Saturday, April 25, 2009

Kaya Celebration in Kwale Town

So I’m sitting in my new 4th floor room. There are no flying termites in the bathroom! Yay. And the view off the balcony is gorgeous. It looks out over green fields and hills to the sea. The group that was here last week has gone and they’ve moved us up to the top floor. I’m reading on Twitter about swine flu and wondering if it’s something I should be worried about at some point…. Maybe later.

We went this morning around 9 on a rickety microbus, like the ones you see pretty much everywhere in the world, to Kwale Town to the Kaya Ceremony. There were 9 tents set up around a center stage, one for the elders and clan from each of the 9 ethnic groups making up the coastal area. The place was a big tree covered park with a central clearing. It was pretty empty but filled up as the morning went on. The team went around in pairs to do the interviews that they’d planned out yesterday. I just roamed around filming what seemed like good background shots with the Nokia N-82, and the others used the Flip cameras supported by small Sony recorders since sound can be a bit iffy with the Flip cams.

The coolest thing was each different ethnic group had a dance group. We filmed a few of them and Anthony did some interviews. Around 1.30 or so the new Kaya came in surrounded by the other elders, chanting “kaya! kaya! “ He had been in another ceremony last night that was private and today was the public one.

The dances started and soon after speeches – and I rather lost interest as did most of our team, saying that the whole tradition had become political and it was not much about culture anymore, but politics. The main story that the team is agreed to focus on yesterday is that most youth don’t really know what the kaya is all about, yet the kaya holds lots of power, and the youth hope to access that power someday, yet how will the access it if they don’t know anything about it. Another story that they want to do is related to women and power. The whole group is really gender sensitive which I’m finding really interesting because lots of gender issues are coming up and their insights are really profound as related to culture, tradition, and today’s world.

Ali K was talking at dinner about inheritance, and that in his community/culture, women cannot inherit. If their husband passes away, they must return to their parents’ home and be cared for by a father or brother. Ali’s father passed away several years ago and this was his situation. “I became aware of this as a problem because of my own situation, and since then I’ve become very supportive of girls and women.” Anthony translated for me the discussion that ensued about how girls often don’t feel there is any point in being involved in the development process or in school because they can never own or make any decisions, so what is the point.

The kids come tomorrow late morning. We’re trying to get ready for that, and also figure out an issue with the Flip Cams because they won’t import into Adobe Elements. I’m trying to download a possible solution…. Internet is great for problem solving. Let’s hope the solution works!

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