Much of African culture places great emphasis on appearance and therefore on jewelry. African jewelry has been given tremendous attention for centuries. Each piece of African jewelry is an imaginary journey through the rituals and culture of an African tribe. These unique items captures the mystery and fashion of Africa. African ethnic jewelry designs such as earrings, necklaces and pendants are often hand made and have the latest animal print designs. Alan Donovan of the African Heritage fame still produces five lines of jewellery. Besides the original African Heritage Jewellery created from elements from across the African continent, and the Jungle Safari and Nala lines, there is ‘Endangered Art’, a workshop using mostly silver and gold elements with semi precious and precious stones and ‘Malaika’ created mostly from brass sheets and local material, a workshop started for poor people in one of the large slums of Nairobi. For more on African Heritage Jewellery visit africanheritage.net.
Graphical art in Kenya is derived from rock art patterns, but also heavily influenced from the Swahili and Arab culture. Kenyan painting has gradually developed incorporating traditional designs with modern technique. At the National Museum an independent trust, called the Kuona Trust, has been established to foster and encourage Kenyan artists. Kenya with its many art galleries has an invaluable artistic wealth.
Today, most art and craft production is for the lucrative tourist market. Items produced for the tourist market include sisal baskets, Maasai bead jewelry, musical instruments, and silver and gold jewelry, soapstone sculptures, wooden carvings, tribal masks and Maasai figurines. paintings, prints and sculptures, batik cloth, and kangas—women’s wraparound skirts with beautiful patterns, and often Kenyan proverbs printed on them and kikois - type of sarong for men that comes in many different colors and textiles. There are arts and craft markets and shops throughout the main tourist centres - each with a great diversity of items offered and quality available
The first published writing by Kenyan authors was born out of the experience of colonialism and the struggle for independence. One of Kenya's best known authors is Ngugi wa Thiongo an idealistic and skilled author whose work, published in both English and Kikuyu, is rich in themes of social, political and personal liberation. Probably his most accessible work for Western audiences is Weep Not Child a moving account of young Kikuyu men whose lives are changed by the struggle for independence. This novel provides an interesting alternative perspective to the mass of Kenyan colonial literature.
The colonial experience in Kenya prompted a great deal of literary output, from the accounts of the early explorers onwards. JH Patterson's sensational tale of his battle with The Maneaters of Tsavo became a major bestseller and prompted a new genre of safari and hunting literature. Among the annals of Kenyan big game hunting, one of the best known is Ernest Hemingway's The Green Hills of Africa, an account of his days hunting throughout Tsavo and the Chyulu region.
One of the best loved accounts of Kenyan colonial life was written by acclaimed Danish author Karen Blixen. Out of Africa, written under her pseudonym Isak Dinesen, is a lyrical tale of her life on a coffee plantation outside Nairobi. Full of rich descriptions of the country and its wildlife, the book also says a great deal about the emotional isolation and uncertainty of her life in Kenya.
Kenya's reputation as a haven for eccentrics and bohemians attracted many independent spirits to Kenya, and produced an interesting body of literature. Beryl Markham's West with the Night is an adventurous and evocative account of her flying, hunting and traveling through Kenya in the first half of the 20th Century. Joy Adamson's Born Free was one of the first real calls for conservation of Kenya's great bounty of wildlife, and sparked a great deal of international attention.
The autobiography of Italian born Kuki Gallmann, I dreamed of Africa, is a major bestseller. The book is a lyrical account of her life on a ranch in Laikipia, filled with vivid descriptions of natural beauty, the pain of emotional loss and the joy of freedom.
The American photographer Peter Beard has spent a great deal of time in Kenya, and produced several books about the country. The best of these is undoubtedly The End of the Game a beautiful and important book about wildlife conservation, which manages to be both a brilliant work of modern art and a serious ecological commentary.