The culture of Kenya’s 43rd tribe, the Makonde will now be preserved and displayed at the country’s premier cultural repository, the Bomas of Kenya.
Recording of the community’s culture at Bomas was facilitated by the Kwale County government, according to the County Executive for Culture and Social Services Mr. Ramadhan Bungale.
“I personally took the concerned team to Nairobi where the community’s traditional aspects including dances were recorded in a process that took us two weeks,” said Mr. Bungale.
Members of the Makonde were officially documented as Kenyans in 2017 after 300 of them trekked from Kwale to Nairobi in 2016 seeking the government to issue them with IDs.
Their request was granted by President Kenyatta who met them at State House.
They were the only Kenyan tribe selected to meet Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi when he visited the country in November, 2018.
The community participated in the 2017 general elections for the first time since their forefathers settled in Kenya.
Renowned as skilful wood carvers, the Makonde were brought to Kwale to work on sugar plantations at the defunct Ramisi Sugar Company in Msambweni Sub-county in the 1930s and have never known peace until they were officially gazetted as citizens.
They did not return to their motherland when the factory collapsed three decades ago and have been living as squatters in squalid conditions in dilapidated shelters in the former plantations.
Theirs has been a life of hardship and abject poverty coupled with the pain of being isolated and despised by the indigenous communities before they acquired citizenship status.
Many of them eke out a living as wood carvers and palm wine tappers among other odd jobs here and there.
They are mainly found in Kitsakamkwaju, Pongwe-Kidimu and Pongwe-Kikokeni areas of Msambweni Sub-county.
But in the spirit of affirmative action the government has offered to have the Makonde get jobs in the public sector among other benefits.
Bomas was established in 1971 by the government to maintain and promote the rich diverse cultural values of various ethnic groups of Kenya.
It also acts as tourist attraction centre and is therefore expected to preserve the authenticity of local cultural values and portray them in their pure form.
Different aspects of the rich Kenyan culture are displayed at Bomas including living styles, craft, music and dancing.
By James Muchai