Sunday, September 18, 2011


Nyatiti is an eight-stringed plucked lyre from Kenya. It is a classical instrument used by the Luo people located in the Nyanza western region in Kenya. It is about three feet long. The player of Nyatiti holds it to his chest, seated on a low stool, with the base firmly to the ground. Usually it is played together with the oporo, a curved horn.

Goyo Otenga is the dance for Nyatiti music. Otenga is the Luo word for eagle. Dancers move their shoulders, arms, fingers, legs and feet like an Eagle.

The performer has three tasks when playing the Nyatiti: percussion, strings, and vocal.

The Nyatiti is played sitting low to the ground, while keeping a small distance from your body. You also put iron bells called "gara" on your right ankle and a metal ring called "oduongo" on the big toe of your right foot. Then, you sing and play keeping the beat by tapping the ring on the edge of the Nyatiti. The Nyatiti is also called Kanbanane. "Kanba" means string and "nane" means eight, so it literally means "eight strings".
The body is made of a hollowed fig tree and is like a hemisphere. Cow skin is put on the surface of the hemisphere. Nylon fishing lines are used for the eight strings, which have three thicknesses. In the past, female cow's Achilles' tendons were used for the strings instead of the fishing lines. Two thin bamboos like sticks and wood chips are bonded together by bee wax, which creates a deep echoing sound. There are reasons why the Nyatiti has eight strings, why only men are allowed to play it and why it is called "Nyatiti". The first four days after a male’s birth and after his death are said to be very special in Luo culture. In Nyatiti, the lower four strings represent the first four days of his birth and the upper four strings represent the four days after his death.
Source Anyango Website

Ayub Ogada is one of the few Luo music artists who have made it both on the national and international music scene. Here he plays the nyatiti to one of his famed songs Obiero

And this lady from Japan could not resist---

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PittRivers Museum

Saturday, September 10, 2011


The Herero or Ovaherero - were nomadic herdsman who at the time of European contact, lived in Namibia and Botswana. They comprised several subgroups, which include the Himba, Ovatjimba, Mbanderu or Ovambanderu and the Kwandu. Related groups living in Angola include the Kuvale, Zemba, Hakawona, Tjavikwa, Tjimba and Himba. The Herero are thought to have migrated from East Africa into present day Namibia during from the seventeenth century. At some point they came into contact and conflict with another pastoral people known as Nama - Hottentot or Khoi Khoi.

In Namibia Herero's are mostly found in the central and eastern parts of the country. The Herero can be divided into several sub-groups the biggest of which includes the Tjimba and Ndamuranda groups who live Kaokoland, the Mahereo who are found around Okahandja and the Zeraua who are found in the area around Omaruru. A group called the Mbandero occupy an area in eastern Namibia, around the town of Gobabis, which was formerly known as Hereroland. Until the colonial period the Herero prospered in the central grassland areas, where there was ample grazing for their cattle, but a succession of battles with the northward migrating Nama, and more severely the German colonial troops led to about 75% of the Herero population been exterminated. Estimates are that of the 80 000 Herero in Namibia in 1900 only about 16 000 remained by 1905. During this period large numbers of Herero fled to the safety of Botswana, but since independence some of the early migrants have begun to return to Namibia. The Herero are proud cattle farmers who measure their wealth in cattle, the importance of cattle to these people is even evident in the Herero womens' dresses.

The traditional dress is derived from a Victorian woman's dress, and consists of an enormous crinoline worn over a several petticoats, a horn shaped hat (said to represent the horns of a cow) made from rolled cloth is also worn. Many Herero women dorn the outfits every year on during the traditional Herero festival is held in Okahandja- Maherero day.

According to My Beautiful Namibia Herero women regard the outfits as 'proper dress' for traditional married women. By wearing the long dress, a newly married woman shows her in laws that she is willing to take up the responsibilities of a Herero home and will raise her children to respect their heritage and their father’s family. The long dress is heavy, hard to keep clean and laborious and expensive to make. The outfit has changed over the years to reflect the style of new generations, and sewing it allows women to show their personal skill and creativity. The Herero women’s long dress has become a symbol of Herero tradition for Herero, tourists, scholars and other Namibians. Women are selling dolls wearing exact replicas of the long dress to tourists and crafts organizations. This suggests that they continue to find new ways to express their individual and traditional identities.

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