The History of Kenya

  • post Type / Members and partners
  • Date / 22 November 2006

The “Kenyan Culture” is born of myriad sources and influences both new and old. Despite the many and varied influences that have shaped Kenyan society, the culture in Kenya has become truly and purely Kenyan.

If any one thing of Kenya speaks of this unique character, it is the modern melding of traditional societies and culture.

In Kenya it is possible to leave Nairobi, a city with a thriving business heart powered by the latest information technology, and drive in just a few hours to a place where life is lived in accordance to tradition and custom, where warriors armed with spears drive cattle into thorn brush enclosures to protect them from lions at night.

In Kenya the modern and the traditional live side by side, and at times the lines blur. For many visitors to Kenya, this is evident within minutes of arrival. Among the busy urban traffic, the median strips of fresh grass along the airport road are a popular place for Maasai herdsmen to graze their cattle.

Some people lament the gradual change in lifestyles, and loss of many customs and traditions in deference to modern life and values.

But much more than any other country on earth Kenya has maintained many of its traditional cultures. Indeed, in Kenya tradition and custom is not seen as being linked to the past, but as being an amorphous and evolving part of everyday life.

The result is a completely unique culture, in which it is possible to see a Maasai walking across the plains using his distended earlobes to support walkman headphones, a group of urban Kikuyu joining in a traditional wedding ritual in which a bride is sung out of her house by the grooms family, or a Samburu Business man with a traditionally beaded mobile phone cover.

The ease with which Kenyans adopt and adapt to new cultural influences has a long history. Kenyan culture is built on the acceptance and absorption of new and varied cultures, whether it was migrant nomads or sea borne traders.

The end result is a culture of endless influence and yet one completely uniquely Kenyan in character.

Kenya’s population of over 31,000,000 is composed of 97% of people of African descent. This group is composed of over 70 different tribal groups. Among the most the largest are the Kikuyu, Kamba, Gusii, Luhya, and Luo. Kenya’s primary languages are English and Swahili, though regional tribal languages abound.

Population: 30,339,770 (July 2000 est.)
Projected Population in 2050: 38,660,226

Population by ages:
0-14 years: 43%
15-64 years: 54%
Over 64 years: 3%
Population growth rate: 1.59%
Birth rate: 30.8 births per 1,000 inhabitants
Death rate: 14.58 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants
Migration rate: -0.34 emigrants per 1,000 inhabitants

Population by gender:
At birth: 1.03 males/female
Less than 15 years: 1.02 males/female
15-64 years: 1 male/female
Over 64 years: 0.77 male/female
Total population: 1 male/female
Child death rate: 59.07 deaths per 1,000 living births

Life expectancy at birth:
Total population: 47.02 years
Males: 46.56 years
Females: 47.49 years
Natality rate: 3.88 births per woman

Ethnic groups:
Kikuyu: 22%
Luhya: 14%
Luo: 13%
Kalenjin: 12%
Kamba: 11%
Kisii: 6%
Meru: 6%
Other Africans: 15%
Non Africans (Asians, Europeans and Arabs): 1%

Protestants: 38%
Catholics: 28%
Indigenous religions: 26%
Muslims: 7%
Others: 1%

English (official), Swahili (national), numerous local languages

(able to read and write over 14 years, 1995 data)
Total population: 78.1%
Males: 86.3%
Females: 70%

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