Kenya has announced the impending removal of visa requirements for all African visitors by the end of this year, President William Ruto has said.
The Yaaku, a name which translates to the hunting people, migrated from Ethiopia to the caves and hills of the Mukogodo forest in Kenya’s Rift Valley more than a century ago.They were known to keep bees and began trading with the Maasai, the country’s largest pastoral people. The Yaaku eventually assimilated into Masai culture, adopting the Masai tongue over their own Cushitic language.
Arizona native Chanice a.k.a. Queenie is a New York State agency employee and the CEO of Fly With Queenie, a company specializing in curating worldwide experiences for travelers.
The 32-year-old mother of one is of Jamaican heritage and has traveled all over the world. Her most recent trip to Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya however, has been her most memorable trip to date.
“My first experience in Africa was in Morocco, but I didn’t feel like I was in Africa and I didn’t get that feeling of connection when I was there,” she told Travel Noire. “I spent a week in Kenya, where I saw animals I’ve never seen before on the safari, ate delicious Swahili food, and swam in beautiful clear water.”
In Kenya, Queenie also visited a Maasai tribe in a remote village about a four-hour drive from Nairobi. There she had the opportunity to learn about their culture and daily lives
“I learned that Masaai men have multiple wives and got to meet all three wives and the husband, which was pretty cool. It’s funny because although the family dynamics are very different from how we do things in the United States, when it came to marriage everybody was happy. The wives and all the kids were just so happy.”
“The Maasai people rely on very little to survive, which taught me the importance of simplicity. Unfortunately, the Maasai are a dying tribe. The dry seasons in East Africa are becoming longer due to climate change, and they are suffering from droughts and drying crops.”
Queenie encourages others to visit the Masaai tribe and support them to aid in their survival. A conscious traveler, she also visited an orphanage during her time in Kenya.
“I feel like there’s no way I can be blessed and not bless others, especially, in the land of my ancestors and where my brothers and sisters reside. I wanted to do an act of kindness so the kids could know that they are loved. It really takes a village and I want to be part of that village. Meeting the kids made me feel complete in a sense.”
“I danced and sang with the children and gave them lots of hugs. I told all the girls how beautiful they were and how nice their hair and skin was. Little Black girls often struggle at some point with their self image, so I wanted them to know that they were absolutely beautiful. My friends and I passed out items we brought with us from the States, like toothbrushes, toothpaste, toys, school supplies, hair items, candy, and more.”
Queenie returned home feeling like she needed to do more for the children. After receiving many messages from people who also wanted to give back to the orphanage, she decided to do a fundraiser.
With an outpouring of love and support, Queenie and her friends raised over $1,000 within 72 hours. This was enough to pay two months worth of rent, and purchase food and personal hygiene products for the children.
Queenie says one of the reasons she loves Africa is because of the sense of belonging she feels there.
“In Kenya I didn’t feel Black, I just felt human. I blended right in and I didn’t have things like people and systems constantly reminding me every day that I was Black. I could just exist as a human being.”
She encourages all Black people to visit Africa to learn more about their history and to dispel any misconceptions they may have about the continent by seeing and researching for themselves.
“When you mix the controlled media with the lack of true education in the school system you get ignorance. People are sponges who listen to the media and believe it because they assume a news outlet must be telling the truth. The failure to take initiative and do one’s own research is the reason people are so miseducated.”
As someone with a passion for studying and learning about Africa and Black history, Queenie was well aware that Africa was not what the Western media portrayed it to be long before she even booked her flight.
“I was just excited to showcase Kenya’s gems and show people that it is a luxury travel destination and more than just slums. To be honest, though, I never knew ‘hakuna matata’ was a real Swahili phrase. I thought it was a phrase that was made up for The Lion King movie.”
That is part of the beauty of traveling. You learn more about not only the world, but yourself as well. Queenie says she never realized she had a soft spot for animals until she experienced the Kenyan safari and saw animals such as zebras, giraffes, and warthogs up close.
For this year’s travels, Queenie plans to focus on seeing more of Africa. She has a trip every month and is most looking forward to exploring Ghana in August. You can follow her at @flywithqueen
Kenya has imposed a new lockdown to combat a surge in coronavirus infections.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday announced a ban on all inland travel in the capital Nairobi and out four other counties.
Kenya’s Covid-19 positivity rate has jumped from 2% to 22% between January and March and Nairobi accounts for nearly 60% of the cases-
Kenyatta said that hospital admissions had increased 52% in the past two weeks and that at least seven people are dying every day from coronavirus.
