Reimagining identities through orality: Political songs among the Borana of Northern Kenya during the 1960s political party formations
Keywords:Borana, Northern Kenya, political songs, NPUA, NPPPP, identity
This paper is a reading of the political events and discourses around nationalism using orality at the eve of Kenya’s independence during which period the people of Northern Kenya were confronted with the quest(ion) of belongingness to two African countries, namely Somalia and Kenya. On the one hand, their Kenyanness was determined and framed by the colonial border which disregarded ethnic, religious and cultural affiliation of the people. On the other hand, their gravitation towards Somalia was predicated upon assumed notions of cultural affinity and shared religious beliefs. While the Somali from Kenya wanted to secede in toto, the Borana on the contrary were divided, some chose Kenya over Somalia in a show of patriotic national consciousness as shown in the song they composed for this purpose. The employment of song performances is a site of individual and communal reflection. The very instruments of unification such as religion used by the Somali to legitimize their claim are contested by singers who invoke alternative paradigm of religions from the Islamic one. A fresh dimension of identity formulation emerges. People disregard ways in which they have been imagined and categorized as Muslim, Somali or Cushitic, to instead reimagine themselves as Borana, Oromo and Kenyan. The paper argues that the Kenyan Borana had a collective desire to be part of the other non-Somali Kenyans even though they were religiously and ethnically different from them. The song is used as sites of contestation that envoice the rejection of Somali nationalism and reaffirmation of their belongingness and loyalty to the Kenyan nation.
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