On February 15th/16th TARA Chairman David Coulson travelled to western Kenya to join British High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner at Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria. At Dr Turner’s request Coulson introduced him to some of the Abasuba communities whom TARA as worked with over the last 10 years who showed him two of their rock art sites on Mfangano Island. These rock paintings (geometric symbols) were used by the local clans until recent times for rain-making rituals but were originally created, probably over 1,000 years ago, by Twa (Pygmy) hunter-gatherers.

PHOTO: The British High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner with TARA Chairman, David Coulson, at Mawanga rock art site.

The Twa/Batwa were living on the island when the Suba immigrants arrived from Uganda about 200 years ago as refugees from inter tribal wars raging in Uganda at that time. Although the Twa inhabitants were probably long ago absorbed into Suba society it seems the Suba had a deep respect for their magic and adopted their spiritual beliefs and rituals, especially their rain-making rituals. Today the Suba are proud of this heritage and keen to share it with local and foreign visitors who can contact the Abasuba Community Museum at Sena on Mfangano who can advise them on accommodation, sites to visit and transport. Visits to the sites help to support this remote communities as well as enabling the locals to protect their sites. The Twa paintings on Mfangano are similar to those found in several parts of eastern Uganda as well as in many parts of Kenya.

PHOTO: Dr. Christian Turner and David Coulson with locals at the rock art cave.

Date: 18 February 2014