What do the new measures mean?
No road, rail or air transport will be permitted in Nairobi, Kajiado, Kiambu, Machakos and Nakuru.
In person, meetings will also be banned.
As for curfew, hours now start at 20:00 until 04:00 am (instead of 22:00 until 04:00 am`) in the five counties. Special passes that allowed people to travel during curfew hours have also been revoked.
Alcohol sales in the areas have also been banned and restaurants can only provide takeaway services.
The president also ordered “an immediate suspension of all face-to-face teaching, which includes universities”, with the exception of students currently taking exams.
Kenya reopened its schools and colleges in early January, which had been closed for ten months.
All sporting events are also suspended.
International travel is permitted but subject to a negative coronavirus test.
The new measures begin on Friday at midnight.
Coronavirus in Kenya
This week Kenya recorded between 1,000 and 1,500 cases per day.
“According to our health experts, our third wave started to gain strength in early March,” said Kenyatta.
The peak of this wave is expected in the next 30 days, with more than 2,500 to 3,000 cases per day,” he added.
Recognising the impact these decisions will have on the economy, Kenyatta added that these “measures are temporary and necessary to contain the spread of the disease and therefore to stop further loss of life.”
“I am convinced that the cost of inaction would be much worse,” he said.
Kunga Kihohia went to one of the best schools in Florida. He graduated, was making money, and then one day lost everything. He ended up homeless in Miami, sleeping in his car. Then a trip to Kenya would change his life.
His parents are from Kenya, but he was born and raised and spent most of his life in Florida.
He traveled to Kenya for the first time at the age of 10 and stayed there for about five years, where he learned his parents’ native tongue. He traveled back to the US for high school and college, where he graduated from Florida International University in Miami.
Kihohia didn’t travel to Kenya for more than 15 years once he was back in the states. After spending some time working in corporate America, he told Travel Noire in an interview that he realized he was “psychologically unemployable.”
“I was in the business-world chasing money, making a lot of money, but I was really unhappy because I had moved away from my purpose,” he said, adding that he found himself overweight and overall, unhappy.
So, Kihohia went on a journey to Kenya to find himself and, ultimately, save his life.
“I started this journey of coming back to nature and coming back to my own peace, which involved coming back to Africa. The lifestyle I had gotten involved with was putting me on a path of self-destruction.”
The trip was only supposed to last for three weeks. It took him some time to adjust, as it was his first time back to Kenya in more than a decade. As he began to settle, he realized that people in Kenya were far more content despite some challenges, than people in America.
Back To Nature Organic Farm
Kihohia said he’s always been a serial entrepreneur, but Back To Nature Organic Farm grew out of his interests and passion.
“The farm is only part of a larger vision, and a larger movement called the “Back to Nature Movement.” It’s part of our philosophy and ideology that states, “the closer we are to nature, the more whole, happy, at peace and at ease we are.”
Through the organic farm and the movement, Kihohia said that his mission is to inspire, motivate and encourage Kenyans, East Africans, Africans, including those from the diaspora, to adopt a more natural holistic lifestyle approach towards maintaining or regaining health and wellness.
With a few other like-minded individuals, Kihohia decided that they wanted to control the food system as they saw a rise in diseases in Kenya, such as cancer, hypertension, and more.
“When there’s a will, there’s a way. We started learning all the components about the soil water systems, harvesting and post-harvest losses, markets, dealing with human resources, human capital […] there are so many components, but we belly-flopped into it.”
2021 will mark the fifth anniversary of his journey back home and back to nature. During this time, Kihohia went from obese, stressed, and homeless to the founder of one of the largest organic farms in Kenya, where he’s happy and living life with no regrets.
“My advice to anyone looking to make a move abroad, especially to Africa, is to follow your heart. At the end of the day, this life is temporary. No one gets out alive. We all sign a contract unwittingly that no one leaves alive. It’s vital that while you have your time on this earth, to make it as significant as possible, give it meaning,” said Kihohia.
To learn more about Back to Nature, visit the IG page: @backtonatureafrika.
