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Mwomboko dancing still popular with community of central Kenya

by Njoroge Kaburo KIRINYAGA (Xinhua) -- The British colonialists in Kenya had become increasingly irritated by Muthirigu, a traditional dance popular with the Kikuyu community of central Kenya.

It was banned in the early 1930s but locals who fought overseas during the Second World War were given a green light by colonial masters to reintroduce the dance.

"When the colonial administration banned Muthirigu, a vigorous local social protest cultural dance style, the community was left with no option than to seek a substitute style," said Lillian Magu, a 98-year-old granny.

Magu said that the dance style was one of the most popular genres with which the Kikuyu community used to propagate anti-colonial messages.

And when it was banned, those who were leading the entertainment arena sought a second choice that would be as alluring to the colonial master as possible in order to avoid another ban.

They came up with the Mwomboko dance which the colonialists tolerated as it resembled their fox trot, a style which like Mwomboko involves couples swaying to the beat, making mottled steps in harmonized choreography and with unhurried circular motion.


Mwomboko dancing still popular with community of central Kenya  FACEBOOK PHOTO | Coastweek

KIRINGYAGA COUNTY -- Onlookers suggest that 'Mwomboko dancing has a sensational effect for anyone watching older folk waltzing while its contact effect eases courtship for young people who dance to it at night time'. PHOTO - FACEBOOK
Mwomboko, in which the dancers also move in a file, count two steps, bend down and then move majestically back and forth in a comical harmony, had a sensational effect for anyone watching older folk waltzing while its contact effect eased courtship for young people who danced to it at night.

To date, the dance enjoys a cross-cultural, gender and multi-ethnic appeal, making it a popular treat since independence.

A group of elderly - 12 men and women - who hail from Kirinyaga County in central Kenya are the main faces of the dance which both entertains and informs the citizens on the rich culture of the Kikuyu community.

"We compose and perform songs with important messages that affect our everyday livelihood, then perform them in a Mwomboko style," said Daniel Mukuura, a composer.

The genre educate the society about the dangers of vices such as Female Genital Mutilation, tribalism and HIV/AIDS while stressing the positive aspects of the Kikuyu culture.

"The dance style employs instruments such as the ancient accordion instrument played in accompaniment to percussive, clang sounds of the metal rings, which together allow the artistes to perpetuate catchy tunes of the rare genre," said Magu.

She said that during the first and second World Wars, Nairobi’s Burma market was the designated area where many Carrier Corps, especially from western Kenya met and honed their skills in music.

Magu said that locals who were drafted in the British army to fight in both first and second world wars returned home with musical instruments like guitars and accordions.

According to Magu, the modern music instruments enriched local dancing styles.

She noted that Mwomboko in particular is a now part of Kenya’s heritage and is showcased during national holidays.


Mystical natural mountain bridge boosts Kirinyaga tourism revenues

by Njoroge Kaburo KIRINYAGA (Xinhua) -- A mystical bridge that towers above the hillsides in central Kenya has for decades attracted visitors from distant lands.

The architectural marvel that was adored by ancestors who associated it with magical powers, was a hideout for freedom fighters during the colonial era.

Mystical natural mountain bridge boosts Kirinyaga tourism revenues  FACEBOOK PHOTO | Coastweek

  However, nobody has a clear understanding of how this structure that is referred in local dialect as Ndaraca Ya Ngai (God’s Bridge) came into existence.

"I cannot tell you how the bridge was constructed and even our fore fathers were unable to unravel this mystery," said 92-year-old Jackson Karua in Kirinyaga, central Kenya.

"The stories around the bridge continue to be passed from one generation to the next, since nobody is old enough to tell the story of the wonder," he told Xinhua on Tuesday.

As a result of this mystery and with the growing uncertainty, the bridge has continued to gain more traction, forming an important aspect of tourism in the central Kenya county of Kirinyaga.

Kirinyaga County government has designated the God’s Bridge as one of its major tourist sites in order to generate revenue needed to boost provision of essential services like education and health.

