The National Government will work with county governments to train youth as champions of culture in order to transfer traditional knowledge and culture from the older generation to the younger hyped generation.
This follows a growing concern that the younger generation is getting consumed, lost in modernism, abandoning what they consider less interesting and boring culture and traditions of their communities, which was espoused to instill morals.
During the Butsotso Cultural Festival held at Eshishiru in Kakamega, youth kept a wide berth and were only seen coming in large crowds, escorting bulls for a bullfighting match which is one of the cultures they identify with.
In a speech read on her behalf by Lesley Khayadi during the 14th Butsotso Cultural Festival in Kakamega, the Cabinet Secretary (CS) Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage, Peninnah Malonza, said that the program to train the youth is in line with the Butsotso Cultural Festival’s theme of Integrating youth in culture, leadership and development being one of the cultural celebrations in the country offering conversations around culture and heritage.
“Cultural festivals simply immerse us into our heritage and remind us of who we are as a people. The Festivals also serve to attract both local and international tourists to experience the life and culture of local people. I would like to challenge counties to direct more investments in cultural activities within their jurisdiction,” she noted.
She noted that Butsotso cultural festival can play a huge role in opening up the Western Region tourism and related economic activities and provide a platform to artisans, making cultural artefacts and performance artists to earn a living.
The CS noted that the Isukuti in Kakamega has been listed by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) program as an intangible cultural heritage, a clear sign of the immense opportunities that awaits the communities.
“The county has also exhibited at the Kenya Cultural center and participated in Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki arts and culture through its different traditional practices,” she noted.
She said the government is keen to elevate such festivals to an international event in the league of Notting Hill Carnival, which takes place in London, United Kingdom, annually attracting over 2million people. It is a celebration of the Caribbean Cultural Heritage.
“Similarly in West Africa and specifically in Nigeria, Calabar Carnival also known as Africa’s Biggest Street Party or the Pride of Nigeria is a week-long festival that attracts millions of locals and foreigners thus boosting tourism in the region,” she pointed out.
Speaking during the event, the Principal Secretary (PS) for Higher Education and Research, Dr. Beatrice Inyangala, called for a concerted effort to package culture and tradition in an interesting manner through social media and technological tools such as video games to attract the youth.
She said youth are missing a lot by shying away from traditions and culture of their communities, giving an example that there is an opportunity for healthy living being promoted by traditional foods.
“We call upon families and social groups to promote healthy living through culture, we need to sit with our children and enlighten them because with the culture and traditions we have values which are very important to bring unity among our people. There are lessons from traditional foods that we should conserve the environment so as not to lose the benefits of trees and other traditional plants,” she added.
She urged the council of elders to create generational change by engaging the youth while also urging schools to be instruments of traditional knowledge transfer through special curriculum to support molding of character of students.
The County Executive for Social Services, Sports Youth, Gender and Culture, Moffat Mandela, said the county government will increase funding for the cultural festivals in the County.
“We will invest in culture for it to become one of the income earners for our communities and the people of Kakamega. We shall organize for a cultural week in 2023 to bring together all the communities in Kakamega to showcase their traditional practices,” he noted.
He said only the Wanga and Batsoso communities in Kakamega county hold cultural festivals.
The Butsotso Cultural Festival was initiated in 2008 to celebrate the rich culture of the community with the aim of preserving it for the future generations.
The Chair Batsotso Council of Elders Paul Etemesi said the community will transform the festival into a tourist attraction to empower the people economically and bring on board sponsors from the corporate world, Kenya Utalii College, Kenya Tourism Board, The National Museums of Kenya and the Bomas of Kenya.
“We would like the young people to be part and parcel of our cultural activities for sustainability. When young people are custodians of our culture, we are assured of continuity. Our cultural activities include making traditional foods, entertainment, clothing, medicine and leadership regalia among others,” he noted.
By Moses Wekesa