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TRADITIONS

Kayas, the Mijikenda sacred places at risk

Pandemic is a big threat for many traditional places in Kenya

04-09-2021 by redazione

The pandemic has put the sacred forests of the Mijikenda ethnic group on Kenya's coast at even greater risk.
And not only those of the nine coastal tribes, of which the Giriama is the best known, which have long been UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but also those of the country's other ethnic groups, which, although less well-known, represent not only the popular traditions and beliefs of some of the population, but also respect for nature and the philosophy of community and encounter that underlies the peaceful coexistence of the poor people.
Despite Unesco's acknowledgements and many appeals, the kaya are at risk of being usurped and that squatters may even build on them or deny their use as places of prayer to the "elders", the senior priests of the Mijikenda animist cult.
This is the umpteenth concern raised by the elders with a politician from the Kilifi and Kaloleni areas, where most of the 'kaya' (as the sacred forests are called) are located. Kaloleni MP Gunga Mwinga, who raised the issue with the government a few years ago, died last December and no one has taken the situation to heart. To date, the historical and religious sites of the Mijikenda have not received any special protection from the state from those who wish to make other use of them.
It is unbelievable and disgraceful," the elders comment, "for any sacred place of other religions and for temples and ruins, even if they are no longer used for prayer. Why are our sacred places, which belong to the tradition of one of the country's ethnic groups, ignored and trampled on?'.
In the Kakamega forest, threatened by the discovery of gold deposits, the same thing could happen. Sacred places have already been desecrated and the local community (always and only the elders, of course) is demanding that at least the most important ones be fenced off. 
In Kenya, and in the whole of Africa in general, the shift of attention to the health emergency is signifying a clean break with the past, the traditions and a certain morality that was the basis of the purity of its people.

TAGS: Kaya KenyaForeste Mijikendasacro kenyatradizioni kenya

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