Gem From the Lake: 2017’s two-day Festival dubbed Spaces kicks off December 21st on the famed Rusinga Island in Homa Bay.
Kenya is one extraordinary country which boasts of 44 distinct tribes, the tribes present a blend of cultures that make Kenya a vibrant and rich country. Here is an interesting observation though, many Kenyans can only list just about 17 communities out of the over forty and they hold stereotypes for each of these. In fact, popular comedy in the country is centered on the cultural stereotypes, mostly of major tribes in the East African country. Besides rib cracking jabs, tribe is central to Kenya’s politics, and has been blamed for breeding animosity among Kenyans especially during elections.
The Abasuba people are one of the communities that make up the Kenyan nation. Some historians classify the little-known community as either Luo-Abasuba or the Bantu Abasuba. With their distinctive Suba language, the Suba culture faces extinction due to the dominant Luo culture in the Lake Victoria region. They are believed to have moved to Kenya in 1700s and settled in Rusinga and Mfang’ano Islands of Lake Victoria, some also settled on the mainland therefore the close interaction with the dominant Luo hence the Luo-Abasuba.
The community numbers have been reducing over the years. It is believed that there is only about 100,000 Abasuba in the region. Their language has been listed among the 13 most endangered languages in Kenya in the UNESCO’s Red List of Endangered languages; 2003.
Despite dwindling numbers, the Abasuba are a culturally rich society; the Rusinga Festival is a two-day event that captures the Suba culture in a unique fashion; a showcase of different rich foods, dance, wrestling and boat racing. Organized by Anne Eboso who doubles as Storymoja Festival producer, the event is both nostalgia and a tale of a great community that has withstood the test of time.
This year’s event, dubbed Spaces’, runs from December 21st to 22nd on the famed Rusinga Island. “Two days of nothing but music, fashion, film, food, artistry, literature, sports and conversations that take you back in time into the wealth of the Suba people.” Eboso generalizes the events itinerary.
Performers showcase their talent and spirit at past Rusinga Festival Fete, Photo Courtesy: Rusinga Festival
It is not just the cultural and social that can take you all the way to Rusinga Island. One other reason would be the arresting beauty of the island and other islands like Mfangano and the Bird Island which has over 300 species of birds. The picturesque Rusinga is also home to the bullet shaped Tom Mboya Mausoleum-in memory the man who is remembered in Kenya as one of the greatest Trade Unionist and the J.F. Kennedy airlift that saw Barack Obama senior plant a seed for the 44th president of the USA.
Participants engage in sporting activities in past Rusinga Festival Fete, Photos Courtesy: Rusinga Festival
Rusinga is also a fishing island. At night, fishermen will line the ocean with pressure lamps praying to the gods of fish to gift them with the lakeside delicacy. The dancing lanterns shimmers the lake into a city camouflage- a graceful twenty four hour economy away from the sprawling city streets and industrial noise. Amidst all these, one learns the peaceful friendliness that permeates the lake against the invasion of the water hyacinth.
The festival has been a remarkable success over the past years. It has created a platform where the diminishing culture could be reignited and its embers spread to young generation. The two-day festival also brings across a lot of inspiration from the city of Nairobi over five hundred kilometres away to the Rusinga Island abridging the once missing gap. To cap it all, as an annual festival, the unexplored splendour and beauty of the lakeside is brought into life.
Therefore, as you plan your Christmas and New Year festivities drop by the Kenyan Rusinga Island and immerse yourself into the culture that makes you feel home away from home.