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So This Is What They Say Here In Kenya

So This Is What They Say Here In Kenya
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Kenya with all its natural geographic beauty also adorns another beautiful aspect and that is its varied ethnicity. Factually speaking Kenya has more than 40 tribes. Kenya’s diversity is such that the largest ethnic group the Kikuyus, make up for less than a fifth of the total population. With all the diversity, the Kenyan tribes have their own qualities that they have been optimizing to make their lives better.

THE MAASAI. Now who doesnt know this tribe? Any magazine, journal, travelogue pertaining to Kenya will, by default, have a picture of the Maasai. The Maasai are a semi-nomadic tribe and are the one of the more recognised amongst  the African ethnic groups. They are pastoralists and are famous for their reputation as fearsome warriors and cattle-rustlers and reside in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania along the Great Rift Valley on arid and semi-arid land.

The Masai are known to be great jumpers. Jumping is an important part of their music
 and dance traditions. The men of the 
community perform a dance called Adumu
, which if literally translated means to jump up
 and down in a dance. This dance is performed by the warriors who form a circle and one or two at a time will come in the center to begin jumping. It’s a competitive dance and as every warrior goes higher in the jump, the members of the group raise the pitch of their singing based on the height of the jump. The jumping is also a way of impressing  girls of the community. That is why when in Kenya, your jump will go unnoticed if it’s not as high as a Maasai!



THE KALENJIN tribe is mainly  found in the Rift Valley encampment of Kenya. Since they live in the Highlands of Rift Valley and are related to the people in the Nile, they are also called Highland Nilotes. 
They can be termed as the tribe who has brought Kenya into the international limelight on sports front. The Kalenjin have 
been called by some ʻthe running tribeʼ. Since the mid
1960s, the international athletic scene has been dominated
 by Kenyan sprinters both men and women. The majority of 
these runners have been Kalenjin. Some of the famous
 names are Kipchoge Keino who was the first African achiever of gold medal in 1968 for 1500 meters; more recent
 Kalenjin runners are Wilson Kipketer, Tegla Loroupe, Moses Tanui, Helen Kimaiyo, and Paul Tergat.

THE LUO occupy mainly the western part of Kenya, and are known to have migrated from Sudan to their present location around the eastern shore of Lake Victoria. The Western Province and the Nyanza region are primarily inhabited by the Luos. Since their settlements were near the lake, their main occupation is fishing, though many are farmers and also have jobs in the cities. In the 19th and 20th century, the Luo came in contact with the British and under the leadership of a chief named Odera, the community was initiated into adopting the westernized way of schooling, dress and hygiene. This resulted in a rapid education of a Luo in the English language and the English ways.

In the present times, Luos are known to be a well-educated community. Thus they are recognized to be good at their speech.

They are a heterogeneous group who have intermarried, shared and borrowed from various cultures. A prominent figure from Luo tribe is a well known politician, Raila Odinga who is heading the opposition party. Thus a Luo has a burden of speaking well and living in a more westernized way!


THE LUHYA are the inhabitants of the western province of Kenya. They are primarily the farming community. Their main occupation is farming and poultry. They are known to lay great emphasis on food. The main sugar producing companies in Kenya like Mumias, Kabras and Nzoia have their contract production zones in the Luhya peoples region, hence sugarcane production is a key commercial enterprise. Chicken is a delicacy among the Luhyas, and thus poultry is a preferred occupation.

The Luhyas are know for their feasts and parties because they give a lot of emphasis on what they serve since they believe that the spread should have all the elements of a balanced meal. Thus when in Kenya, its always profitable to be a guest at a Luhya house!

THE KIKUYU are the largest number of people in Kenya. They are also known to be most successful in politics and business. They are believed to have come from West Africa and now are finally settled along Mount Kenya where they began their main activity of farming the fertile volcanic highlands. However,

when the British came to Nairobi, they confiscated some of their lands leaving them with only a small piece to cultivate. This led to the formation of a rebellion group, the Mau Mau who entered into war with British and this war led to Kenya’s independence.

Kikuyu community has a history of 
economic success because of the
 farming. This has led them to be the 
leaders in business, education and 
politics. They have an entrepreneurial
 ability that surpasses the rest of the 
tribes. A Kikuyu will always prefer to be
 self-employed than work for somebody. Thus when in Kenya, learn to bargain the Kikuyu way!

THE AKAMBA (Plural of Kamba) are the people who live in the semi-arid Eastern Province of Kenya stretching east from Nairobi to Tsavo. They are concentrated in the Machakos district of the Eastern Province. This tribe was originally the hunter-gatherers, but later adopted agriculture due to arability of the new land that they had come to occupy. In the mid eighteenth century, a large number of Akamba pastoral groups moved eastwards from the Tsavo and Kibwezi areas to the coast. This migration was the result of extensive drought and lack of pasture for their cattle. They took up alternate occupations and settled in the areas of the coast of Kenya. The akamba are still known for their fine work in basketry and pottery. Their artistic inclination is evidenced in the sculpture work that is on display in many craft shops and galleries in the major cities and towns of Kenya. Infact, they have a massive handicraft industry in Mombasa which supplies to the rest of the country.

Since this tribe had to adopt new means to survive, therefore hard work is associated with akamba people.

THE GIRIAMA is a sub group of Mjikenda tribe and they make up for the largest among the coastal tribes of Kenya.
They are staunchly proud of 
their traditional customs.

They have a rich traditional dance culture and use a lot of jewelry as a part of the dance costume. They dance for every event of life and are thus the most colorful and lively community.

MUZUNGU is rather a racist term that is used to describe a ʻwhiteʼ man. Demographically speaking, the Europeans are an extremely minor group and most of them are of aristocratic descent that continue to yield influence especially over Kenyan Political Elite. Kenya as a tourist destination is preferred by the Europeans because of its earthy, raw feel and also because it offers less expensive holiday. Thus, at any given time, Kenya is full of tourists and therefore mzungus are perceived to be the travellers. For the Kenyans, the Europeans are travel enthusiasts and thus for them if one should travel, then he should travel like a muzungu!

MUINDI is yet another colloquial term to describe an Asian   from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. Though they are in a minority, yet have had a strong influence on the economy of the country. A few Asian communities were brought by the Britishers to work on the railway project to open the interiors of East Africa. The rest came as traders and have stayed on for the past two centuries. The Indian community primarily from Gujarat is known for their business acumen. Indians in Kenya form one of the most prosperous communities of the region.




So This Is What They Say Here In Kenya
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About Nidhee Datta

Nidhee Datta
Nidhee Datta, a graduate in Bachelors of Home Science, has been actively involved with her school and college magazines. She is an ardent reader and has been in Africa for more than a decade. She has been a part of organisations that promote Indian music and dance and has a keen interest in sharing the rich heritage of her country with people at large.

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