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Kilifi artists decry neglect

A renowned Mijikenda traditional dancer 80-year old, Masha Iha, from Malindi Town showing his acrobatic skills. Together with his son Thomas Masha, he founded the Mijikenda Talents Community to champion the cause of traditional dancers, musicians and acrobats performing in tourist establishments. Photo by Emmanuel Masha/KNA.
The Mijikenda Talents Community Dancers performing at the home of Mzee Masha Iha in Malindi Town before their leaders addressed the media on Wednesday August 12, 2020. Photo by Emmanuel Masha/KNA.

A  group of traditional dancers, musicians and acrobats in Kilifi County has asked the national and county governments to consider assisting them as they had been adversely hit by the corona virus pandemic.

The group known as Mijikenda Talents Community said artistes in the county had been forgotten as their counterparts in other areas were receiving stipends to cushion them against the effects of the pandemic.

Thomas Masha, the Chairman and founder of the group, said following the drastic decline in tourism due to the pandemic and other factors, traditional dancers, musicians, modern dancers and acrobats who had been entertaining guests in hotels and other social gatherings had been driven out of employment.

“We are aware that the government availed Sh.100 million to be given to artistes to assist in the fight against Covid-19, but this money has not trickled down to traditional artistes in Kilifi County,” he told journalists in Malindi Town on Wednesday.

Masha said he started the group with the help of his father Masha Iha, a renowned Malindi traditional dancer since independence, with the aim of fighting for the rights of traditional dancers, modern dancers, acrobats and music bands across Kilifi county.

His sentiments were echoed by members of the group, Mohamed Abdalla and renowned traditional dancer, Masha Iha, who urged the government to come to their aid during this time of economic hardships.

He said tourism had already gone down before the pandemic, but added that things had become worse with the absence of international tourists, leaving the group members to wallow in abject poverty.

“Recently, President Kenyatta announced that the government would release Sh.100 million to artistes but the truth is as the founder of the group, my members who number more than 150 from 25 groups have not been reached,” he said.

One 80-year old Mzee Masha Iha, who said he started entertaining founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta a year after independence, said traditional dancers had played a big role in the tourism sector and should be recognized.

“I used to entertain Mzee Kenyatta and there was no public function that Masha Iha was not invited to, but now I have been forgotten,” Mzee Iha, who staged a dancing performance at his home to showcase his dancing prowess told reporters.

By  Emmanuel Masha

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