Get to Know Kenya’s Communities

Explore the communities of Kenya through these traditional objects and ornaments

By Google Arts & Culture

Kenya's Communities by Musa Omusi

Within Kenya’s 44 recognized communities, different traditions and practices show the country’s diverse and vibrant culture. Get to know more about Kenya’s communities through these 10 traditional objects and ornaments...

Ear piercing was a tradition in most Kenyan communities

Each community had different practices when it came to the tradition of ear piercing. In nearly every community, both men and women had their ears pierced, while the stretching of the earlobes to make longer and wider holes was more common in communities living in central and western parts of Kenya.

Drums are the beating heart of Kenyan communities

Each Kenyan community has used drums for different purposes and the sound, style, and craft of drums have evolved over time. In many communities, only men would play the drums, while in others, certain drums were only used by women.

Communities could communicate via a huge horn

The Siwa is a side blown horn and was used by Swahili leaders in the 17th and 18th century to announce ceremonies. The sound of the Siwa was so loud it was able to reach communities living far away to invite them to join the ceremony.

The Kanga holds a common thread that unites communities

The Kanga is a cloth that was originally produced by the Swahili coastal communities. Through its colorful, dynamic designs and inspirational sayings stitched into the fabrics, it has been thought to unite cultures and people within communities.

There’s a gourd for every community

Gourds are containers that can be used for storage, measuring, and fermentation. Most Kenyan communities used gourds to store water and porridge, but they have also been used to keep milk, make beer, and feed children.

Find the leaders by looking for their elaborate headdresses

Across Kenya’s communities, people in leadership positions, administrators, and sometimes the wealthy often wore headdresses for special occasions. Various communities also had specific headdresses which were worn by chiefs and elders who had an exceptional level of authority and wisdom.

For Kenyan communities, masks symbolize transformation

While the style and use of masks vary from community to community, many masks have a spiritual and religious meaning. They are often used in ritual dances and social or religious events, with the craft of mask-making often being passed on from father to son.

Each Kenyan community wears beads in their own way

Most Kenyan communities are renowned for their bead ornaments and each community used different patterns, colors, and types of beads depending on their specific cultural ideas of beauty.

The apron was a wardrobe essential for Kenyan communities

Before modern, western attire, Kenyan communities covered their bodies with different types of skirts and aprons. They were used for practical, ceremonial, and decorative purposes, and were usually tied around the waist to cover the front of the body.

You could identify different sub-communities by their shield

Shields were used by Kenyan communities as a symbol of identification. For example, in the Maasai community, various shield designs were used for different sub-communities as part of a complex identification system.

Get to know more about Kenya’s communities

Explore more

Learn about the communities of Kenya

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Utamaduni Wetu: Meet the People of Kenya
From the cradle of mankind to the superheroes of today
View theme
Google apps