The Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2014-Washington DC
The opportunities presented by the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington USA, were huge and Kenya’s undertaking to take part in it was timely. Other African countries have used the platform to position their country in the US market include Ghana, South Africa, Mali and Senegal. This shows that Kenya has come of age, and is ready to do business with the best.

The interest generated on the tea, coffee and tourism opportunities available in Kenya means that the country needs to exploit fully the other products on offer like, technology services opportunities, Meetings Incentives Conferencing & Exhibitions (MICE), Culture among others.

At the investors forum, Americans got first-hand information on the investment climate in Kenya to enable they understand the reality of Kenya as an investment destination. Some investors who were already in Kenya endorsed Kenya and assured the other investors that the perceived risks were either overstated or misunderstood and this can easily understate the potential in profit generation. Some of the key companies present were General Electric and IBM.

The festival affirmed that Kenya is indeed an easy to sell product, already in the minds of the world. However, an unpredictable investment climate exacerbated by insecurity issues, politics among other issues will fast erode the gains made so far. The visit by the President was timely as it reaffirmed that Kenya was on the growth path and security issues were being addressed not only in Kenya but worldwide.

The 2014 Smithsonian Folk life Festival was a great idea. The tag line “Kenya Mambo Poa” was all inclusive and presented the Country wholesomely. It was an opportunity for Kenya to present its diversity, innovative skills and the creativity of her people in the United States of America.



Main theme

How they were doing it/ Demonstrations



Kenyan Cuisines

  • Showcasing and demonstration of different kinds of foods in Kenya that is Western, Coast and Nyanza regions
  • Scheduled live cooking sessions
  • Interpreting and explanations of the foods and their link to the different ethnic groups of Kenya.


  •  Kenyan cuisine was very popular and many people interested on how it was prepared.
  •  Kenyan Ugali became so popular which led to its shortage. Over 10,000 visitors sampled Ugali daily.




Cradle of Human Kind

  • Display of extracted fossils
  •  Information given on Kenya pre-history
  • Visitors appreciated the cradle of mankind based on the showcased rich record availed’ Dr. Fredrick Manthi
  •  They indicated they will visit Kenya from August to attend a conference on FAWE and visit tourist sites



Story telling about Kenyan diverse culture

  • Story telling
  •  Narration through song and dance of Kenya folk tales
  • Use of sign language for interpretation
  • Visitors interested in the Country’s cultural tourism products and conference
  •  More tourists interested in visiting the country.


Beads and jewelry

  •  Done through demonstrations and giving talks on the meaning of colours, culture of the communities who use the beads and identified different occasions when the beads/jewelry are worn.
  • Visitors showed a keen interest in visiting Kenya to look at the people who wear the beads.


Wood carving

  •  Demonstrations of how the curving is done.


  • Visitors were interested in how the knowledge was learnt.


Basket Weaving

  • Real life experience in weaving of baskets
  • Question and answer sessions
  •  Experiential
  •  Inquiries on where to obtain books on weaving and how to purchase the finished products.


Clay Works

  • Demonstrations and experiential
  • Giving talks on different uses of pots, Clay used, which communities use pots
  • Provided opportunity to make own pots
  • An interpreter was available
  • Visitors were interested in pottery, and assisting women groups.
  • Visitors got more Knowledge on how clay was moulded into pots. They also learnt how the pots were used to store and cool water. 
  •  Interest in buying pots but for sentimental value




  •  This section has various themes:- Building Arts, community research, Wildlife conservation, ethnic identity, crafts from the land, turtles to elephants, animal conservations & safari skills
  • Working and living with wildlife, rural life in Kenya and pastoral life
  • Visitors appreciated the conservation process initiated by different communities.


Ship Yard

‘Traveling is learning’ Kenyan proverb

  • Show casing traditional Swahili Dhow and the artifacts used by the fishermen.
  •  Information of its uses including fishing, mangrove harvesting and transportation for tourism, animals and people.
  • Common in Lamu and Coast
  • Demonstration


  • Promotion of Cultural tourism from the Coast



Plaster Arts ‘There is nothing sweeter than what has been obtained at great effort’ Kenyan proverb

  •  Decorative plaster brought to Kenya by Arabian  Peninsula Craftsmen
  • Characteristic of buildings along the Coast (Lamu and Mombasa)
  •  Demonstration



  •  Promote cultural tourism
  • Visitors appreciated Kenya art of decorating buildings.



‘Stone Carving Art’

  • Common in Western Kenya
  • Use of Soap stone
  • Renowned artist Elkana Ong’esa
  • Inspiration for the Kenya Mambo Poa logo which symbolizes ‘a journey out and a return home’
  • Demonstration and participatory by visitors carving stone
  •  Kenyan jewelry on show
  • Promote cultural tourism
  • Showcasing of an alternative destination
  •  Visitors interested in purchasing the soap stone carvings.


Khangas from Biashara Street

  •  Demonstration
  • Participation of visitors who designed own khangas
  •  Book written on Khangas by Phyllis Ressler and Lara Ressler
  • Translations done of Swahili sayings imprinted on the Khangas


  •  Promotion of the Swahili language
  • Experiential


Adornment Arts

  •  Participation of visitors by getting adorned with henna decorations and hair braiding
  •  Live participation and experiential.
  • Visitors were decorated with henna designs leading to an interest to visit the Country.



Tuchezeni Family Activities

  • Participation and demonstration through sharing of song and dance presented by children from Kenya diaspora camp
  • Participation through colouring of Kenyan wildlife with translations into Kiswahili eg kiboko – hippo etc
  •  Awareness of Kenyan wildlife
  • Experiential


Art of recycling (flip flop)

  • Demonstration of art made with flip flops, glass, insects etc.
  • Arts include wild animals e.g Giraffe
  • Created awareness of the wildlife safari.


Living and Working with Wildlife

  •  Depiction of a borana homestead and how the people live.
  •  Interest created of the different peoples of Kenya
  • Visitors are able to get real life experience and connection with the Borana people.     


Kenya House

  •  Brewing and sampling of tea and coffee
  •  Information talks on Kenya products
  • Use of tour guide to demonstrate the tourism sector
  • Showcasing and demonstration  of the Khanga/ lesso 
  • Sports tourism featuring Henry Wanyoike– real life experience
  • Distribution of Brochures and pamphlets Use of pictorials
  • Face to face question and answer
  • Creating awareness of existing products and services and other tourism products
  • Showcasing alternative destination tourism circuits
  • Opportunity to taste real tea and coffee products from Kenya – (A guest spent 10 minutes enjoying the aroma of the Kenyan Coffee).
  • 85% were ready to purchase on the spot however they were referred to the Market place.
  • The writings on the Khangas created and provided an opportunity to translate and share the meanings from Kiswahili to English.



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