Under enormous threat from urbanism and westernization, as well as general heritage deterioration through cultural and natural processes and rapidly declining economic growth in traditional areas such as fishing and agriculture, Kisumu City nonetheless boasts of diverse cultural heritage resources that are uniquely and spatially distributed on the landscape laced with scenic landforms that traverse the city and its environs. As one moves across the city into the Lake Victoria shores, a myriad of cultural and natural features and artefacts dot this unique lacustrine region of western Kenya.
Cultural Spaces: Places such as Aguch Kisumu, Oile Park, Jubilee Markets, Social Halls and Kisumu Museum represent varied values to urban users ranging from livelihood spots like market places to green urban spaces which reduce and control environmental pollution as well as provide recreational functions for unemployed urban dwellers, and social gatherings such as table-banking women’s groups. Initial mapping reveals the value of everyday social and recreational spaces which reveal values associated with cultural heritage and nourish the lives of residents and visitors, including Aguch Kisumo and the cultural infrastructure of the city – found in the cinema, disco, hotels, markets, clubs and restaurants.
Cultural Heritage Sites: Historical, archaeological and cultural sites -Thimlich Ohinga, Seme-Kaila, Muguruk, Kit-Mikayi, Abindu, Luanda Magere – bear testimony to the rich and varied histories of the area. The values attributed to such sites are not uniform, with differences between elder and youth populations in terms of how they see their roles – or not – as custodians of the past. Beyond the sacred, natural heritage and conservation sites are also important, such as landing beaches and forests, like Dunga, Musoma, Lwangi, Impala Park, Got Ramogi, Riat Hill and Abindu.
Myths and Legends: A number of sacred sites - Abindu, Kit Mikayi, Simbi, Luanda Magere, Got Ramogi – are considered highly by members of certain communities, used for prayers and developed as sites for cultural or eco-tourism. Modern icons also play their role in evoking intangible connections beween past, present and future, symbolised in ‘heroes and heroines’ such as Jaramogi, Achieng Oneko, Odera Akango, Argwemgs Kodhek, Okullu, Obama, Odede Rachilo.
Traditional practices and beliefs are important including religious beliefs, dances (traditional, Afro-music, European music and dances in different localities in the city) and festivals, such as Dunga Fish Night, Got Ramogi, Migwena and Suba. Festivals can take an educational form, or be themed, for instance, engaging Yawa dancers or cultural events initiated by the University. Food is a critical contemporary manifestation of cultural heritage, embodied in eating patterns, fishing culture and food types (fish and ugali). Mapping intangible cultural heritage reveals comedy, fashion, storytelling, arts and crafts, clothing and traditional and contemporary dress. Heritage is found in beach and fishing communities, but also in colonial architecture and infrastructure – around the prison, railway and port, housing and cemetary.
For more information about the cultural heritage sites in Kisumu we are working in click here.