||[Nov. 23rd, 2016|04:03 pm]
In my continuing quest to experience media from every country, I picked up Michael Burgan's Kenya, another installment of the fabulous Enchantment of the World series (2015). FYI, I'm barely discussing any of the depressing stuff.
Kenya is about the size of Texas, and, like Texas, it has a coast in the east (the Indian Ocean), and some mountains and deserts. But it also has rain forests, waterfalls, and volcanos, and it borders the "world's largest permanent lake located in a desert," Lake Turkana, at the northern end of the Great Rift Valley, created by two tectonic plates moving away from each other. It also borders Lake Victoria as do Uganda and Tanzania.South Suday, Ethiopia, and Somalia are in the north. It's on the equator and so is warm (though cooler at the higher elevations--Mount Kenya sits right on the equator and has ice year-round).
The first humans lived in this part of Africa where Kenya is. Four thousand years ago, migrants speaking Cushitic languages raised goats and farmed. Later, people speaking Bantu and Nilotic languages arrived.
In the 400s, traders from all around the Indian Ocean and as far away as the Middle East and China came to trade and influenced the foods, language, and religion of Kenyans, leading to the Swahili language and culture in the 1000s. Swahilis joined in the trade and Swahili is still an official language and the coastal city Mombasa is still the second-largest city.
In 1498, Vasco Da Gama arrived from Portugal (Malindi still has a stone pillar he erected in friendship). In 1505, Portuguese invaders began looting and killing. By 1729, the Swahilis, with their Arabic allies, had pushed out the Portuguese.
In 1844, the first European missionary arrived and European explorers began mapping the interior. In 1884, the Europeans began dividing up Africa amongst themselves, and decided that the British got most of Kenya and Uganda. Theirs was no benign rule, making people work, kicking them off their land, killing resisters, and making men carry kipande or identity and employment documents with them at all times. They built a railway to help them transport things from Uganda to the coast. This is when the capital and largest city, Nairobi, was created, and English is still an official language.
Kenya gained independence in 1963, but there were conflicts between different ethnic groups. Corruption still runs rampant, and people don't trust the elections.
In 2010, a new constitution and bill of rights were introduced. Unlike the US's bill of rights, Kenya's "also guarantees such things as access to food, housing, and water."
About 3/4 of Kenyans work in agriculture, usually on small plots of land, but there are also large coffee and tea plantations for export. Fishing is also important, mining is growing, and petroleum was discovered in northern Kenya in 2012. They also make "cars, plastic goods, clothing, chemicals and medicines, paper and paper products, and electrical equipment" mostly for domestic use. Sandals made from old tires "last about ten times longer than traditional shoes." And the "largest part of Kenya's economy is the service sector ... [including] banking, education, health care," and sales.
Kenya has the strongest economy in East Africa. Tourism is now a big part of the economy and large parts of the country are preserved as national parks. That includes Mount Kenya and a stretch of coral reefs along the coast. Kenya has all of 'Africa's "Big Five"--the five land mammals said to be the hardest to kill"--the elephant, cape buffalo, rhinoceros, leopard, and lion. In 1977, Kenya banned hunting of all creatures except some birds. So now safaris are just for pictures. In the desert, they have camels, used mostly for milk rather than carrying things.
Internet usage is growing (39% in 2013). "Safaricom, the nation's leading cell service provider, is one of the nation's most successful businesses." And "M-Pesa, the world's leading mobile money system, is used by two-thirds of the adults in Kenya" to deposit paychecks, withdraw cash, pay rent, buy groceries, and transfer money to anyone with an M-Pesa account.
"All together, Kenyans speak about sixty different languages, and most people speak at least three." There are still many different ethnic groups such as the Kikuyu (1/4 of the population) from around Mt. Kenya, the Luhya (near Lake Victoria and Mt. Elgon), the Luo (also near Lake Victoria), the Kalenjin (western Rift Valley), Maasai (grasslands of southern Kenya), the related Samburu (plains north of Mt. Kenya), and the El Molo (the smallest group with less than 1000 members). Only 1% are of non-African descent. "After 1963, most of the whites gradually left the country." Refugees from Somalia and Sudan are settling in refugee camps and Nairobi.
* hakuna matata = no problem
* simba = lion
* uhuru = freedom
* Kwanzaa is 'from the phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means "first fruits."'
Most Kenyans are Christian (47% Prostestant, 23% Roman Catholic), some (11%) are Muslim. Most Christians were converted by other Africans. "This gave Africans a lot of power in shaping how Christianity was adopted locally. It also led to the creation of many local churches that mixed traditional African beliefs with mainstream Christian faiths."
The literacy rate is 87%! Like every country but the US, they like soccer. They are also famous for having fast runners.