Review of Oscar’s documentary of the island of Lamu
Oscar is an accomplished film maker, photographer, safari conductor and story teller who lives in Kenya. One of his most favorite places to visit is the island of Lamu, just off the Kenyan coast. He was so intrigued by the people and their culture that he made a documentary of ‘Kenya’s Magical Island’. The DVD can be purchased directly from Oscar. Write to him on: oscar (at) iconnect.co.ke
The most intriguing sensation while watching this DVD was that so much looked familiar to me! Having lived both in India and Indonesia for many years, I saw so many similarities that made me wonder just who were the first people to make those plaited palm leaf roofs and woven mats (to this day they are being made on Bali), who brought in the talent to make such beautiful carved wooden doors, the likes I have seen in Rajasthan, the restaurant menu written with chalk on a blackboard looks so similar to the ones in North India, the colonial furniture, the silver jewelry, including ear plugs like in Borneo, the cows – no, I am kidding, interestingly there are no cows – they have lots of donkeys instead! Those and incredible gorgeous cats everywhere, who are actual descendants of Egyptian temple cats.
The people on Lamu are essentially Muslim – according to Oscar theirs is an ancient faith that keeps them extremely gentle, ‘real’, and friendly. He inquired about this quality with Muslims from other countries and the general opinion is that Lamu has retained something special that in their own Muslim lands was lost long ago. Purportedly they have Sufi links.Their language is Swahili, the mix of Arabic, Indian and African tongues, and their life seems full of simple pleasures.
Lamu town shows many Arab influences and many buildings are hundreds of years old. It has become a significant center for the study of Islamic and Swahili cultures. On the World Heritage list, the old city of Lamu has been referred to as the oldest settlement in East Africa. The people of Lamu are predominantly fishermen, traders, and notably celebrants, evident from the footage showing them joyfully engaged in many different celebrations.
Oscar said, “The strongest memory I have is of filming the Kalimba players. These are men who play rattles made from two sheets of reeds with beans or small pebbles inside held in between the reeds – about two foot by one foot square. They are played extremely actively by teams of men who dance and sing to the music they make, beating the rattles with their hands and with any conveniently available part of their bodies. The dancing and playing are extremely active and the men look very fit and usually play without shirts on so their bodies are all aglow. They certainly stir up everyone and it’s hard to stand still whilst they are playing.”
An intriguing and important feature in their lives is the kofia, a special intrinsically embroidered hat, notably stitched by men, and another, the absence of cars – there’s only an ambulance and the mayor’s vehicle; people walk or ride on a donkey. However, some foreigners have already built captivating houses in the village of Shela, located about 2 kilometers from Lamu town, and the locals are now actively embracing tourism. The beautiful white sand beach in this area is 12 kilometers long with wide dunes and steady strong winds come in from the Indian Ocean.
It has been an utter pleasure to get a glimpse about the life of people I hadn’t known anything about and now, maybe one day can go visit.
Bhagawati, Osho News