For the very first time since we gained our independence from the british colony, Kenya, now set a day specifically for the culture; the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.
This, for me, has come at the right time. A time that i feel as a society, we was slowly loosing track of our heritage and morals. Our fore fathers generation is slowly getting blown away by the western wave. Not blaming it tho’. Nowadays, people are normalizing the abnormals. Our ancestors, were not enlightened enough maybe. Or maybe, we evolved. But then why did the evolution story stop at the homo sapien sapien…? Story for another day…
Now, let’s look at some of the cultures or rather what was normalize and what wasn’t.
Where i come from, ancestors are thought to be able to influence events in life since they are in a limbo, closer to God than the living. Therefore, we may make offerings to them or name a baby after one so that his spirit can live in the child. Apparently, my first name, which resembles my last name, not only in spellings but also in pronunciation, is my great grandfathers name. Demonstrating respect towards ancestors is believed to maintain harmonious relationships within the family, extended family, and clan or tribe. That’s why tribe A remains tribe A regardless of assimilation.
The most common way of saying hi was by handshake up untill COVID-19 happened. A handshake that it’s level of tightness and vigorous shaking was predetermined by when you last saw the other person. For the Maa community, things are a bit different. There greetings are predetermined by age. A soft touch in the head works good between the old and juvenile. It upholds respect.
When greeting someone with whom you have a personal relationship, the handshake is more prolonged than the one given to a casual acquaintance. Why should it stay for long anyway? Close females may hug and kiss once on each cheek instead of shaking hands. When greeting an elder or someone of higher status, a grasp on your right wrist with the left hand while shaking hands, demonstrates respect too.
Women of adult age are often addressed as “Mamaa” (this amuses them by the way, especially when it comes from a loved one). Children generally refer to adults as Aunt, Uncle, grandpa or grandma even if there is not a familial relationship.
Now this, will definitely put you on smiles. If you are Kenyan, then this’s the right moment to play Tabia za wakenya by Mejja at the background of your head.
If invited to dinner at a Kenyan’s home, just bring some little shopping, or sweets for the kids. In rural areas, gifts like sugar or tea are quite common. Festive seasons like Christmas day, marks a season that people in the rural see their kin in urban areas as their only hope. That’s cause it’s a culture they’ll come through in matters food; food variaties that need specific ingredients to be prepared and eaten that day, ingredients that are only found in urban areas. This’s the time that there’s an automatic language barrier between urban kids and rural kids. It even extends to their grandparents. By the way, who does old clothes during Christmas day? Unless you see no importance.
During visitation, one is not supposed to bring alcohol unless you know that your host drinks. That was then. Nowadays?
Lastly, gifts should be given using the right hand only or both hands. Never use the left hand for it’s a sign of ill will.
IN THE DINING…
The culture continues. A while ago, i went to dine at a friend’s place. That day, we had decided to do chicken stew. I did the slaughter cause to them, it was over their dead body. Within two hours, dinner was ready. And for my culture, the back part is always reserved for men. In a family setting, the father, who’s the head of the family, enjoys the flesh from it. This, was quite different for them. I never enjoyed the previlage.
Dining patterns vary tremendously according to ethnicity, location and socio-economic position of the host.
The best course of action is to behave formally. When in doubt, watch what others are doing and follow their lead lest you mess things up.
Except for formal functions, there is generally not a seating plan. However, there may be a special place for the most honoured guest. Just like in homes, there’s that favourite specific seat for dad.
Guests are expected to wash their hands first before the meal. In some homes, a washing basin will be brought to the table and a commoner will move from one person to the next till everyones hands are clean.
The honoured guest is usually served first, followed by the men, children, and women.
Servants often bring the courses to individual guests who are expected to take what they want. It is a good idea to take a small amount the first time the platters are brought so that you may take second helpings when urged.
Beverages are not generally served with meals since Kenyans think it is impolite to eat and drink at the same time. They are generally served at the completion of the meal.
It is considered polite to finish everything on your plate, although it is not mandatory.
FIRST BORN SYNDROME…
I call it syndrome in a polite way. It’s because of the much expectations the family has for you. Every firstborn Kenyan knows that he/she’s the third parent by default. It’s your own responsibility to lead your siblings the right way, be a good example to them and stand for them in times of need. Especially when the parents are old or have succumbed. Failure to this, your following might lose it all and all eyes will be on you. Most guaranteed. As the second, third or fourth born, you have no reason to fail or rather lose your focus if the first born has successfully been a third parent.
During family clashes, before the parents chip in, the all grown first born will be the first lawyer. More focus is always placed on the males. If of sound decision, he’ll be backed up by the parents.
Ps. “Kenyan culture is very communal in nature. Kenyans share everything from clothes, food, and space. Back at home, personal items are often shared with every member of the family and in most families, they don’t understand the concept of private time and it’s uncommon to stay alone in one’s room for long periods of time except to sleep.“