The Diani Ngalawa Regatta, now in its 10th year, is the only event on the South Coast which showcases traditional local culture. The fishermen from along the beach come together to race their ngalawas (canoes with outriggers dug out of giant mango trees). Their skill in maneuvering their boats as they fly across the waves is a breathtaking sight for anyone lucky enough to witness.
You can join the fun by sponsoring a boat, crewing, learning how to sail or just cheering them on. This is a day thoroughly enjoyed by tourist and locals alike and people travel from far and wide to experience it. Watch the dancing and listen to the songs and stories at the festival, all in celebration of the traditional culture of the Mijikenda Digo, the local people of the South Coast. Local handicrafts and produce are for sale too and you can even enjoy a fashion show, demonstrating the various ways to wear local fabrics.
Traditional Artisanal crafts
Local handicrafts are for sale – woven mats, hats, baskets etc., lessos (traditional wraps) – and the income from this goes to women’s groups. Local produce is also available and there are stalls featuring various items of local interest.
Mama Lesso is a fashion show featuring the Lesso or Kanga, a traditional fabric worn by women all along the coast of Kenya and Tanzania. The Lesso is a piece of cotton fabric which can be tied to make a skirt, top, scarf, hat, sling for a baby amongst other uses. Written on the fabric is a Swahili proverb, sometimes worn as a message from the giver – say a husband or mother – or as a message from the wearer although the choice of lesso can be simply an aesthetic decision based on colours and pattern.
The models are judged on their choice of colour combination and the elegance of their outfits. This is a fun and colourful event and tourists can learn how to use the fabric while locals can be inspired to try out new combinations. Lesso/Kanga are also for sale.
Traditional Music and Dance
Traditional Kenyan song and dance, since ancient times, has been used as a form of communication and self-expression and is a way for Kenyans to stay connected to their ancestral heritage. In Kenyan culture, there are many different types of dance which all a carry a unique significance and purpose. These dances are performed at weddings, funerals, and special events. They can be done to welcome prominent people, to heal the sick and to promote good weather. Dance represents major personal milestones and celebrates some of life’s happiest moments.
Traditional food and spices
The Digo are considered some of the best cooks in Kenya. Wali, rice prepared with coconut milk, is a popular Kenyan food, is also a staple of the Mijikenda. Fish and other seafood are also common in Mijikenda cuisine. Mothers from areas away from the coast warn their sons never to accept food from a Digo woman or they will marry her and live far from home!