The Best Annual Festivals in Kenya

African man in cultural attire

Like most countries in this world, Kenya has a host of annual festivals that celebrate the diverse culture and traditions of her people. Sometime back, we featured six of the best cultural events you wouldn’t want to miss in Kenya. We also talked about ten must-attend festivals within the country.

As is the case with everything else, time changes things. These cultural events are not an exception to that rule. While some have stood the test of time, there are those that have fallen of the annual cultural festival calendars and there are those that have been added to the list. Today, we are going to take a look at some of the most exciting and current cultural festivals in Kenya.

Must-attend festivals in Kenya as of 2018

Before we begin, it must be said that these festivals are some of the most authentic events that you can attend. Not only do they feature traditional forms of entertainment but they also bring to you excellent educational material, contemporary preferences of the local people and an opportunity for you to explore Kenya as you travel to her farthest corners to marvel at what that region has to offer. With that being said, here are some annual cultural festivals that you may want to put on your travel calendar.

The Rusinga Cultural Festival

Rusinga island in one of the many islands found in Lake Victoria to the west of Kenya. The island is not only home to some of the best beach resorts in the region (Rusinga Island Lodge) but it is also home to the “Rusinga Island Festival”.

This 2-day festival is designed to showcase the Suba culture and takes place every last Thursday and Friday before each Christmas. Not only do you get to go to an island in Lake Victoria but you also get to enjoy excellent music (both traditional and contemporary), cultural sporting exhibitions such as wrestling and sample some of the most sumptuous local cuisines while you are there.

The Koroga Festival

Artiste performing on stage at the Koroga Festival

Image Credit: Koroga Festival

Beautiful ladies attending the Koroga Festival

Image Credit: Koroga Festival

Well, this isn’t exactly an annual festival and neither is it a cultural festival. You are probably wondering why it made the list. The answer is simple; it is one of the most popular festivals in Nairobi to date. Sponsored by Capital FM (one of Kenya’s leading radio stations) the Koroga Festival is the one event you can attend and find a wonderful amalgamation of talent, art, food and people.

“koroga” is a Swahili word directly translated as “mix” and that is exactly what this festival is about; mixing different forms of entertainment and infusing it all into one entertaining Sunday afternoon. It is so popular that it has attracted some of Africa’s, and indeed the world’s leading artists and musicians such as Diamond, Papa Wemba, Yvonne Chakachaka and Koffi Olomide.

The Shela Hat Contest

How does this sound:

  • Gorgeous white sandy beaches
  • Excellent weather
  • Entertaining Dhow races
  • A DJ on the beach
  • A free soul concert
Men at the Shela Hat Festival

Image Credit: Shela Hat Festival

If you are thinking that sounds like a plan, then you might want to head down to Lamu’s Shela village for the “Shela Hat Contest“. The contest is all about different forms of creativity from the locals who have to cope with an ever-present sun. While that might only sound like a good thing for those of us who come from colder parts of the country, for the people of Shela and Lamu in general, it is somewhat a threat to their livelihoods (working under the scorching sun is rather taxing).

That is why they came up with the “Shela Hat Contest”; to showcase all the crazy artsy lengths the locals have gone to shield themselves from that sun. The hat designs are out of this world, the Dhow contest is just spectacular and the music is absolutely jumping.

Lamu Yoga Festival

Still, in Lamu, the “Lamu Yoga Festival” is a 4-day festival for those who like inner peace and a little sunshine on the beach. The festival is designed to bring more than 26 Yoga professionals to the island. During the festival, attendees will be able to attend over 150 Yoga classes and enjoy other activities such as:

  • Swahili cuisine
  • Dhow sailing
  • Interact with international Yoga professionals
People doing Yoga on the beach

Image Credit: Lamu Yoga Festival

The next date is set for March 18th-22nd, 2019. You can find all the information you need for the “Lamu Yoga Festival” on their website. It is held on Manda Island (one of the most beautiful and relaxing islands of the Lamu Archipelago).

The PAWA Festival

This is Kenya’s smaller yet still quite vibrant version of the Mardi Gras. This is an annual street festival held every December (dates to be announced). During the PAWA Festival, an assortment of artists including dancers, musicians, actors and stylists cordon off one street in Nairobi’s CBD and showcase their talents to an awe-struck audience made of…well, anyone who wants to attend. It is a way to bring art and cultural awareness to those who do not go to galleries, theatres and the likes.

Apart from these festivals, there are a host of other events that you really should try to attend. Some of these are a staple for Kenyans living in Nairobi while others are geared towards enthusiasts from the world over who have rather specific interests:

Rhino charge

Image Credit: Rhino Charge

Every single one of these events is designed to speak to the artist and the eccentric in you. If you have been looking for something to do or other forms of entertainments that encourage you to tour Kenya and not just head down to the coast for some sun and sand, then you simply must try attending one of these festivals. The best part is that the dates are always announced either through the numerous popular radio stations in the country, on TV and on social media. You cannot miss them. Some dedicated websites where you can find all the information you need about that particular festival.

Have you attended any exciting cultural festivals in Kenya? Share your experience with us in the comment section below.

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