USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Kenya’
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Kikuyu Tribal Stereotype

“The Kikuyu tribe are known for being very good merchants and businessmen. They are known for coming in, and if they take over another tribes land, they will make it very profitable. They consider this a good trait, but other tribes see them as being greedy and that they will take all of your opportunities to make money”.

According to the informant, Kenya has over 42 historical tribes that can be traced back for many years. Because there are so many, there are several stereotypes about each of them that are understood by the general population. For example, the Kikuyu are well known for being greedy but successful businessmen who will stop at nothing to make a profit, even if they have to hurt others along the way. Many Kenyans resent them because of this.

The informant, Alastair Odhiambo, is a 19-year-old international student who was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Alistair and his family have deep roots in the country, so he is confident that he knows a great deal about Kenyan folklore. He explains that his friends taught him the stereotype as a child because even in the large city of Nairobi, the stereotype still exists. It is common knowledge that the Kikuyu own and run a large part of the city. Many who live in Nairobi dislike them because of this. Alastair does find this stereotype silly because of how silly it sounds when it is stretched, but he does acknowledge that there is some truth to it, since the Kikuyus do have a lot of power and money in Nairobi.

This Kikuyu stereotype originated during more rural times before cities like Nairobi were properly developed and built, so it is interesting to see how it has managed to follow the tribe into the modern era. The current use of it to explain why the Kikuyu are in control of so much of Nairobi’s metropolitan area only strengthens it, as it only gives Kenyans more reasons to believe in its validity. It can be dangerous to believe that stereotypes like this are rooted in actual reality, though, so Kenyans should be careful with them if they want to avoid conflicts between their tribes.

 

 

 

Customs
Foodways

A Classic Maasai Dish

“The Maasai tribe have a traditional dish where they carefully take blood that they cut from the jugular vein of a cow and mix it with milk. They slowly do this so that they don’t kill the cow. They then boil the mixture and eat and drink the coagulated mixture. Nowadays, it is only done as a delicacy, but before, they only ate this when they didn’t have a choice of what to eat except by cutting their livestock”.

Within the Maasai tribe, eating a coagulated mixture of cow milk and blood is considered a tasty meal. Although the tradition originated out of a need to get edible food from their cows without killing them, the dish is still eaten today by some Maasai tribe members.

The informant, Alastair Odhiambo, is a 19-year-old international student who was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Alistair and his family have deep roots in the country, so he is confident that he knows a great deal about Kenyan folklore. He was taught this tradition by his mother, who comes from the Maasai tribe herself. Alastair also grew up near the Maasai homeland territory, so he has seen many people eat this dish. To Alastair, this dish represents a method of survival that was necessary in Kenya before modernity made food much easier to procure. Neither he nor his mother would ever eat the dish because they find it unappetizing, but he does respect it due to his reverence for his heritage.

Life before Kenya was modernized was clearly very different from how it is today. This dish was the perfect way to efficiently get the sustenance one needed, as it produced food while still allowing the livestock to stay alive for their future farming needs. Although many modern Kenyans like Alastair and his mother would never eat the dish themselves, the fact that it is still eaten occasionally as a delicacy shows that because the practice was so important, it became an essential part of the Maasai way of life.

Gestures
Old age

The Traditional Kenyan Greeting

“When you greet someone who you consider reputable or older than you, you greet them by shaking their hands with both of your hands. You keep on holding on until they acknowledge you and say thank you. Usually, you do it with people you don’t talk to every day, like the parents of your friends.”

In Kenya, it is traditional to shake another’s hands with both of your own hands when greeting an elder or a person of high status. Because the other person is meant to have the control, it is they who decide how long the handshake should last. You are only supposed to let go after you have been acknowledged.

The informant, Alastair Odhiambo, is a 19-year-old international student who was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Alistair and his family have deep roots in the country, so he is confident that he knows a great deal about Kenyan folklore. Although Alastair does not remember who taught him how to properly shake an elder’s hand, he does know that he picked it up after observing how other Kenyan children interacted with their superiors. He claims that Kenya has long valued respecting elders, so this tradition is only a reflection of that belief.

It is always interesting to see how ancient values and beliefs are still maintained in today’s modern culture. Even though it may not seem like much, the way young Kenyans shake the hands of their elders says a lot about the country and what they believe in. It reveals that all elders and people of high status must be treated with honor and respect. The fact that Alastair was able to learn this common practice simply by observing others tells us that it is popular and that it is used quite often.

 

 

 

 

 

[geolocation]