Friday, October 14, 2016

Somali heritage week event kicks off in Nairobi to celebrate the community

The city of Nairobi for the second year running hosted a cultural event dubbed Somali Heritage Week with organizers hoping culture enthusiasts could come together to learn and celebrate the Somali community, engage with the challenges facing the community, promote unity and respect between Kenyan cultures but most importantly try to defuse the misconceptions and stereotypes held against the Somali community.

Those attending the event at the Kenya National Theatre and which is scheduled to run from 13 to 16 October 2016 will surely enjoy a week of inspiring conversations featuring some of the best known thinkers, writers, performers and story tellers as well as the book fair and some nice Somali food, among a host of other activities through round table discussions, musical performances by Somali traditional dancers, storytelling for kids, Somali heritage regalia on display including dressing ,camels and the famous camel milk revered by Somalis.

The event is organized by Heinrich Boell Foundation and their Somali partner Aw-Jaamac Culture and Reading Centre based in the Eastleigh neighbourhood of Nairobi inhabited by the Somali community. Some of the funders for the event include the Rift Valley Forum, EU, CISP, German embassy, UNESCO, Swedish agency SDC among others.

The event was officially opened by Honourable Yusuf Hassan, Kamukunji member of parliament and the first Somali lawmaker to be elected in Nairobi. Yusuf, himself a famous journalist who worked with the local Voice of Kenya (VOK) which is now Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) and later for the BBC and VOA, reaffirmed the importance of culture in fostering peace and harmony among communities.

The first day of the event also saw other prominent Somalis who are role models for many young Somalis taking the stage to take part in open discussions and debates on culture, leadership, education and generally the status of Somalis in Kenya.

What captivated many however is the rich cultural regalia on display at the Kenya National Theatre. A traditional Somali hut, Somali traditional mats, storage containers for milk and women and a man wearing the traditional Somali attires with a spear and of course his camel, a revered animal amongst the Somalis who are traditionally nomadic.

The event is trending on social media with Twitter followers sharing updates on the event through the hash tag @SHW2016.

One Kenyan non-Somali man who attended the event says he was really impressed by the rich Somali culture on display and thanked the organizers.

"I have never though of the Somalis as a people with such a rich culture. This event has helped to change my perception of this community. It was inspiring to hear from Hon. Yusuf Hassan, IEBC Chairman Isak Hassan, Former Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim and also seeing the beautiful Somali Dhaanto music and dance. For the first I also tasted a camel milk. This is a wonderful event and I thank the organizers," he said declining to give his name