Source: Travel Noire
#Pride Month: Telling the stories of LGBTQ Africans isn’t easy. Considering anti-queer laws and homophobic and transphobic attitudes present in some of the continent’s countries, even openly identifying as anything other than straight or the sex one was assigned at birth can be a death sentence. And yet, people like Samuel, the subject of Kenyan director Peter Murimi’s feature documentary debut I Am Samuel, still want to live and love as their authentic selves even if it means making sacrifices
Samuel grew up in the Kenyan countryside, where tradition is valued above all else. He is close to his mother but his father, a local pastor, doesn’t understand why he isn’t married yet. After moving to Kenya’s capital in search of work and a new life, Samuel falls in love with Alex and finds community and belonging. Despite the threat of violence in the city and of rejection by Samuel’s family in their rural home, the couple move between their co-existing worlds, hoping to win acceptance in both. Samuel’s story is one that award winning director Pete Murimi, and well-acclaimed producer, Toni Kamau, beautifully portray in their recently released documentary, I am Samuel. The documentary was edited by Ricardo Acosta C.C.E and Phil Jandaly, two well regarded editors in the international film community.
Filmed in a vérité style over five years, the documentary was made possible through grants from Sundance, Hot Docs, IDFA Bertha, Oak Foundation, Heinrich Boll Foundation, Good Pitch, Afridocs and Docubox. Docubox, headed by award-winning Kenyan filmmaker Judy Kibinge is a documentary and fiction film fund for African filmmakers. Judy also serves as an Executive Producer on the project along with Peter Mudamba and Oscar winning director Roger Ross Williams.
On a three-way call with Murimi and Kamau, Okayafrica film columnistCiku Kimeria, discusses with the duo the inspiration and key themes of the documentary. I am Samuel recently premiered at 2020 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and will be at the upcoming Human Rights Watch Film Festival and available to US audiences most of this month.
Murimi’s motivation for telling this story is based on his own experiences as a young man. “My own father’s expectations of me were that I would go into business, marry someone preferably from my neighbourhood or community and that we would have children. I did not fulfill any of his wishes and it made me think of African expectations of masculinity and what a man “should” do and the weight of family expectations.” Of course, his own circumstances are different from Samuel’s, a closeted gay man living in Nairobi with his partner, knowing that the revelation of his sexual orientation, will tear his family apart. However, he can understand the burden of not being able to follow the path your parents carve out for you. As a filmmaker, his work has focused on telling stories of the marginalized and especially those that make viewers question the prevailing narratives. He adds, “It is very rare for a poor, uneducated gay man to be given a platform to tell his story from his point of view, particularly in Kenya where such love is not accepted by society. Money and privilege can buy some privacy and security if you are gay, but Samuel has none of that.” In Kenya, homosexuality is still criminalized under colonial-era laws. People who identify as queer aren’t able to love or live openly, and face the threat of assault, abuse and discrimination. Kamau, on her part, uses her production company, We are not the machine, to also tell stories of outsiders. “As soon as Pete called me about this project, I knew that we had to work together,” she says.
Conservatism and Religion
The discussion brings us to a theme that is quite dominant in I am Samuel. Samuel’s father is a pastor and therefore Samuel’s sexual orientation goes against his father’s religious beliefs and convictions. What is equally fascinating is that Samuel is also quite religious and extremely conservative. Kamau says, “This was just the reality of who he is. We are used to people being either one thing or the other, but here we have a man who is conservative, traditional, religious and gay. None of his identities obscures the other. He is not the image people have when they think of a gay man, and I think this is an important part to capture.” Reflecting on the othering that society normally has of LGBTQIA+ individuals, she adds “It’s easier for people to believe that they don’t exist or that if they do, they are completely removed from normal life. Samuel will make hopefully make Kenyan audiences question this belief.”
Coming Out and Acceptance
In the course of the five years of filming, Samuel finally does reveal his identity to his family and the expected fallout is painful to watch. Moving from having a close relationship with his family to having his father not speak to him for close to a year is difficult for him. Finally, there is a form of acceptance that comes from his family – one that they will not discuss the matter again and that they somewhat accept his partner as a friend of sorts. This element brings us to the discussion of the contextualization of coming out. “In the Western context, coming out means fully publicly declaring one’s sexual orientation. For majority of those in this community in different African countries, the most they can hope for is revealing their true identity to close family and friends. Most times this still comes with the risk of losing their family. Murimi adds, “Acceptance means different things to different people. In the context where homosexuality is criminalized in most African countries, where public sentiment against the community is generally very hostile and where violence against members of the community if they are discovered is quite common, most people can never come out in the form that people do in the West.”
Where to Watch
For updates on when the documentary will be available in your city, check out the documentary’s Facebook page.
I Am Samuel’s next confirmed screening is at the Atlanta Film Festival, which has been rescheduled for September 2020.