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What exactly is SAMOSA Festival?

written by Jeannette Musembi 14th September 2012

Perhaps you have seen or heard about an upcoming event better known as the SAMOSA Festival. To crush your already heightened appetite, the answer is no, it’s got nothing to do with samosas (even though everyone secretly wished it did). How many samosas can you eat in a festival anyway? (crazy). This post will shed some light onto what the event is all about and hopefully you can tell your friends about it and help spread the message.

SAMOSA, which stands for the South Asian Mosaic of Society and the Arts, is a biennial cultural festival held in Kenya.  It is the only cultural festival in the region which uses the platform of Culture, Art and Music to highlight and encourage racial and ethnic unity. It showcases the best of Kenyan culture by bringing together elements from Africa, the East and the West through productions and events which depict an intermingling of various traditional and contemporary interpretations of music, movement and art. The SAMOSA festival’s role in enhancing the unique Kenyan identity has been recognised by the Ministry of State for National heritage and Culture, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission and the African Festival Network.

The SAMOSA 2012 festival, themed ‘Creating Cultural Encounters’, is designed to demonstrate how culture, music and art can be used to generate encounters and encourage people to learn about each other, and understand each other better. It will use visual arts, dance, music, storytelling and poetry to showcase the nuances within each culture in a non-offensive, creative and vibrant manner.

The week-long festival will begin with a cocktail launch at Tribe Hotel on Thursday 20th September 2012 at 7.00pm. The Festival’s photography exhibition by Neil Thomas called ‘Faces of Kenya’ will also be launched that evening. Neil Thomas, is a Kenyan photographer of Western origin who has travelled the country capturing the intrinsic beauty of Kenya’s ethnic cultures against breathtaking backdrops of Kenyan landscapes. On the 20th and 21st of September, two 1-day  workshops will be held at the GoDown Arts Centre and will offer the youth from Mathare, Kangemi and Kibera will get a chance to experiment with music and poetry. The second event aimed at enhancing youth participation is SAMOSA Play and it will bring together various community groups for a cricket tournament at the Karura Forest on 23rd September.

SAMOSA’s Mobile Cinema will run for 3 days from 24th September to 26th September in Mathare, Kangemi and Kibera. In conjunction with Informaction, a civic education organisation, established by Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association. SAMOSA Mobile Cinema will use film to propagate positive cultural encounters and stories. Films depicting poignant, humourous and interesting cross cultural will be shown to the public, and local entertainment groups will perform prior to the film show as part of the festivities.

Mid week on 25th September, the festival will present a theatre production called Tides, written by BBC award winning playwright Kuldip Sondhi at the Kenya National Theatre.   The production depicts various cultural responses to corruption in Kenya.

The Festival gies into high gear from then onwards, with two unique and signature productions.  The first is Hadithi, which explores the ancient art of cultural storytelling, bringing oral literature to a new generation; prominent Kenyan poets will interpret these expressions into Slam! Poetry, with music weaving together the two artistic forms together.  The show is poignantly set in the Courtyard of the Kenya National Theatre evoking strong memories of oral storytelling traditions across the world. The second customised production is the Concert in the Forest:, SAMOSA String & Sculpture.  This pre-finale event will be on 27th September at the club grounds of Karura Forest.  It will be a fascinating blend of Eastern, Western and African instruments and vocals including the nyatiti, obokano, orutu, violin, Indian santoor and Guitar.

The Grand Festival Finale is entitled Pigo la Moyo: the Heartbeat of Kenya is her People.  The festival will culminate in an explosion of rhythm, dance, and percussion celebrating the best of Kenyan culture, music and art.  The finale has a profoundly patriotic theme, with essential national campaigns such as Kenya Kwanza, Mkenya Daima and I am Kenyan having a strong presence with numerous activations and engagement with the audience.  The highlight of the Finale is the Concert, featuring the international headline act of the festival – Sidi Goma, the passionate Slum Drummers and the eclectic Dhol Xtasy.

Highlights of past SAMOSA events include a 2005 photography exhibition that depicted images of past Asian leaders and their African allies, the launch of the fusion band Kachumbari in 2006 which blends a tri-heritage sound, the controversial debate entitled ‘Jungu, Miroo, Choot’ at the University of Nairobi in 2006, and the Tribanghi Dance Theatre performance in 2010 which showcased a blend of the classical Indian Bharat Natyam and Zulu Warrior dance styles.

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