Kenya, Beyond Safari and Tribalism

© Vivian

© Vivian

Vivian, a Kenyan-Swedish student on an exchange program in Nursing at Monash University has come a long way to get to Australia. She left Kenya at the age of 9 years and she tells what it means to her being Kenyan and African.

To give you a clearer picture of the country, she reminds us that “Kenya isn’t just wild animals running around people’s gardens, it isn’t only children dying of hunger and people living in mud houses”. Yes, Kenya is more than that. “I have seen more beautiful places in Kenya than anywhere else”, Vivian stresses that the natural beauty of Kenya has a spiritual aspect.

 

Vivian is very proud of her native country and describes its natural beauty:

Kenya is home to over 200 tribes and Vivian was born from a Luo father and a Kisii mother. Her parents come from two different tribes settled down in Kisumu where Vivian was born and grew up as a Luo. Kisumu is about 8 hours away from Nairobi located along the bank of the largest lake in Africa, Lake Victoria. As the Kenyan tradition commands, wife and child adapted to the habits and customs of the father’s tribe. Vivian comments that the Luos are “known to be very calm people and spiritual compared to the other tribes”. Her mother’s tribe, the Kisiis represent a minority in the country, “it is a tribe that stands together with a family-oriented mindset. Because they are a minority they back up each other”.

Even if she doesn’t speak her maternal language, Vivian is still strongly related to her Kisii family and is always very welcomed in the community.

Similarly to other African countries home to hundred of tribes, all tribes in Kenya are aware of cultural differences and always adapt their behaviour according to who they meet. Vivian is very interested in African Black History and to her opinion “creating different ethnic groups dates back from colonial period to better exploit the country. Because at the end of the day, we are all Kenyans”.

Even if she feels Luo, she is very proud of being Kenyan, “I can go to any Kenyan family who will always be helpful if I’m in need”.

At the age of 9 years, Vivian and fer family settled in Sweden for political reasons. Over there, being a Luo didn’t mean anything but she quickly identified herself as a Kenyan and to some extent as an African. As her father had overcome cultural challenges in his country, he helped her to do the same in Sweden. She grew up learning the language and got to understand Swedish habits and customs. Two years ago, she entered one of the best medical schools in the country to start her nursing studies. “I want to travel and nursing is a good way to travel around because wherever you are, there is an hospital. I want to educate myself to be able to give more”.

Since being in Australia, Vivian has remarked how friendly Australians can be. However, she constantly feels the need to correct people’s impressions of her country; for example, clichéd ideas that she is a refugee or that she had lions in her backyard.

Vivian will very soon become a professional nurse to make a difference in people’s life but she is also a very talented dancer of dance hall. She has made appearance on Swedish TV and was on stage here in Australia with the famous singer Twister. Today, she keeps collaborating with other artists who are conquered by her talent. Have a look yourself!

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