clouds of dust rushed all around us, the sun beating high overhead and the sounds of tribal chanting rang through the procession as we made our way through the maai mahiu community. turkana, maasai, kikuyu, kamba and luo tribes moved in one accord each filled with songs of celebration as ctc kicked off it’s first anniversary of our ubuntu days. this was a particularly special day as we not only celebrated one year of ubuntu, but also the opening of ctc’s art, culture and peace center: a space promoting peace and the celebration of unity amongst diversity for the entire community as well as selling local products indigenous to the five local tribes in the region. we didn’t realize just how revolutionary this was when we started planning 2 months ago, but in a country often fractured by tribal differences to provide a communal space that celebrates this difference is rare.
tensions ran high as the day began, but we knew something like this needed to be done especially after the horrific post-election violence of 2008. ctc has always been committed to the promotion of human rights, but also to the lifting up of individual identity and the celebration of that identity on a communal level.
coming from america where we have lost much of our cultural roots and sense of history i quickly became sensitive to the blanketing of cultural identity in kenya. kenya is in a unique place as a nation where they still have at least 42 tribes represented. however, due to globalization there is a movement of blanketing the uniqueness each tribe brings into saying we are all kenyans when what that is quickly becoming is saying, “let go of our tribal culture and embrace coca cola culture.”
now i’m not saying let’s leave people in their desperate rural poverty because we (meaning westerners) want to appreciate ancient tribal tradition. what ctc is promoting are the beautiful traditions and ways of life that exist within each tribe that make these people who they are. not only that, but also to learn how to view these ways of living as differences to celebrate demonstrating the rich diversity and beauty of this nation rather than letting them be tossed for the sake of a false unification through globalization.
there is power in our history. there is strength in the traditions of our ancestors. there is beauty in the full embodiment of knowing ones cultural identity. these are the truths that ctc hoped to tap into this ubuntu and for that my heart is full of joy that we risked stepping out into the unknown and managed to bring a divided people together to celebrate one anothers diversity in the pursuit of unity and peace.