Get to know this costal community, known for fishing, wood carvings, and marine trade
Migration and settlement
The Bajun are believed to have migrated from Shungwaya due to conflict with the Cushitic communities, who pushed them from their native land to their current location. They engaged in fishing, farming and trade. The arrival of the Arabs to the Kenyan coast led to the community adopting the Islamic faith.
Experience Bajun culture at the Maulidi and Lamu cultural festivals
These two festivals are celebrated annually and showcase the rich culture and traditions of the communities inhabiting the coastal region. Some of the highlights to look out for are: camel races, henna painting, boat races, and many more.
This hoe (jembe) was used for cultivation. It was made from scrap metal by a blacksmith
Chayu is a food weighing scale. The basketry trays were woven by women, while the men carved the scale support using wood from the "Msumbari" tree, and the baskets were attached with a rope made of twisted coconut tree fibre.
Men provided protection to the community
This horn, Zumbe, would have been blown by an elder to summon people to war. It was inherited by sons from their fathers.
This is a round deep flat bottomed basket made by men. It was used for carrying farm produce from the shamba.
Women prepared meals for the family
Clay frying pan Nyaya made and used by women for cooking chapati (flat bread). Traditionally the Bajun's main foods were coconut, fish and rice.
Bread with designs
This is a carved wooden paddler (Chapaza namu), used to put designs on bread. It is made by a craftsman from msaji wood.
A bucket (Kichapa) made of cowhide with wood frame. It was used to collect water from wells.
This clay pot was made by a women potter and was used to keep water cold.
Cosmetic and spice holder
This painted wooden pot (Kikakasi) was made by a male fundi (craftsman). It was painted using mangrove and vegetable dye and used by women for storing spices and cosmetics.
Kiti cha Enzi
This is a traditional king's chair.
Incense for prayer
This is a small, round incense container (Ufurama) made by a craftsman. It was used to keep incense fresh, and to carry it to the mosque for use when praying.
This musical horn is made of animal horn and wood from 'mweza' tree. It is curved using a chisel like tool called 'chembeu' and used in a variety of traditional ceremonies.
This bell is made from cow horn and metal. It was used by the Bajun as a musical instrument to maintain rhythm while dancing to the drumbeats.
Learn more about the National Museums of Kenya by visiting our website.
Exhibit Curator: Philemon Nyamanga, Cultural Heritage Department. firstname.lastname@example.org
Bibliography and research
1. Fedders A, Salvadori C. Peoples and cultures of Kenya. Nairobi: Transafrica and London: Rex Collings, 1980.
Photography and Creative Direction: Gibson Maina and Muturi Kanini. Gibs Photography
Exhibit Layout: Agnes Mbaika Kisyanga, Barnabas Ngei and Hazel Sanaipei.