THE RUSINGA CULTURAL FESTIVAL HELD ON 21ST TO 22ND DECEMBER, 2017
Report prepared by: Dr. Ashah Owano, Audia Atogo, Janet Odhiambo and Gilbert Busolo
Three Elimu Asilia team members comprising Ashah, Audia, Gilbert and Janet and Phoebe from Kisumu Museum attended the 6th edition of the Rusinga Festival on 21st and 22nd December, 2017 at Kamasengere Primary School in Rusinga Island. The venue for the festival is in the neighbourhood of the Tom Mboya Mausoleum, which is a historical site managed by the National Museums of Kenya in conjunction with the late Hon. Tom Mboya’s family.
Mr. Gilbert Busolo, Dr. Ashah Owano, Ms Audia Atogo and Ms Phoebe Awiti from Kisumu Museum
The Elimu Asilia team arrived at Kisumu Museum on 20th December 2017 where they were met by Ms Phoebe Awiti, the Snr. Curator in-charge of the station. The team embarked on the maintenance of a copy of the Abasuba Pictorial History exhibition which is on display at the Kisumu Museum.
The Elimu Asilia team first went to Kisumu to update the ‘Abasuba Pictorial History’ exhibition currently displayed at the Kisumu Museum and then moved to the Tom Mboya Mausoleum to update the second set of exhibition.
The 6th edition of the Rusinga Cultural Festival was made more interesting and easy to understand by the inclusion of the Abasuba Pictorial History Exhibition prepared by the National Museums of Kenya through Elimu Asilia project. The exhibition told the history of the journey of the Abasuba community from Uganda to Kenya, while the community celebrated the unique culture of the Abasuba people which they want to revitalize. The festival set the Island alight for Christmas Holidays and provided a platform for the Abasuba people to reunite and re-tell their story by enacting different traditional performances which included wrestling, tug of war, dances, boat racing, Miss Suba 2017 and a number of Suba delicious Cuisine. During the festival community reiterated the need to preserve their unique culture, particularly the Suba language which the people spoke with abandon during the festival is listed in UNESCO’s red book of endangered Languages.
On 21st December 2017, the team and Ms Phoebe Awiti travelled to Rusinga Island for the 6th edition of the Rusinga Cultural Festival. On arrival the team set up the exhibition in the dedicated tent allocated to NMK. The exhibition attracted many visitors; among them was Mr. Willis Ombima Ayub, Snr. Assistant Director of Arts from Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts (State Department of Culture and the Arts).
Mr. Willis Ombima Ayub, Snr. Assistant Director of Arts, with his colleagues from the Ministry being enlightened on the history of the Abasuba people.
Mr. Willis Ombima Ayub, who is a historian together with his colleagues from the Ministry found the exhibition interesting and spent the day mingling with the crowd while following the story of the Abasuba from the exhibition display.
Goethe-Institut Kenya was represented by Ms Elizabeth Wichenje, the new Information Officer (in black dress). She has taken over from Mr. Eliphas Nyamogo as the new Elimu Asilia link person.
Dr. Owano, Ms. Elizabeth Wichenje from Goethe –Institut, Ms. Audia Atogo and Ms. Phoebe Awiti from Kisumu Museum
Mr. Ken Wakia from the United States Embassy also attended the festival and was thrilled by the Abasuba Pictorial exhibition. He requested Dr. Owano to make a follow up with him on Elimu Asilia and Abasuba History. Mr. Wakia was so excited to read about a story on one of the exhibitions panels about the Floating /Boat Library that is sponsored by the US Embassy for the Abasuba Community.
Dr. Owano, Mr. Ken Wakia of US Embassy, Lorna Abwonji of Mia Mara Creations, Anne Eboso of Chula Cultural Foundation and Elizabeth Wichenje of Goethe-Institut
The Homa Bay County Government was represented at the Rusinga Festival by the Minister for Culture Ms Roselyn Anyango Odhiambo, Ministry for Tourism, Culture, Sport, Gender and Youth Development. She attended as the chief guest. In her remarks she explained to the visitors the plans that the Homa Bay County Government has for Tom Mboya Mausoleum. There were various activities at the festival grounds at the Kamasengre Primary School. The activities included traditional dancers who included Eges dance group from Kisumu Museum. The Eges dancers performed a traditional jig during the Festival which thrilled the crowd. Other dancers performed traditional songs and storytelling sessions on the history of the Abasuba people at the main arena.
The other popular games included wrestling and 'Ajua' (Bao) game played by men
Suba men playing ‘Ajua’ (Ball game)
“Ajua’ (Ball game board)
There were also other exhibitions on different aspects of the Suba culture which included traditional food like ‘anang’a’ (ugali made from a mixture of milk and flour), ‘budho’ (pumpkin) among others.
Suba cuisine of ‘kuon anang’a’
Boat racing event at Litare Beach in Ruringa Island was the main crowd puller on the second day (i.e. 22nd). The Eges dancers escorted visitors/guest to the beach with drum beats and songs into the waters as they wait for the boat race to start. There were two sets of boat racing (women and men) representing different regions along the Lake. The women boat racing comprised of 4 teams, while team for men had 5 from different Suba regions. The drum beats and dances are also enhanced towards the finish line for the races to give the participants the morale to finish. For safety purposes, it was mandatory for every team member to wear a life saver jacket. The Kenya Maritime Authority staff were in attendance as observers and emergency team.
Boat racing at Litare Beach as part of the Rusinga Cultural Festival 2017
Other events later in the day included men’s wrestling, tug of war for women and men separately performed.
Tug of war for women
The 6th edition of the Rusinga Cultural Festival 2018 attracted a much bigger crowd than it did in 2017. The crowd consisted of local and international tourists comprising of Suba elders, tourists, school children, relevant national and County Government institutions and departments. Due to the educative nature of the exhibition some guested resorted to taking pictures of the exhibition for revision away from the Festival in order to understand their culture better.
Visitors capturing pictures of the exciting exhibition
Some of the memoirs of the 6th edition of the Rusinga Cultural Festival 2017
Children were frequent visitors at the NMK exhibition during the Rusinga Festival
Boat Racing at the Litare Beach during the Festival
Women Boat racing team
Dance troupes at the Rusinga Cultural Festival 2017
Visitors flocked the Tom Mboya Mausoleum, which is a historical site managed by the National Museums of Kenya in conjunction with the late Hon. Tom Mboya’s family. A copy of the ‘Abasuba Pictorial History’ exhibition is displayed at the Mausoleum grounds.
Challenges and recommendations: - The Elimu Asilia team did not think of having NMK banner at the tent due to the late planning and request for inclusion by the community. Transport arrangements for the night events was also a challenge. As more and more interest is being developed, the team should consider the festival as an avenue of periodic update of the exhibition as new ideas keep cropping up for inclusion.
Acknowledgements: - The Elimu Asilia team acknowledges the support of the Director General National Museums of Kenya towards the team’s attendance at the 6th edition of Rusinga/Abasuba Cultural Festival 2017. We also wish to acknowledge the continued support the team receives from the offices of Director Administration and Human Resource and Financial Controller.