Lamu Cultural Festival
Lamu is a small island off the Coast of Kenya. Steeped in history, it has been visited by people from all over the world. The inhabitants still uncover Chinese pottery from the 14th Century and the Arabic influence is seen through locals who can recite tales from the Arabian nights. The island has managed to keep its culture alive in the face of modernity, to pass on to future generations. A large part of Lamu’s charm lies in its throwback nature. Walking through the town, you are transported to another time and place.
Lamu Cultural Festival is a celebration of both the past and the future, and the beliefs and traditions that are the heart and soul of the Lamu community. Most visitors to the Lamu Island fall in love with this relaxed and peaceful lifestyle, and visiting during the Lamu Cultural Festival is a chance to experience Lamu life at its most exuberant and joyous. Each year, Lamu comes to life during the annual Lamu Cultural Festival. Several competitions and races are staged during this week long festival. These events are designed to each encourage local skills or practices that are central to Lamu life. These include traditional Swahili poetry, Henna painting, Bao competition… Bao is probably the oldest known game in human history, with archaeological evidence suggesting that the game has been played throughout Africa and the Middle East for thousands of years.
Started in 2001, the Lamu Cultural Festival has grown exponentially and has become a major cultural event in the region drawing local and international crowds. The 3-day festival showcases Lamu’s cultural character and unique towncsape. Visitors often plan return visits at their leisure. The grass-root efforts of the organizers have helped to rejuvenate the community and install a sense of local pride.
The Lamu Cultural Festival is a three-day event highlighting Lamu’s heritage in a carnival atmosphere featuring traditional dances (ngomas), historical masterpieces, musical performances and dances, henna competitions, dhow and donkey races and traditional craft displays, which have been an important expression of neighbourhood rivalries. Besides competitive ngomas, deep seated animosity among Lamu residents in the past was settled through competitions on water and land: Kiswahili poetry competitions, these will be some of the highlights of the festival. There will be displays of traditional handicraft, Swahili bridal ceremony and a Swahili food bazaar. The festival offers a modern sample of these time-honoured traditions against a rich backdrop of the beauty and splendor of the Lamu archipelago.
In order to preserve and encourage the art of dhow sailing, now threatened by increasing availability of engines and prefabricated boats, a dhow race is also held. The town’s finest dhows are selected to compete, and race under sail through a complicated series of buoys, combining speed with elaborate tacking and maneuvering skill. Other events include swimming, and at times a challenging cross country race along the waterfront, all the way to Shela village and back- all in the physically draining heat of the day. The real highlight of every festival involves the town’s most endearing symbol- the donkey race. Local donkey jockeys literally spend the entire year honing their riding skills for this event, and the winning rider wears his title with great pride. Being a winning donkey jockey requires a specific set of skills. As with most such races, small physical stature is helpful, but keeping a stubborn donkey moving and on course requires a definite talent.
For more information visit: Lamu Tourism
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