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Kenya’s forgotten island of natural beauty and culture


The costal Kenya is believed to be where East Africa’s history of civilisation, colonisation and evangelism began. Tourists feel their journey for leisure is complete when they visit the region.

Mombasa and Malindi are the perceived Miami or Rio de Janeiro of Africa. But Lamu is the mother of them all. Insecurity has turned it a forgotten treasure and a no go-zone.

The beauty of Lamu, UNESCO World Heritage site, is beyond human imagination. The single main street town, supported by a number of two-metre-wide others, are the first attraction a visitor will always admire.

But off course, one has to be careful of donkeys as they and handcarts are the main transport in the town.

“Lamu is a small paradise on the Indian Ocean, and it has everything for research, leisure, business and even making friend,” a teacher Mohamed Osman said.

Besides being one of the oldest towns in East Africa, Lamu has two cars. Handcarts and about 3,000 donkeys are used for transportation of goods.

Lamu, about 350Kms north of Mombasa or 850Kms from Nairobi by road, is the headquarters of Lamu Archipelago, comprising  Lamu, Manda, Pate and Kiwayu and several small islands.

Historians believe the town, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, has been there from the 14th or 7th Century. Over 160-historic houses of similar ancient Arabic designs built of coral stones and mangrove timber, with ornate carved wooden doors, are some of the evidence making Lamu an historic site.

It has a diverse history of Chinese, Portuguese, Indians, Omani and others. Trading of mangroves, slaves, turtle shells, ivory and rhinos’ horns was done here.

During his visit to Kenya, US President Barrack Obama expressed his wish to visit Lamu after leaving the office.

“Lamu is a place I would be interested in visiting again, it is top on my list. I went there with Michelle after our engagement and I remember taking the dhow to fish, and cooking the fish right at the beach, it was remarkable,” Obama told Capital FM Radio.

Opposite Lamu town is Manda Bay, where the ruins of Takwa, a 17th Century holy city for Muslims, are found. All the doors of Takwa faced the Mecca. Also in Manda are the ruins of a Great Mosque and a pillar tomb, dating back to centuries.

Pate Island

Pate Island, comprising Fazah and Shanga, is one of the Swahili settlement schemes of great cultural heritage since the 8th Century. It has several historic sites, including coral walls, tombs, and three palaces.

It is in Pate where a Chinese navigator Zheng He’s vessel sunk in the 15th Century. Zheng led an expedition of 50 ships to the Indian Ocean between 1368 and 1644, and one of the ships sunk off the Ocean, in Shanga village.

Today, several facts tend to prove this theory. First, historians believe that the survivors of the vessel settled among the people of Lamu and inter-married with the local Banjunu tribe living in Pate. There are several half-cast people of Chinese features.

Secondly, Shanga village where most of the half-cast live, derived its name from the Chinese town “Shangai”.

“I have Chinese blood and if the Chinese government decides to take us to China, the way Israel took the Jews from Ethiopia, I will go,” Ibrahim Abdi resident of Shanga explained.

Culture and resources

Lamu has been a religious centre for Muslims in East Africa, since the 19th Century. It hosts annual celebration of Maulidi, in the third month of Muslims calendar. Maulidi is a significant event to mark the birth of Prophet Muhammad.

During the celebration, the locals organise series of events, including dhow and donkey races, traditional dances, art and craft competitions. Another event is the Lamu Cultural Festival to celebrate the preservation of culture and the archipelago.

“People from around the world and journalists participate in Maulidi. Hotels are normally full during the celebration, and  those who miss accommodations stay with friend,” A Muslim preacher Hassan Abdalla said.

Lamu is economically potential despite the insecurity. Tour attraction sites, Kiunga Marine Reserve, Boni and Dondori Forest Reserves, are some of unexploited resources.

However, the most important is the Lamu Port under construction in Manda. The Lamu – South Sudan – Ethiopia Transport (LAPPSET) corridor will link Lamu and northern Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia by a pipeline, road and rail.

A Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project, under LAPPSET, is ongoing and will cover about 3250Kms. The project was launched in March 2012, and a Chinese company was given the construction tender.

