Sunday, 14 May 2017



By margaretta wa Gacheru (

If anyone’s in doubt of Nairobi’s status as a global city, they needed to be out this past weekend to see the incredibly rich diversity of cultures and nationalities living and thriving in the city.

From morning to late night, several dozen communities celebrated and shared their cultures around town. By day it was at Nairobi National Museum that the 5th International Cultural Festival ran from morning until late afternoon. And by night it was at Hotel Intercontinental that the 20th annual Gala dinner of the West African Women’s Trust held a glamourous fund-raiser for the visually impaired children who attend the Kilimani Integrated School.

Apparently it was sheer coincidence that both events transpired the same day, especially as only one country participated in both festivities. That was Nigeria.

Otherwise, the countries that took part in the Museum’s festival were mainly Asian (namely China, Indonesia and Japan) African (Somalia, Sudan and Kenya) and Spanish-speaking (Mexico, Spain and a slew of Latin American states).

European cultures (other than Spain) were not represented, unlike previous years. But no matter since the countries who came to the museum created a multicultural food fest, featuring everything from sushi from Japan, tostadas from Mexico, pepper goat stew from Nigeria and yummy sweets from Indonesia. Kenya’s ‘cuisine’ included Swahili dishes while Somalis also brought traditional foods given freely to all who reach their booth in good time.

Plus practically every country had a chance to perform their people’s traditional songs and dances, from the Chinese (who were taking part in the festival for the first time) and Indonesian to the Somalis, Mexicans and Kenyans. The Museum also laid out ancient skulls and skeletons to illustrate why Kenya’s called ‘the cradle of humanity’.

In all, the global showcase at the Museum was impressive. However, when it came to global glamour, the West African Women’s Trust event was incomparable. From the moment the ladies walked into the InterContinental’s Grand Ballroom, one witnessed a glorious fashion fest.

The men who accompanied their wives were also immaculately attired. But it’s simply a fact that West African women have the continental corner on glamourous gowns made out of brightly colored materials that are classically designed both as dresses with matching headpieces and elegant shawls.  

Having spent time working in West Africa, I was well aware the evening would be an event of high fashion. But I hadn’t known that in a somewhat similar style to the museum, the ladies also organized traditional dances from the 13 Trust member countries as well as popular traditional foods. There were also several performances of traditional cultural practices specifically related to pre-wedding ceremonies, which were spectacular as well.

Among the countries represented by the Trust are Nigeria (which founded the Nairobi-based West African Women’s Trust two decades ago), Ghana, Gambia, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Cape Verdi, Sierra Leone and Mauritania among others. But as the Gala’s Guest of Honor, the Stanbank CEO for Kenya and East Africa observed, the Trust is commendable for its focus on service and advancing the cause of Kenyan education. The women have raised funds to build classrooms and a science lab in slum areas. They’ve given out scholarship to girls enabling them to complete secondary school and university. And currently, they’re fundraising to the Kilimani School that’s got a special unit to serve visually impaired students.

So as glamourous as the ladies of the West African Women’s Trust may be, they are not just beautiful people. They also take serious interest in serving the Kenyan community.

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