KIRINGYAGA COUNTY -- A mystical bridge that towers above the hillsides in central Kenya has for decades attracted visitors from distant lands. PHOTO - FACEBOOK
A recent attempt to rehabilitate the bridge was foiled by heavy downpour, forcing engineers on site to vacate.

"After laying bricks and setting a metal frameworks ready with concrete the following day, we woke up on to find everything was washed away after heavy rains," said Zelmah Gichuhi, a local farmer.

The bridge which straddles a major River as it burbles downstream unbothered, has stood the test of time in a scenery characterized by a thicket-chocked slope under treacherous elevation.

The God’s bridge is essentially regarded as having divine powers and is designed in a way that it puts off any intruder or anyone who tries to tamper with its natural outlook.

Marred with strongly sealed roots of a fig tree which rush down the rocky slab the hideout has maintained its awe and as it were, the ride down the bridge is not for the faint-hearted.

On its roof some roots tangle freely as they are blown by the wind and the burbles of foamy river with a rock-board tainted with acknowledgement, short posts left by tourists as souvenirs.

Outside the bridge parasol, and just along the banks of the river are numerous wide and deep hovels whose occurrence remain a mystery as well.

Locals revealed that in the years gone by, hyenas used to live in the huts and caves which are currently empty.

"The caves were also treated as shrines where elders would visit to seek divine intervention during scanty rainfall spells or other calamities," said Agnes Gachoki, a village elder.

Kenyan indigenous community vows to preserve mother tongue

by Robert Manyara NAKURU (Xinhua) -- Joseph Chemaina, a member of the indigenous Ogiek community, has for the last 61 years lived at the foot of Kenya’s largest water tower, the Mau Forest Complex.

When he was growing up, community elders would hold regular meetings with the youth to teach them Ogiek language and traditions.

The meetings were held at a designated location in the forest.

"That arrangement ensured our language and way of life lived on through generations," Chemaina told Xinhua during a recent interview.

However, the removal of the community from their habitation in the early 1990s upset how they engaged in socio-cultural activities, said Chemaina.

"That our language would be extinct because of the eviction worries us.

"We cannot converge freely in the forest and talk about our heritage like we used to," he said.

Through these gatherings, there was passing of knowledge on protection of indigenous trees and animals such as collecting barks for making hives from specific trees and putting off the fire useful during hunting to avoid burning the forest, noted Chemaina.

He is one of the elders among the Ogiek and respected for being a custodian of the community’s knowledge and information that his advice is sought by all and sundry.

Change of environment has forced the Ogiek community to adapt to a new way of life that little supports further passage of their ancient history to the younger generation.

"Now we have our children moving to the urban areas to seek for better opportunities.

"Are they available to learn about our language, our culture?" Chemaina posed.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights classifies the Ogiek as indigenous people with a distinct culture but whose survival is threatened because of evictions from their ancestral homes.

This year on Aug. 9 the indigenous peoples across the world marked the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples with the theme of focusing on the indigenous languages.

Sarah Osas, an Ogiek woman said that celebrating this day with reflections on dying away of the indigenous languages would awaken the government and international community to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples in Kenya so that their languages can remain intact.

"If the land and human rights of the indigenous communities like Ogiek are not protected then their languages will finally diminish.

"When people are landless, they will move away to other places to find shelter and the more the movement, the less the sharing of the language," said Osas.

The United Nations declared 2019 the international year of indigenous languages with a call for urgent action to promote, preserve and revitalize them.

Lucy Mulenkei, executive director of the Indigenous Information Network said the indigenous people have the right to maintain and protect their cultural heritage including their languages.

"Traditional knowledge cannot be delinked from the native languages of the indigenous peoples.

"And these traditional knowledge is key to sustainable management of the natural resources," said Mulenkei.

UN Environment Programme emphasizes the urgency of protecting the rights of indigenous peoples as endangering their existence diminishes the potential of achieving Sustainable Development Goals.



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