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Utamaduni Day major boost for cultural identity

Thursday, January 9th, 2020 00:01 | By
Constitution of Kenya. Photo/Courtesy

The Chinese will celebrate their New Year on January 25, which will mark the start of the Spring Festival which runs up to February 11.

The next Jewish New Year will be celebrated on September 18. The Ethiopians will mark theirs on September 11.

In most of the world, the January 1 New Year date is a legacy of the European Gregorian calendar which was introduced by Catholic Pope Gregory XIII in October 1582.

The question begs, did Africans have their own calendar seasons prior to this dispensation? It is instructive that Ethiopians still use their own lunar cycle.

The results of Ethiopia’s self-determinism are evident, starting from the fact that they are one of the only two countries in Africa not colonised by Europeans. Ethiopia’s history also stretches back to biblical times.

The country surely has its fair share of social, economic and political challenges, but it is a distinctively authentic African unit that simply needs visionary leadership to take off.

The decision by Kenya’s Cabinet to rename Boxing Day (December 26) Utamaduni Day, was, therefore, a bold move.

It shows a leadership that is ready to sail in uncharted waters in search of an identity for its people, at least in this area and era.

In simple terms, utamaduni is Kiswahili for culture. Basically, culture comprises the ideas, customs and social behaviour of a particular people or society.

More importantly, culture is the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement viewed collectively.

Now, I do not have a clue about the inspiration behind Utamaduni Day, but it was the best news in 2019 for culturists.

We have unquestioningly celebrated and adopted so many foreign lifestyles and ideologies that we could as well be zombies!

Tragically, out of sheer ignorance and self-hate, we frown on our own cultures, and compete on who is more affected by Western, or other alien, lifestyles.

Now that the government has started a very good thing, Kenyans expect it to lead from the front and have a full programme of cultural activities to mark this year’s celebrations.

Let its proponents in high office be genuine in their intentions of helping us retrace our steps back to overall authenticity.

This is the perfect opportunity to interrogate other areas where we have sold out our souls. For instance, we should rename the country’s streets and landmarks to reflect our heroes and prophets.

No country can develop on borrowed cultural ideologies. That is why the most developed countries exclusively use their vernacular, both for official and non-official purposes, have their own religious or spiritual ideologies, celebrate their history and so on.

I see this as an ideal start to the conversation we need to have, not just as Kenyans, but as Africans.

With the integration of vernacular languages in the Competency-Based Curriculum, there is hope that we are not going to totally lose our youth to foreign cultures that neither have no roots nor bode well for us.


Head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, is a man who understands the world. Specifically, I like his admission of guilt of the clergy’s sex crimes, unlike many of his holier-than-thou predecessors and contemporaries.

However, I feel that he did not have to apologise for his reaction to the inappropriate behaviour of a woman who pulled his hand at the Vatican grounds during New Year’s Mass.

All we heard from the Western media is how the Pope’s “slapping” of the woman’s palm was an act of violence. Really?

What if the Pope had stumbled and fallen? Would the woman have been put on her defense? The world has really become gender-jaundiced. — The writer is a communication expert and public policy analyst — [email protected]

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