The most treasured cultural practices are fast fading out due to the changes in social dynamics, urbanisation and westernisation.
Bomas of Kenya, a cultural centre based in Nairobi, is one of the few renowned places where Kenyans can learn traditional practices and customs from their communities.
In Mt Kenya region, Mukuruwe wa Nyagathanga shrine, believed to be the cradle of the Gikuyu community, has been forgotten and its former glory is fading. A new multicultural village set up in the area recently will probably help bring back the cultural vibe for the communities living around region.
Located near the intersection of four counties in central Kenya, Thingira (the hut) is strategically placed to serve as the gateway for those seeking to learn local traditional practices. The site is near the borders of Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Machakos and Embu counties.
The cultural village was established five years ago and serves as a cultural resource for residents, students and foreigners visiting the region.
Thingira can be accessed through the Thika-Kenol-Sagana route just a few metres from the infamous Ha Thamaki Tana bridge near Makutano town.
At the entrance you are welcomed by beautiful African artistry into a well-tendered compound full of indigenous trees. There is a restaurant where food is cooked only on order. However, those who wish to prepare their own meals are not restricted from doing so.
Traditional cuisines including mukimo, arrowroots, yams, mushrooms, chevon and chicken are the main dishes prepared here. For a special treat, crocodile (king’ang’i) delicacies are offered to guests and on special occasions, muratina (a Kikuyu traditional brew) and ucuru or usuu (traditional porridge) are also served.
The centre has four main villages representing the four traditional communities from the area. The compounds are typically set up as a replica of traditional tribal villages. Each village is manned by a group of elders who are knowledgeable on the cultural practices of their community and visitors can ask them any questions they want.
Leah Wangechi, the founder of the cultural village, says she established the centre to create a platform through which future generations can learn the traditional practices. She says most of the native traditional practices have been abandoned as people pick up western practices.
Expressing concern that most communities may lose their cultural heritage in the near future, Wangechi says: “I am passionate about culture and coming up with the centre was to create a platform where future generations can learn of the ancient practices”.
During a local cultural day held once a month, the four communities showcase their best traditional practices as folk song dancers drawn from the neighbourhood also entertain the guests visiting the centre. A variety of African artefacts are also on display for sale to visitors, through which the centre is able to generate some income.
A few cottages can accommodate up to 100 people. However, there is an alternative camping site and the available ground can accommodate 250 people. Accommodation charges range from Sh2,500 per person for the cottages to Sh1,500 for camping.
The centre also has a crocodile village where the visitors can watch the reptiles from a close range. The fast grounds also can also be used for weddings, team building and parties.
Having worked in the tourism sector for several years, she uses her networks to get people to the centre not only from within the country but even foreign tourists. “We are organising for a cultural exchange programme for a group of students from Rwanda and another from Europe. When they are here, the locals will interact with them and both parties will learn from each other,” she remarked.