As World Day for Cultural Diversity is celebrated around the world today, the findings of a new survey looking into how Kenyans engage with their cultural heritage has just been released.
The overwhelming majority, 98.8%, of the 519 respondents agreed that it was important to preserve Kenya’s cultural heritage with over half, 53%, agreeing it was important to do so because, they said, ‘it defines us’.
But while Kenya’s cultural heritage sector boosts economic growth by supporting creative industries and the people working in them, only 1.7% of respondents recognised this. More regular cultural events throughout the year was the most popular solution to improving engagement with cultural heritage, with 60% of people opting for this choice, while 34% thought a single major annual cultural festival would be the best way for people to engage more deeply with it. 48% of people wanted cultural heritage added to the school curriculum. (People were able to give more than one answer to this question which is why the percentage rates exceed 100.)
The sample survey is part of the Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth programme, known as #CultureGrows, run by The British Council through its East Africa Arts programme, in close collaboration with partners Heva Fund, Book Bunk Trust, Chao Tayiana, writer and Founder of African Digital Heritage, and Mount Kenya University in partnership with the University of the West of Scotland.
Perhaps not surprisingly, most people surveyed said they engage with their culture primarily through parents or grandparents, and then through the media, museums, cultural events (fashion shows, music concerts, etc.), and finally through libraries and school. Oral traditions and language emerged as the most highly valued part of Kenya’s cultural heritage closely followed by music and dance. Architecture and artefacts together were in third place, a fraction ahead of those saying that Art and Photography was the part of culture they value the most. In fifth place it was fashion and national dress followed by books and libraries in sixth place, and finally food.
April Kamunde, Project Manager, East Africa Arts, British Council commented: “People engage with their culture in different ways and Kenya’s very rich and diverse cultural heritage has an important role in creating jobs and improving livelihoods. We are delighted to be working alongside our partners in supporting Kenya’s creative economy through providing skills training and grants. And we’re keen to recognise and appreciate those figures who have played a vital role in inspiring others about culture and in promoting and preserving Kenya’s rich cultural heritage. So, over the next few months we’ll be looking at who those ‘Cultural Heroes’ are and celebrating them during Heroes’/Mashujaa Day on 20th October.”
The survey findings will inform the Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth Programme’s partner activities on how to engage the youth in promoting Kenyan cultural heritage.