Memories of Rusinga Fest ‘season eight’

Thursday, January 16th, 2020 00:00 |
A warrior performs a jig on the shores of Lake Victoria during the Rusinga Festival held in Homa Bay county. Photo/PD/BARRY SILAH

It is always an exciting moment every time I travel to Western Kenya because I look forward to nostalgic experiences. One of my favourite haunts remains Rusinga Island.  

The main tourism event for this area is the annual Rusinga Festival. This past December was the Eighth Edition and boy, was I not up for it!

Apart from the hustle of travel and finding proper food enroute, the whole sojourn was for me memorable and fun.

The  journey had its fair share of challenges as I left Nairobi with a team of Vitimbi group entertainers. Our vehicle had technical issues, but the mood aboard was happy,  with   the Vitimbi comedians cracking hilarious jokes throughout the trip.

A lunch stop six hours later in Kisii town, 315km from Nairobi, saw us enjoy a meal of fish, nyama choma  with ugali or other snacks, taken with cold drinks, giving us energy to continue. 

We left for Homa Bay shortly thereafter and arrived in Rusinga that evening. Altogether including stoppages, the trip took 10 hours and fatigue was evident.

After driving on a rough murram road, we finally arrived at our destination, the seemingly hidden Kolunga Beach Hotel. Interestingly, by the time we arrived, some activities such as story telling by the fire and musical skits had taken place.

This dampened my mood, considering that I never wanted to miss anything.  However, I made up my mind to enjoy the rest of my stay and learn as much as possible for I was on a mission. 

It was soon  time to freshen up in readiness for a buzz of activities the following day.  However, my sleep that night was interrupted many times by music from the environs, part of the festivities.  

Rusinga island offers magnificent views in the morning hours and this I could not miss after breakfast. The expansive Lake Victoria, which surrounds the island, is usually awash with activity.

Not far off are other islands including Mfangano, Remba and Ndere, which offer rich touristic views. 

The atmosphere was already electric when we got to Kamasengre Primary School grounds in Suba North where the event was to take place. 

The arena was filled to capacity with the main attraction being the Abasuba traditional performances. 

They performed the national anthem in Abasuba language, wowing the crowd, which included Auma Obama, a sister to former US President Barack Obama and Homa Bay county Women Representative, Gladys Wanga.

Other popular performances included Ages Kenya dances, Greeners Arts Dancers from Ahero, Africa Art from Kisumu, Evolution and the Vitimbi comedians. 

The cream of the pie was the Abasuba prayer by the self-styled Suba Cultural Ambassador, Obiero Wakwere.

Other side activities that also captured attention included wrestling, boat racing and tug of war as well in the event partly sponsored by the Tourism Fund, Safaricom, Kenya Airports Authority and the county government of Homa Bay. 

The Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Heritage, Amina Mohammed, who was the key guest, said the Abasuba have a rich culture and it is the government’s duty to help develop and elevate them. 

“I have been asked to consider making this festival a national event, but we have to look at other factors and the county government has to make a formal appeal,” she added. 

After two days of epic fun and interaction with Luo culture, it was time to get back, but not before exploring the rich heritage in the vicinity.

My friends and I took a boat ride to Takawiri Island, ate smoked fish by the beach at Safari Village and enjoyed cold refreshments at Rusinga Lodge as we savoured the remainder of the trip. 

It was soon time to say goodbye to the island and its people. For me the take home was culture;  inert as articulated by the Abasuba community. 

The event, organised by Anne Eboso and her partners never disappointed and crowds have continued to rise. 

“We have continued to grow and it is important to see the Abasuba Culture getting even international recognition,” said Eboso.

“Such festivals give our county positive outlook and for us in the tourism sector. The numbers were low because of heavy rainfall, but since it does not rain all the time,  we are expecting better numbers in future,” said Rusinga Lodge Manager, Young Odongo. 

The county government of Homa Bay has also indicated forming the County Festival Secretariat. 

Later, I took time off to celebrate the festive holidays with my family in Kisumu. 

More on National