The discovery of oil and gas deposits in Lamu Basin in 2014, by an Austrialian company, Pancontinental Oil and Gas NL, is a milestone for the region.

 Insecurity    

Terrorism activities have left the people of Lamu traumatised and counting losses over the years. They have experienced several invasions and harrowing experiences from the fall of the Siad Barre in 1991.


“Somali soldiers fled into Kenya in 1991 after the fall of Siad Barre regime. Many people were displaced and some took refuge in Malindi and Mombasa,” Mwana Amina, from Ishakani village, said.


Amina returned to her villages years later but to find a new wage of terror – this time by the Al-Qaeda affiliated terror group – the Al-shabaab.


The Al-shabaab has caused instability and suffering not only to the people of Lamu but also to visitors. The people here live in extreme poverty with limited sources of income.
 

Access to Lamu by road

From Nairobi, Lamu is accessed by road through Mombasa, Kilifi, Malindi, and Garsen in Tana River County. The route, all the way from Mombasa, is unsafe.


Mombasa, Kilifi and Malindi are the stronghold of the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a secessionist group in the coastal Kenya. The group has also contributed to insecurity in the coast.


Tana River is also a hotspot of frequent fights between farmers and pastoralists. The parties in the conflicts use guns.


Both the Al-Shabaab and MRC target non Muslims, perhaps to instigate a religious war, but Kenyans consider the attacks as normal acts of terrorism. In most of the attacks Muslims are separated from the targeted non Muslims.


“The Al-Shabaab attack non Muslim to cause religious tension. This is a psychological war to divide Kenyans on religious grounds and to make them fight,” Pastor Francis Maina of Mpeketoni said.


The current conflict and frequent terrorists activities in Kenya intensified after the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) entered Somalia 2011. The KDF went in pursuit of the Al-shabaab after several incursions, killing and kidnapping of Kenyans, tourists and aid workers.

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WeekendLife

Feminism and Nudity still at odds

19th April 2021
Feminism and Nudity

This past week seemed like a time travel back to the early 1970’s where women were judged and stoned for what they wear, what they should wear, and whose attention their dress code will grab.

Every Tom, Dick and Harry gave their two cents on the matter, unnecessarily so. Its disheartening that in 2021 a woman is dictated to about what she should wear.

The genesis of the whole saga was because of a certified life coach and personal trainer, Agang Atlholang, derided as an example of an anti-feminist.

Atlholang updated a controversial post on her Facebook page where she seemingly attacked and dragged some women for wearing appealing clothes that leave little to the imagination.

The personal coach further went on to highlight that she could be fully clothed and be able to attract and steal some of these women’s lovers. Audacious of her to assume but more disheartening that her wardrobe is subliminally dictated by men.

It should be noted that this wasn’t her first controversial post where she has threatened or promised to take other women’s men, it may not be her last either but this post however did get on a lot of women’s last nerve.

“A woman’s sexuality is so much more than her thighs, (beep) and breasts. It’s your aura, confidence, seduction and the way you carry yourself, watching everything rock and roll in silence. I know who I am, I am a boss lady. I can still get your man without showing skin,” said Atlholang.

It is hard to place the fitness coach, is she pro-feminism or anti-feminism? Because one minute she would say something that makes sense and that almost everyone can relate to and other times she barks threats like a toothless bulldog.

She was not wrong to publicly and indirectly affirm that she doesn’t wear revealing outfits, but for her to be coming at those who do so was entirely out of line. How a woman presents herself to the world has a very little to do with a man’s preference.

Any personal liberation of what one chooses to clothe their own body is clouded by the misogynistic backdrop of the world we live in. In all cases, a woman’s body is assumed to be someone else’s before is it her own.

If she takes off her clothes, it is seen to be a sign of her insecurity and need for validation, rather than feeling comfortable with herself. Once she’s stripped, that’s all she is. This is the insidious pressures of misogyny that we all have a duty to attack and put in the past where it belongs.

