The political role of ‘cultural entrepreneurs’ in Kenya: Claiming recognition through the memorialisation of Koitalel Samoei and Nandi heritage

@Chloe Josse-Durand

@Chloe Josse-Durand

Article is available online

The article focuses on historical narratives and the teleological development and political discourses that led to the iconisation of Koitalel Samoei, a local hero from the Nandi Highlands of the Northern Rift Valley, recently recognised as an early freedom fighter for the independence of Kenya. In addition, the article examines the local personalities involved in contemporary political and economic claims made in the name of the Nandi community and culture (called  cultural entrepreneurs), and highlights their individual and collective agendas. The connections between cultural entrepreneurs and the top-down use of heritage by the state and other institutional actors in the cultural sphere (for example, the National Museums of Kenya) is made though a case study of the museum and mausoleum dedicated to Koitalel Samoei in Nandi County, which opened to the public in December 2007.

Chloé Josse-Durand is deputy director of IFRA-Nairobi, and research fellow at Les Afriques dans le Monde, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Bordeaux, France. Her work focuses on actors in the Kenyan heritage sphere occupying an intermediary position in political negotiations and public decision-making in the Rift Valley, Nandi County, analysing the political dynamics surrounding the creation of memorial institutions such as museums, mausoleums and heroes’ monuments. Her research also investigates the politics of historical narratives and memorialisation in Kenya and the growing salience of ethnic identities in the political sphere.

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