The tradition of painting houses with special clay and painting on mud walls, once common in western Kenya, is fading.
Women no longer scoop clay from riverbanks or smear fresh cow dung on their homes, as in the tradition of the days leading up to Christmas.
Special clay was mixed with cow dung and ash before the woman set out to decorate a small hut across the village.
Today, many are embracing semi-permanent and permanent homes that do not require decoration.
Rose Umba, 42, who lives in the village of Mukaba in Kakamega North, finds her busy changing her home in preparation for Christmas.
She is one of the few who has adhered to the centuries-old tradition of decorating homes to herald the arrival of the holidays.
According to Umba, she got clay soil from a nearby wetland.
“Before mixing with fresh cow dung, break it into small particles and stir vigorously with water until a soft mixture is obtained.”
The mixture is evenly and carefully applied to the walls of the house, giving it a stunning look that looks like it was plastered with cement.
She then says she will wait three days for the house to dry before embarking on a decoration with colored clay.
“I get different kinds of colored clay from the river to decorate my house. I use charcoal paste, long raw bananas, battery cells, green pumpkin leaves, toothbrushes or sponges. Can also be clean and attractive. ”
Draw a flower
According to Umba, the end result is a beautiful home that “feels as good as someone who owns a permanent home.”
She first uses colored smear to create vertical and horizontal lines before using bananas to outline the lines.
“You can draw flowers, draw festive themes and pictures of your choice. Before repainting the house, the house can remain attractive for two years.”
When they are working, people draw inspiration from nature. Art was passed down from mother to daughter. Decorated homes enhance family love and unity, says Wumba.
Umba passed on the skill to the children. She has also learned skills since she was a child and has been cherishing them ever since.
According to her, the art of decorating a home is closely linked to some of the activities under the ability-based curriculum (CBC).
“Children should accept it because it enhances their learning skills in terms of art and identifies the type of soil, and also keeps the environment clean,” she says.
Kennedy Kasson of the village of Muting’ong’o was also busy painting his house with clay soil mixed with cow dung, a venture believed to be a women’s sanctuary in society.
He says that after roofing the house, he rubbed the soil on the damp plaster by hand and then rubbed it on the outer wall.
“House decoration is mostly done by women, but because of their skills, they have no choice but to refurbish the house, which saves the cost of hiring someone to do the job.”
“Every year, I try to refurbish my home, much like buying new clothes for kids to wear during the holiday season. The home must be neat and attractive like a Christmas melody. If done correctly, you don’t have to repaint for up to five years, “he says.
According to Cascon, Western culture is gradually eroding the culture that decorates the home.
“Some people have the false impression that traditional African homes are lower class people and should be abandoned. Far from the truth, people give them the desired identity. You have to stick to their culture. ”
Kason says he isn’t trying to abandon the culture he saw and grew up in.
But tradition is waning, and it seems that only a handful of locals are still sticking to it.