WeekendLife reached out to Atlholang but her phone went unanswered. She did not respond to a questionnaire sent to her on Wednesday.
Celebrated feminist Resego Kgosidintsi says there should be no expectations on what a woman does with her body. Some women are thick and curvy, while some are slim and petite, all body types are beautiful.

Kgosidintsi uploaded two pictures on her Facebook page in which she compared herself. In one picture she was only in a bikini on the beach whereas in the other picture she was wearing formal attire. She went on to say;

“I am the woman in both pictures, my worth did not decrease on picture 2 because I revealed almost all of my skin and neither is my worth on a 100 on picture 1 because my skirt is below the knee.

I have about 7 tattoos on my entire body and that still does not make me less of a woman. I drink and smoke cigarettes too and that doesn’t mean the woman in church who doesn’t smoke or drink more woman than me. Can we respect people’s choices, can we respect women.”
Feminist, media personality and socialite, Oratile Kefitlhile shares the same sentiments as Kgosidintsi.

‘‘Feminism is subject, if I feel as a woman that when I’m fully dressed I’m celebrating my femininity, so be it. If another woman feels they are embracing their femininity more with their thighs out, that’s perfectly fine still. Let them be.

We have been preaching this revolution for a very long time of women being allowed to wear what they want, and being allowed to embrace their womanhood in the way that speaks to them, so I feel at this point we should not be having these debates,” Kefitlhile told WeekendLife on Tuesday.

Controversial poet, artist and businesswoman, Berry Heart is of the belief that women are envious towards each other. She argues that celebrating femininity has no boundaries subsequently making no one woman superior.

Quizzed on what makes women fight over small issues such as what they wear, she says “Batswana women are broken so much that we don’t want to see another woman succeeding on anything. We desire to make them dejected.”

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WeekendLife

The art of mastering instrumentals

12th April 2021
Kagiso "Fella" Kenosi

You will know a tree by its fruits, the same way you will know a music producer by their works.

Top music producers in the country have set themselves apart through the quality music they produce and reap the results of international recognition from as far as the United States of America.

These producers are behind every star performer, listening and analyzing each and every note. When artists perform a vocal swell, rising to an octave that sounds like it’s going to shatter voice box, it’s easy to forget that someone was on the other side of the glass asking questions like, “Can you hit that note every night, or will it hurt too badly? Maybe we should lower the octave to save your voice?”

Producers make hundreds of decisions in each song, not to mention the push and pull relationships they have with talented performers.These relationships can make or break careers. Some of your favorite bands and artists wouldn’t be so memorable without a great producer helping to guide their distinct voices.

Kagiso Kenosi, or better known as Fella in the entertainment industry, is only 31-years old but he has already left his imprint in the music industry. The young chap, originally from Palapye, is not in the industry to add numbers, but to do his magic working behind the scenes producing hit song after hit song.

When most producers went to school to produce the hits that we hear today, Fella’s foundation and passion for producing came from being active in church.

“I grew up in a catholic orientated family where music is the essence of our religion. The love for music in its entirety emerged from enjoying singing at church and blossomed over the years as I grew up, being exposed to the internet and software’s such as fruity loops.”

Fella says he then learnt how to make beats and proceeded with vocal processing so besides the love for music, he had an amazing group of people who helped him reach his life dream; being the best in music production. The sky was the limit for Fella.

Unfortunately for so many music producers locally, this kind of hustle is basically about being famous. Some of them bite off more than they can chew just for a quick buck that doesn’t even go a long away for them. At the end of it all, these fly by night prima-donnas end up cutting corners and producing subpar records which eventually leads to a premature death for their careers.

Fella’s advice is that fellow colleagues should be patient and continue learning the craft, even if it means taking online tutorials. “Even though I’m still learning too, for I believe music is a fast infinite universe where no one can never say they know it all, I think believing in what one does, the level of creativity and being able to stand alone can do magic.

We living in an era where people go through a lot, so it is imperative for a music producer to be able to relate to those kind of situations. This takes only the right instrumentals, which will compliment emotions of an artist.”

