By Caroline Chebet
Ever thought you can traverse Kenya in a day and learn of the tens of cultures, dance to native tunes, meet superheroes from history and even find your ‘Ukoo?’ Google Arts and Culture got your back.
You can now discover Kenya virtually, traversing the rugged terrains to meet the Kenyan people ‘who wear their pride’ and even step back in time to peek through the cradle of mankind, feel the heartbeat of the nation by discovering the rich landscapes and even see Kenya’s birthplace all by a click.
Through the recently launched large scale digitization project between the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage and Google Arts and Culture, enthusiasts can, on a less busy day, take this virtual journey by clicking on Utamaduni Wetu-Meet the Kenyan People under Google Arts and Culture.
Just as Nigerian literary warriors are scripting their tales of on their forgotten dance between fingers and their soup on Google Arts and Culture, Kenyan literary warriors like Ngugi Wathiongo too, are scripting Kenya’s own, on what it means to be Kenyan.
And on sunny, dusty long days after festivities, Travelog virtually takes you through ‘Utamaduni wetu’ to explore and virtually interact with the legends that have the speed of cheetah, others agility of a cobra and even others having strength of a rhino.
Meet the 21 ‘Shujaas’, the superheroes whose names stand bold in the Kenyan history, - from Abba Gadas the ancient Borana leader to Cierume the Embu dancing warrior and even Lenana the wise Maasai and Luanda Magere the invisible Luo warrior.
Meet with Gor Mahia, the powerful Luo magician and learn why herbalists still visit his grave. Talk about Hawecha the Oromo dreamer, one of the first women leaders who still reigns with her story among famous ones told by the Oromo people. Her stories have been kept alive after the first school to be built in Marsabit was named after her- Hawecha primary school.
Don’t wander anymore to learn who Lenana the wise Maasai was, he is the famous leader whose legacy still lives on through the naming of one of Mount Kenya after him.
Feel inspired by Mekatilili wa Menza, the Giriama wonder woman said to be one of Kenya’s earliest freedom fighters who still reigns in history through Mekatilili wa Menza festival held every year in her memory.
Ever wondered of the stature at new Syokimau Standard Gauge Railway Station? Look no further-meet Syokimau the Kamba Oracle who foretold the building of the railway with ‘unmatched accuracy’. The great Kamba prophetess and medicine woman predicted the railway near the skyscrapers and today, her sculpture grace Syokimau.
Other superheroes that still rule history and are lined up include Mangeka wa Malowa, the magnificent Taita warrior, Nabongo Mumia, the Wanga noble, Otenyo Nyamanetere the Kisii warrior, Mukite wa Namene, Mugo wa Kibiru, Koitalel arap Samoei and many others.
From meeting the superheroes, our virtual journey takes us to the roots, rhythms and records through music and dance. Feel artistic and hum to Maasai’s Engilakinoto as you peruse through, looking at the musical instruments that once united communities across the country. From the Kipgigis flute, Rabai whistle, Samia horn trumpet to Kikuyu witchdoctor’s horn, Kuria horn and dance mask, the Swahili siwa horn and many others, one can virtually bring to life ‘when music was music’ phrase to life.
In this endless virtual thriller, you can literally feel the music of the Pokomo, the community whose lullaby inspired the Kenyan National anthem. Learn of how the national anthem was borrowed from the Pokomo lullaby and composed by Mzee Menza Marowa Galana of Makere village.
One can also explore the music of the Isukha community, discover traditional dances and costumes of the Turkana community, explore Kikuyu song and dance and even discover the traditional music and instruments of the Luo community.
From traditional music and dance, one can also flip through the contemporary fun fierce and frivolous creatives.
Virtual tours also lead us to fish with the Elmolo community, check out Ogiek traditional fashions, meet with Samburu the butterfly people, learn of Kuria marriage tradition and even get ‘healed’ the Pokomo way though their traditional medicine and herbs.
Learn of the musical myths of the Kipsigis and check on the female potters of Digo and even journey through Kenya’s seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Get to know the history of little-known communities like the Bajun community of the Coast and even develop an interest of speaking their Katikuu language and other 43 unique ethnic communities.
A step back in time, one can trace back Kenya’s history to its birthplace at Uhuru Gardens Memorial park. Virtually step inside the freedom park to learn about its iconic monuments from the gardens itself that were declared a national monument in 1966 because of its historical importance. Here, you will learn of the 20th Anniversary monument, the sculpture of courage, strength and defence of freedom.
One will also learn of the significance of the sculpture that signifies peace, Love and Unity and that marks the 25th anniversary that marks unity and that of the spirit of Nyayo.
Step inside Nyeri museum to discover Kenya’s history at its first courtroom that has since been making decisions since 1925. And if you want to know why Kenya is the Cradle of mankind, discover the hotbed of archaeological discoveries.
Learn of the rich archaeological discoveries curated in the museums and discover how Kenya has a larger diversity of fossil human species remains more than any other country in Africa. Learn of Africa’s oldest human remains that were found in Tugen hills that dates back to 7 million years ago.
And since Kenya’s history is never complete without a safari, a virtual drive to Kenya’s national parks. Click through to get to Ol pejeta conservancy, the home of the two remaining northern white rhinos in the planet, experience one of the ten wonders perusing at tens of photos of wildebeests crossing the Mara river at World-famous Maasai Mara National Reserve.
One can also virtually climb Mt Kenya, the second tallest mountain in Africa and find early examples of human evolution at Sibiloi National Park. See the endangered Sitatunga antelopes at Saiwa and Ruma swamp, visit the graves of George and Joy Adamson, the naturalists at their gravesites in Kora National Park.
Find out why Tsavo East National Park has the longest Lava flow in the world growing over 300 kilometres in length and rising 100 meters above land and if you are an avid bird watcher navigate to Tsavo West and flip through photos of over 600 bird species.
And if you want to experience Nairobi culture, Google Arts got you- in arrayed display bringing to you places you should never miss. They include Maasai Market at Village market mall, Mcensal School of fashion and design where latest fashion designs come from, African heritage House. One is also virtually led to Kenya National Archive and GoDown Arts centre. Tradition, however, does not allow one to leave the city in the sun without sampling Nairobi Street Food to savour Nyama Choma.