Celebrating evolution of the Sabiny culture

Saturday January 5 2013

Celebrating evolution of the Sabiny culture

Participants at the Sabin cultural celebration show the evolution of their dress code clothing from leaves, backcloth to kanzu and gomesi. Photo by David Mafabi. 

By David Mafabi

Linking cultures and showing evolution of the Sabiny way of dressing had never been a point of interest until the 17th Sabiny cultural celebrations took place in November last year. Sabiny from Bukwo, Kween and Kapchorwa were yoked together as the crowds drew to commemorate the day together with the Ndorobo, Pokot, Kalengin from Kenya.

Charles Chemonges who led the team of traditional artists took the celebrants thro ugh the cultural transformation of the Sabiny.

He told the people that whenever they speak about cultural heritage, most often people think of monuments, buildings, sites and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) but that as Sabiny, they must now think of the outstanding universal value of their own cultures especially how dressing has evolved and their ethnological or anthropological significance.

“How did we get to the modern way of dressing? Is this where we started from? And what about story-telling, traditional lore, performing arts, rituals, knowledge of nature, the universe, and other such phenomena? First, we started by putting on leaves from trees, then when we acquired tools for hunting, we started putting on animal skins before going in for a bark cloth and then modern wear, this is what we must guard,” said Chemonges.

Looking beyond FGM
The exuberant dances, display of the evolution of dress code and sounds of the traditional Sabiny music and delicacies prepared by traditional Sabiny elders was a show case of the Sabiny culture.

The Reproductive Education and Community Health programme executive director, Beatrice Chelangat, said the display of cultural exhibits, craft demonstrations and dressing exhibitions from Sabiny community reflects how rich Sabiny culture can be without necessarily practicing FGM.


“We shall actually carry on with this every year to ensure our culture is protected as we discard the bad practice of FGM. We must sensitise the communities through this to end the bad practice,” said Chelangat.

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, who was the chief guest, urged respective governments to support a United Nations ban on FGM, by getting parliamentary motions adopted, or other measures that commit the government to fighting the bad practice. “Although we ought to protect cultural heritage like the one we have watched here, FGM is a violation of women’s rights. It is a dangerous and irreversible procedure that negatively impacts the general health, child-bearing capabilities and educational opportunities of girls. God is not happy about the practice,” said Kadaga.