In a world where the world “culture” is instantly interpreted in its anthropological sense, getting the modern youth to link this word to fun or something that they want to do over a weekend a herculean task. It is therefore hardly surprising that an event with the tag, “cultural” is not something that can make an adventurous 25 year old want to excitedly pack their bags for a one week getaway to a location in the country which they only heard of during history classes in high school, which again, as bad luck would have it, happened to be their least favourite subject.
According to TravelStart, there are six major cultural events in Kenya which are very significant in narrating both the past and the future of this country. These six festivals are the Lamu Cultural Festival, the Marsabit Lake Turkana Festival, Mombasa Carnival, International Camel Derby Festival, Maulidi Festival and the Safari Rally. The Marsabit – Lake Turkana Festival is the latest such festival to be held and it brought together people from across the country as well as other parts of the world to share in the festivities and celebrations while appreciating the cultures of some 14 ethnic communities that reside in the northern Kenya region. Among many other functions, the event that was held on the 20th and 21st of May 2016 has a duty to the reconciliation, cohesion and integration. There is also the Rusinga Cultural Festival which is a must visit festival and the Turkana Tobongu Lore Festival that is also worth checking out.
So there you have it: cultural festivals do not only have a duty to anthropology and history and the old people who are interested in nostalgia but also the very present, the today and in the narration of a people’s futures. Against this backdrop, therefore, I can explore other roles that cultural festivals play in the country.
- Encourages tolerance for other people’s traditions
When you attend cultural festivals hosted by other communities, you get to learn a lot about them and to understand why they do the things that they do. The word is tolerance, not assimilation. What this means is that when you understand the cultural histories and practices of other people, you are in a better position to understand why they do the things that they do and even if you do not approve or like them, you will appreciate that these things are significant in their cosmos.
- Impart values and beliefs of the people in the community
In a world where a majority of the people are highly mobile and there is an increase of migration especially from rural to urban areas, holding highly defined cultural festivals brings back the people to the communities and teaches them – a bit more practically—the ways of their people, their beliefs and values. Understanding the significance of a festival is the starting point of opening up the community for the people and especially the natives who attend these festivals to understand their beliefs and learn more about where they are from. Knowing why these festivals are celebrated, their importance and why people started to hold celebrations in the honor of some of these things is one of the very first places to begin in the process of imparting values of the communities to the young people and the festival-goers.
- National identity and pride
No society can exist without a culture. This society can be a village, a city, a community, a region and so on and basically defined by the cultural similarities and meeting points that the people have. Through cultural festivals therefore, people get to understand the various cultural identities that make up the people of a country and that way, foster the idea of nationhood. Lincoln Barcon in the Monrovia Inquirer says that forgetting the past and the neglect of our cultural identities is one of the reasons why countries continue to find it hard to unite people for common courses and to rise against the menace of tribalism.
- Fostering peace
In all African cultures, the ideas of peace and harmony with family and neighbours are exalted. This means that through cultural festivals, the importance of peace not just to the communities but a peaceful coexistence inter-communally as well as across the county is highlighted. Through the holding of these events and continuous participation of the people underlines the importance of upholding peace in the country which is a necessary anchor for both development and democracy.
- Cultural events can also act as focal points of unity
Put differently, these events bring people together to network, dialogue about various issues and set agendas for planning and development. These are also occasions when we get to put aside all our differences and focus on learning about each other, doing things together and generally having fun.
- Teaching youth about the importance of culture
I read somewhere that the average 16 year old Kenyan is more American than the Americans themselves. I do not know about you but for me, I think that if at all this statistic painted a true picture, then it is very dangerous. I have nothing against American accents (Fake or real) but I think that it is important that we first understand where we are coming from before we even venture out. And this is where the significance of cultural festivals comes in. Through attending these events, young people get to learn about the importance of the preservation of cultures but that only works if they understand this culture in the first place. So we are back to where I started, it is important that we attend cultural festivals.
- Revenue collection for the government
Cultural festivals are also part of the tourist attractions in an area – both domestic and international tourists— and because of this; they can bring in some form of revenue for the country. This also applies to the locals who attend the various festivities in an area – the payments they pay for various events at the festival also add to the government revenue and aid in development of the country. Conversely, these events boost earnings for the suppliers of the provisions such as food, drinks and crafts that are needed during the festival.