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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

Self-taught fashion designer speaks

26th July 2022
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A job, lucrative or not, is a job after all. Sometimes one has to compromise in order to make a living, few people get a job their dream jobs. But once in a while there is an emergence of people who listen to their inner calling to pursue their passion.

The founder and head designer of Butterfly Couture, Chawa July is one of those few people who left their job to pursue their passion. An inspiring fact about July is that she is a self-taught fashion designer, she used to copy patterns from her old clothes until she learnt how to draw them, and she also searched information from the internet to increase her knowledge and skills.

“It all started as a hobby from my love for beautiful dresses and I started adjusting and making clothes for myself. Gradually people around me started to take interest in my craft and the hobby slowly grew into a profitable business,” July said.

The 41 year fashion designer from Molepolole worked her way up in the Procurement space for over 10 years. She worked at Stanbic Bank, Kromberg & Schubert and Clover Dairy as a Procurement supervisor. Her last job before she entered the fashion industry was a Manager for Contacts & Sourcing at a Facilities Management Company.

She established her fashion house in October 2019 and it has become synonyms with elegant wedding gowns and exquisite evening wear. July said when designing she is inspired by various aspects such as the client’s personality, the mood of the event and the theme. She further mentioned that every opportunity is to show her craft so she always aims to please.

“Every Butterfly Couture piece must represent the elegance and the creativity the brand is about,” she said. Butterfly Couture has adorned beauty queens; Miss Botswana 2021/2022 Ambrociah Samboko at Miss Universe in South Korea and Miss Botswana 2019,Oweditse Fafah Phirinyane during her reign of which is the highlight of her career. They have also marked their presence in a few fashion events locally and in the neighbouring countries.”

They showcased at The Grand Palm Wedding Expo, Masa Fashion Show, Miss Botswana Fashion Show and Sacunda plus Size Fashion Show. The will also be showcasing at Gabs July Fashion Show on the 15th of July alongside the South African designer, popularly known as the King of glamour David Tlale.

July also identified that one of the challenges they face in the couture is that, it’s a seasonal business. “There are times in the year when the business is great and challenging. Winter in particular, is difficult time to stay afloat as there aren’t as many events that people are inspired to dress spectacularly for,” she said. She further said that her aim is to be a prime couturier of choice in Botswana.

“Craft like your life depends on it because every happy client is 10 more referrals” is what she said when asked to serve a word of wisdom to people hoping to make it in the fashion industry.

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WeekendLife

Gospel awards re-organised

26th July 2022
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The Botswana Gospel Music Awards (BOGMA) and the Annual Gospel Awards (AGA) are said to be no longer in existence and a joint venture project has been put up that will carry out the awarding of gospel musicians.

The new entity has been established as Gospel Music Awards, which is a project at this moment is nearer to dishing out the first Gospel Awards under the leadership of the dissolved entities (BOGMA and AGA). “The difference is the same, it is just that the two projects were run by different minds which had differing objectives,” said the project coordinator, Letsweletse Moshabi when asked what the difference was between the two previous awards.

He added that at this junction their focus is on the future of the gospel musicians and they would like to direct their energies to the new project and forgo the past projects. “The Music market especially the gospel genre is too small and that basically means the very small market was experiencing the imbalance in the supply and demand forces. At that stage, supply was more than the demand so the reason for the joint forces is to allow the supply and demand forces to readjust and form equilibrium,” added Moshabi.

The mandate and objectives of the project are to recognize and award gospel music talent, to create awareness of the Botswana gospel music industry and to create a platform where fellow musicians may exchange ideas and network amongst themselves and approach international markets in cohesion.

The first of these joint awards will be held on the 27th August 2022 at Molapo Showcase under the theme ‘Cohesiveness to Build’ where about 18 categories will be up for grabs.

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WeekendLife

Makhadzi, Master KG invade Thamaga

18th July 2022
Makhadzi,-Master-KG-invade-Thamaga

The Kumnandi Ekhaya musik festival will be held on the 30th September 2022 at Thamaga village. The event coincides with the release of famous host, Dj Ngwazi’s first album called ‘spring day’ on the 2nd of September 2022.

The Thamaga born and raised Lefika Lushen Kebatlege is a disc jockey and a music producer signed under WanitwaMos Entertainment in South Africa. Famously known as Dj Ngwazi and formally known as DJ superstar, he has really worked hard to become one of the finest export DJs the country has produced. Internationally, he is described as a DJ from South African because of his works with popular music artist Master KG.

Meanwhile, the music festival will feature South African artists, Makhazi, Master KG, Prince Benza and Mthunzi. They will also be joined by some of the big local artists, Franco, Vee Mampeezy, among others.  “The tickets of the concert will be available at Spar stores, webticket and Kings bar. There will be three categories for VIP tickets, the one that goes for P1000, P1500 and P2200,” said the Kumnandi Ekhaya musik fest promoter Sadie Swartz of Saysay Entertainment.

“We have a new system to tackle the cry of promoters about security at the events. We will have a team of 100 security men, 10 horses and 15 dogs. We also agreed with the police to help with traffic control and no tickets will be sold at the gate to avoid circulation of money which can attract thieves,” said Kagiso Gaodumelwe from All Night Security.

“I started deejaying back in the days when I was still schooling at Kagiso Senior School and I never stopped working towards my career since then. I have a career in South Africa, since 2018 when Master KG took me in and his support as a brother has taken me to places,” said DJ Ngwazi describing his career journey.

“Kumnandi Ekhaya is Zulu language which means ‘go monate ko gae’ in Setswana. The name came about as a way of inviting my South African fans and supporters to my home village Thamaga to come experience the joy that comes with celebrating our freedom and independence. I used isiZulu because it’s the dominant language in South Africa,” explained Dj Ngwazi.

“The concert will be held in an open space which was used for agricultural purposes and we would like to call it ‘Ko Legoleng’. With this concert I want to redeem the dignity of our village because we once had the cases of youth who were terrorizing the community, beating up people in the streets and stealing and these was really a concern in our community because they were tarnishing the village name,” said Dj Ngwazi.

The purpose of this concert is to empower the community of Thamaga and local artist, more especially artist from Thamaga village like, Kgabo Sereto traditional group. There will be a litter picking campaign around the village before the launch of the concert .The sponsors which are already on board are Dladleng Entertainment and Kings bar and there are still more sponsors to be revealed.

”As the Kumnandi Ekhaya musik fest management, we are going to buy food combos and take them to Thamaga village Kgotla so they can be donated to the less privileged and orphans. Starting from October we will be donating pads to all Junior Schools in Thamaga,” said Dj Ngwazi. Dj Ngwazi’s motivational words to other artist and everyone else; work hard, be patient and be determined.

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