Asili - a dedication

Asili is a wonderful Kiswahili word that contains many meanings. It can be used to say beginning or origin, and it also describes the essence of something, as well as reason. Asili is also the word used to describe ancestors, meaning those people long ago who created societies and their cultures, who bore its first people, and who remain alive even today in the collective memory of the people.

For many Africans, when a person dies, he or she is not really dead, but lives on instead in a spirit world, an underworld, or else in a state of limbo. Sometimes, the living - through prayer, invocation, sacrifice or dance - can contact them to ask advice, or forgiveness, or placate their rage, or ask them to intercede with the spirits or gods to bring rain to a dry and dusty land. These ancestors remain alive not only because they can help or hinder the living, but because they are remembered. For in remembrance lies persistence, which is continuity, which is the link from the past through the present and into the future. Only when the ancestors are remembered no more, and are truly forgotten, do they finally disappear into the void of nothingness.

Unfortunately, traditional Kenyan cultures are disappearing fast, and with it their music - ngoma ya kiasili. This work is dedicated to the surviving traditional cultures of Kenya, to the memory of those that have already been lost, and to the Asili, in the hope that they may not all be forgotten.


Traditional Music & Cultures of Kenya
Copyright Jens Finke, 2000-2003

also by Jens Finke
Chasing the Lizard's Tail - across the Sahara by bicycle - fine art photography