Pomp at ancient ritual in game reserve
Asian culture met African culture in a bush surrounding last week.
It was a unique event in a game park, when Buddhist adherents held a ceremony that included lots of choreographed African dance, staged by professionals and ordinary villagers.
The cacophony of musical sound, loud African drums and vocals accompanied Pokot, Turkana, Njemps, Kikuyu and Samburu dancers, in their traditional regalia, on stage.
Tribal elders and other local spectators had been invited to the Ol ari Nyiro at the Laikipia Nature Conservancy to celebrate the Shinnyo-en Buddhist ceremony last Sunday.
The ceremony, an ancient water and fire ritual, was being held in Africa for the very first time.
It formed part of the 10th anniversary conference of the Global Peace Initiative of Women. Its theme was ‘Awakening the Healing Heart.’
More than 300 spiritual leaders from all over the world attended the event in Nairobi and Laikipia.
Shinnyo-en is an ancient Japanese Buddhist denomination that believes in cultivating people’s innate enlightenment irrespective of their age, gender, nationality or religious background.
The ceremony featured over 60 dancers. Directed by the Gallmann Memorial Foundation, it featured an array of international artistes including Nikos Lagousakos, choreographer of the Zurich Ballet, Benedict Cantatore and Richard Good of the UK charity Eden Project, and British theatrical designers Wildworks Theatre, Pete Hill, Tom Barnecut, Hal Silvester and Antonia Atha.
Also in the mix was Kenyan singer Helen Mtawali. It took professional sculptors Antonia Atha, and Pete Hill, assisted by 30 Pokot women, three weeks to put up the earthen Buddha.
On stage were plenty of acrobats and other dancers from Nairobi, including the Sarakasi dance group, in perfect harmony with the traditional dancers from local communities, amplifying the ceremony’s theme of peaceful co-existence.
Other themes explored in the dance included conservation of nature and livelihood.
It took more than three weeks of hard to put the choreography together. Harmonising the dancers, acrobats, drummers, sculptors, poets and musicians was no easy feat.
Ms Helen Mtawali, a famous Kenyan vocalist, said the choreography that took them three weeks to put together brought out harmonious voices despite the diversity of music from the local communities, the Buddhists, and other vocalists.
“The blend was superb and songs and drumbeats worked well in harmony leading to the success of the event,” said Ms Mtawali who also a lecturer of African Music at Daystar University.
The stage was set next to a 10-foot earthen Buddha. Mr Daisuke Okada, a Shinnyo-en Buddhist from Takinawa, Japan, said the ceremony had brought people of divers origin together.
“We are amazed that we share a lot as a people and the song and dance from the different communities lifted our spirits and entertained us and that same commonality is what should be held prominently.”
Mr Chedotum Moroto, 26, a Pokot singer and dancer, said the song and dance gave them the opportunity to bond with youths from other communities and encouraged them to live together.
“The ceremony was good because it gave us the opportunity to bond and enjoy the moment together.
“We were competing with our colleagues to sing the best and jump the highest in our dance. Ultimately, we all enjoyed the event,” said Mr Moroto.
The leader of Shinnyo-en Buddhist sect, High Priest Shinso Ito, was part of the celebrations that were streamed live on the Internet.