Behind our undying love for our country and our common need to propel it to greater heights, is a culture that has bound Kenyans for decades. Amidst our different ways of life, we found a common culture that binds us. A collection of household memories and experiences that echo in our many group conversations. It is these tales that make us appreciate our heritage that much more. Though not conversant in all Kenyan households, there are some of these traditions that must have been in existance in one form or the other.
The wall unit
Standing smack at the front of the sitting room is where it stood. This huge piece of furniture that took up most of the space in the sitting room. It housed our analogue television sets and an analogue video system if you were lucky. The other compartments were filled with cutlery meant solely for guests. Those utensils would gather dust until you had visitors to use them. The commoners of the household were not deemed worthy to use them.
‘Sunday best’ Outfit
Somewhere folded nicely in a drawer was an outfit set aside for special occasions. It was close to taboo to adorn it on an ordinary day- like the gods would strip you naked in broad daylight. This outfit made it to almost every single family photo. This is because back then, photos were only taken on special occasions and during family portrait pictures.
Speaking of photographs, there were days specifically set aside for family photo sessions. Makeup artists were unheard of. All you needed was a clean set of clothes and neatly combed hair. The family would then head to the photo studio and have numerous photographs taken at a go. They would then proceed to frame them and hang them on the sitting room walls. Those photographs represented the members of the family- a sign that you belonged. Missing in these photos could have led one to believe that you were not an accepted member of that household.
Crotchet furniture dressers
Remember the hours your mother spent knitting these little furniture dressers? They would all be uniformly stitched and laid on most if not all pieces of furniture in the house. It was basic home décor. Their colours were meticulously picked out to match the colour scheme of the house. The seats seemed empty without them like something was missing.
In my experience, committing crimes made me contemplate running away. The thought of the beating that awaited me at homemade spending life on the streets stupidly look enticing. Beatings were such an inbred culture of some houses, that it had its own rules and regulations- a cane constitution. There were strokes for each level of mistakes. In our household, there was an unwritten rule that pertained to my mother’s anger. If you pissed her off hard enough, the cane would be the closest thing she could grab. She would then go ahead and beat the mistake out of you like a bean bag.
We have outgrown many if not all of these traditions. As humorous as they seem now, they are the cornerstone of many of our fond memories. In a couple of years from now, our children will look at the things we do now and probably criticize and laugh at our backward ways. But for us those memories keep us going, and make us laugh especially when we open the family albums.