Kenya is a country of deeply rooted traditions and a vibrant cultural crossroads. Some of the oldest artifacts of human communities have been discovered in Kenya, making the East African country truly a cradle of humanity.
Today, it is a dynamic nation that links its prehistoric past to new cultural expressions in a land of great environmental contrasts. Kenya’s diverse landscapes stretch from snow-capped mountains to the Great Rift Valley, from deserts to lakes, vast savannahs, lush forests, and a sparkling coastare reflected in the rich diversity of the Kenyan people and their traditions.
Occurring just after the fiftieth anniversary of Kenya’s independence from the British Empire, the Kenya: Mambo Poa program presented the ways in which the people of Kenya are balancing protection of their valued cultural and natural heritage with the challenges and opportunities for change in the twenty-first century.
Festival visitors interacted with exemplary craftspeople who work with everything from clay to soapstone to recycled materials, learned about important fossil discoveries by taking part in a model dig site from the Great Rift Valley, ran with Kenya’s Olympic athletes, danced to both traditional and contemporary music from many regions of the country, discovered how Kenyans live among and work with some of the most magnificent wildlife on the continent, and experienced Kenyan life in the United States.
All of this took place in venues and spaces that reflect the creative and dynamic experiences of the Kenyan people, whether they live in urban or rural, coastal or inland environments.
Preston Scott was Program Curator and Arlene Reiniger was Program Coordinator; Elizabeth Ouma was Kenya Project Manager.
The program was produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in partnership with the Government of Kenya. Additional support was provided by the U.S. Agency for lnternational Development, the HENRY Foundation, the Curtis & Edith Munson Foundation, Deborah Santana, and the Consortium for World Cultures of the Smithsonian lnstitution.