The gentleman I engaged with was kind enough to answer my questions about Turkey and I got a sneak peak of the ladies within the tent rolling dough and spreading minced meat as they prepared “Turkish Chapati”-unfortunately, I cannot remember the Turkish name. I also got to sample Turkish Kebab, which is made of various minced meat variances like beef and mutton, it is then infused with spices and fat and thereafter, grilled on a charcoal burner. Oh my, talk about flavours dancing in unison in my mouth, this meal was all sorts of awesome. If you do not sample various cuisines from the cultures represented, you have done a dis-service to yourself.
The Indian community did a commendable job in sharing their culture, with me engaging more with their music, dance and fashion. The ladies were adorned beautifully in bright coloured clothes, all depicting different types of fashion. Their gold ornaments worn on their hair, forehead, neck, feet and hands, glimmered brightly in the sun as their make-up, which was dominantly bold , accentuated their look.
The little girls danced gracefully to calm, somber music while the older girls and women danced to a faster beat. I noted the movement of their feet, the angling of their hand and fingers as well as their stances seemed to share a message and not just a dance move. The highest tempo was reserved for the men who did not disappoint as they jumped, waved flags, clapped and waved their hands to music that had quite a fast tempo. It was really great watching them all perform and engage.
In addition to all the great pieces of art on display from the various cultures, it was fun to also see and interact with art works in form of paintings that were on display. These artists are super talented and I truly enjoyed their artwork. Special shout out to Dale Kotengo, who was a primary school mate of mine and here, years later, we would be meeting and enjoying his beautiful artworks, showcased under the “Ankara Series”.
There was so much more to see, experience and engage in, but l would need to write a book and make a movie for them to all be covered in detail. For instance, I got to learn how to write my name in Chinese, got dressed up in Korean traditional clothing, listened and watched Egyptian music performances by a generally older men band-so cool, enjoyed local Kenyan traditional dances to learning about Iran, Botswana, Mexico, Thailand, Spain, Argentina, Germany among others. Check out my social media pages on links above, where you can see more engagements and actual videos of some of the engagements.
I highly appreciate all the exhibitors on ground who ensured we had a truly International Cultural Festival. More countries have been added to my travel bucket list as a result of engaging with their cultures at this festival. To the organizers, The National Museum of Kenya, thank you for organizing the Nairobi International Cultural Festival and providing us with a platform to experience “One Day around the World.” I can’t wait for next year which I believe will be even bigger.😀.