The most asked question outside the music industry is; who chooses the instruments for a song, is it the artist or the producer? Fella gave his take;

“I make instrumentals and keep them until an artist comes to work on a song. That’s when I advise on whether I think the concept they chose goes hand in hand with the instrumentals. We will then look for a more appropriate song.

In some cases, artists can come and we record vocals without an instrumental and then get to make a beat on top of the recorded vocal which in that case guides me to make a relevant instrumental,” he said in an exclusive interview with WeekendLife on Wednesday.

Digging more into finding the difference between a producer and an engineer, Fella clarified that there is not much difference. There is actually a thin line between the two even though an engineer does more than a producer when dishing out a song.

“We use the word production to credit people who only make beats. Engineers are people who record vocals, clean them, do the mixing and master the song preparing the record for radio. I must say an engineer, does the critical components of a song.”

As young as he is, Fella has been through thick and thin with young artists. It has been a roller-coaster of emotions, because, frankly some of these fledging artists are way too complicated to work with. Fella admits that he too has flaws but c’est la vie, you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

“It’s always a blessing and quite exciting because these different people of different energies and mind-sets and creativity will humble you. It’s a chastening experience and also accords me with experience to manoeuvre and adjust to people with different characters.

So truly, it has helped me grow as a person, and a producer.”

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WeekendLife

BOMU spruce up dirty laundry

30th March 2021
BOMU awards

Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) is known for its bad reputation that has been getting worse over the years. There has been a lot of chinwag, squabbles and the organization literally lost touch. It has gotten so bad that stakeholders pulled out, and members were left with no choice but to face the music alone.

Just when you’d think the waters are calm, the new Executive Committee awarded a fledgling company, Total Music Group, to handle the 2021 music awards. This move was seen as a biased decision that got BOMU members bent out of shape.

However, BOMU Secretary General, Rasina Rasina told Weekendlife that the Executive Committee that it has many irons in the fire. He indeed admitted without reluctance that, BOMU has been clouded by hubbub.

“We pledged when the new administration took over that it would begin with cleaning our own house. We have built structures as we had promised and we are glad that they are fully functional. One of those is the disciplinary committee.”

“BOMU has for a long time appeared to be lacking discipline and proper laid down procedures. This has led to the organization losing out big in its endeavour to serve its members and the entire music fraternity. The National Executive Committee, chapter committees and sub-committees have committed to ensuring that non proper governance and accountability shall take centre stage and this is all that is happening,” Rasina told Weekendlife on Tuesday.

Rebuilding and rebranding a disintegrated intuition such as BOMU is not just a walk in the park, it needs concerted efforts and team work to actually reach that goal. A stitch in time saves nine, but as for BOMU, the entire union failed to address its dares a long time ago, but the union says everything is on track in recuperating public trust and fixing the mess created then.

BOMU Research and Policy Committee is hard finalizing a new code of conduct which will contribute significantly to how members and leadership conduct themselves and relate with each other for the furtherance of BOMU’s mandate, Weekendlife has been reliably informed.

“We are doing everything according to our constitution, logic and reason. We advise our members that they should point out where the constitution has been breached and that they are at liberty to follow due process and report any misconduct to the disciplinary committee,” said Rasina.

This is following the suspension of some executive committee members and BOMU subscribed members for questioning the integrity in awarding the music awards tender. Some members, told Weekendlife that they will seek legal advice on the matter.

“We do have members who have already appeared before the disciplinary committee on various charges and decisions are yet to be taken. We also have members who are yet to appear before the committee for various complaints levelled against them. Current suspensions are related to various complaints and offences.”

With regard to appointing Total Music Group, BOMU National Executive Committee says it used Article 9.3.19 of its constitution. The article says; “The National Executive Committee of BOMU shall have the authority to enter into legally binding contracts on behalf of the Union.’’

Rasina says the leadership needed a company to manage, host and sell the BOMU awards for five years consecutively so as to attain stability and refurbish the brand image of both the music awards and the organization. “Without any money at our disposal, we debated on the best model and agreed that we should engage a company that also has the capacity to mobilize resources. We used our discretion and decided on a direct appointment model which is perfectly legal and constitutional.”

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