Kenyan Culture at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2014


khanga clothKhanga, also known as leso, is a rectangular piece of cotton fabric in bright colors and bold designs used throughout Africa. It originated on the east African coast in the mid-1800s, and was brought to Kenya from India in 1848. Originally made by sewing six Portuguese handkerchiefs together, it is now bought in pairs of two large cloths. This multiuse fabric is worn by women as a skirt and top set, as well as used as a headdress, ground cover, and baby transport among other things. A unique aspect of this cloth is that it has a message (riddle, proverb), usually written in Swahili, at the bottom of the inner section.



IMG_0482Isukuti (“It is good”) is a music and dance performed by the Luhya people of western Kenya at weddings, harvests, funerals, and other special occasions. Three drums are used—isukuti (father), shididi (mother), and mutiti (children) —which are made out of lizard skin, goatskin, or sheepskin. Along with the drums, there is also a large horn and cymbals or a gong.

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I've been fascinated by world cultures all my life. I tried to teach myself Spanish at age 9, but that didn't work so well. I voraciously read books on all areas of the world as a teenager. I grew up to study languages and cultures in college, and have travelled in over 70 countries on 6 continents exploring what is unique and essential to each culture.
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