Cultural Diversity of Kenya

Cultural Diversity of Kenya

Kenya is a land of great diversity in its people and cultures. We have about 42 tribes in Kenya with different languages and cultures that all merge to become the unique mix of Kenyan culture. The biggest six tribes comprises about half the Kenya population and hence there is a higher influence to Kenyan culture from the people of these big tribes.

The diverse cultures in Kenya give rise to very interesting mix of traditional dresses and clothing. Most people have their own traditional way of dressing which makes it very interesting. Different people have different cultural beliefs and practices. Traditional marriage ceremonies are big events for all Kenya tribes although they are all done with their own unique flavor.

All Kenya people speak the national Language of Swahili and most people speak English too. Therefore, all Kenyan people can communicate with each other with ease. Most people speak their own traditional languages too.

Kikuyu
The kikuyu are Kenya’s most populous ethnic group.

Kisii / Gusii

The Kisii or Gusii or Kosova speak the ekegusii language.The Kisii are regarded as one of the most economically active communities in Kenya, blessed with rolling tea estates, coffee, and banana groves.

Turkana

Turkana are one of the Nilotic people of Kenya.Livestock is an important aspect of Turkana way of life. Goats, camels, donkeys, sheep, and cows are the key herd stock utilized by the Turkana people. 
 

Religion

The Kenyan Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Around half the population are Christians, 10% Muslim and there are small Hindu and Sikh minorities. The balance of the population follows traditional African, often animist, beliefs. Christians tend to be concentrated in the west and central sections of the country while Muslims cluster in the eastern coastal regions. Most Kenyans interweave native beliefs into a traditional religion. 

Protestant 45%, Roman Catholic 33%, Muslim 10%, indigenous beliefs 10%, other 2%. 

Cuisine

There is no singular dish that represents all of Kenya. Different communities have their own native foods. Staples are maize and other cereals depending on the region, including millet and sorghum eaten with various meats and vegetables. The foods that are universally eaten in Kenya are ugali, sukuma wiki, and nyama choma.

Sukuma wiki, a Swahili phrase which literally means "to push the week," is a simple dish made with greens similar to kale or collardsthat can also be made with cassava leaves, sweet potato leaves, or pumpkin leaves. Its Swahili name comes from the fact that it is typically eaten to "get through the week" or "stretch the week." Nyama choma is grilled meat – usually goat or sheep. It is grilled over an open fire. It is usually eaten with ugali and kachumbari.

Among the Luhyas residing in the western region of the country, ingokho (chicken) and ugali is a favourite meal. Other than these, they also eat tsisaka, miroo, managu and other dishes. Also among the Kikuyu of Central Kenya, a lot of tubers, including ngwaci(sweet potatoes), ndũma (taro root, known in Kenya as arrowroot), ikwa (yams), and mianga (cassava) are eaten, as well as legumes like beans and a Kikuyu bean known as njahi. Among the Luos residing on the western region around Lake Victoria, "kuon" (Ugali) and fish is a favourite, as well as "gweno" (chicken), "Aliya" (sun dried meat) and green vegetables such as "Osuga", "Akeyo", "Muto" and "Bo", all consumed with Ugali.

As you travel around the country distinct differences are noted mainly based on what foods are locally available around such areas. Grains are a staple food for groups that grow grains (e.g. Kikuyu, Embu, Meru, Kisii, etc.). Other communities such as the Luo and the Coastal community have fish and seafood for their staple food as available in such areas. In semi-arid areas like Turkana, foods made from sorghum are more common staple foods. As you move towards the city – food eaten by working families vary according to preference and ethnicity. Rice and stew is more common with working families, and other dishes like chapati (parantha), chicken stew, etc.

Language

Kenya is a multilingual country. Although the official languages are Swahili and English, there are actually a total of 62 languages spoken in the country (according to Ethnologue). These mainly consist of tribal African languages as well as a minority of Middle-Eastern and Asian languages spoken by descendants of foreign settlers (i.e. Arabic, Hindi, etc). The African languages come from three different language families - Bantu languages (spoken in the center and southeast), Nilotic languages (in the west), and Cushitic languages (in the northeast).

Clothing

Apart from its national flag, Kenya does not have national dress that transcends its diverse ethnic divisions. With more than 42 ethnic communities having their own traditional practices and symbols unique to them, this is a task that has proved elusive. However, several attempts have been made to design an outfit that can be worn as a national dress, much like the Kente cloth of Ghana.

Kitenge is a cotton fabric made into colours and design through tie-and-dye and heavy embroidery. It is commonly worn by a number of Kenya's populations. Though also worn in many other African countries, Kitenge is yet to be accepted in Kenya as an official dress as it is only worn during ceremonies and non-official functions. The Maasai wear dark red garments to symbolise their love for the earth and their dependence on it. It also stands for courage and blood that is given to them by nature.

The Kanga (Khanga, Lesso) is another cloth that is in common use in practically every Kenyan home. The Kanga is a piece of clothing about 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) by 1 metre (3 ft 3 in), screen printed with beautiful sayings in Swahili (or English) and is largely worn by women around the waist and torso


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