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Mashariki Television Networks Limited
By Blaise Gitonga
This year is set to see a return of the annual Tharaka Nithi Ura Gate Cultural Festival set to take place
between the 14th and 16th of September, after a three-year break attributed to the Covid-19 situation in the country.
The event makes its long-awaited return to the tourism calendar for the fifth edition, which has been ranked as the country’s second-best cultural festival.
Hosted at the southern entrance of the Meru National Park, the festival acts as a milestone for the county since Ura Gate connects Tharaka Nithi to Meru National Park.
The gate was re-opened in 2015, having been closed for about thirteen years, with one of the main objectives of the county government in the festival’s inception being the opening of Ura Gate and shortening the route followed to access Meru National Park by over 60 kilometers.
The festival’s traditions have been hosted in the last quarter of the year, bringing communities living around Meru National Park together to promote the conservation and sustainable utilization of their common heritage.
“The months of August and September to the Tharaka Community was the time celebrations were held. They were held during this period because other seasons were wet and rainy and were close to one another, making it unsuitable to walk to your friends or relatives. During August to October, the communities experienced a dry spell, and people would celebrate after their bumper harvest by preparing traditional uji, traditional brew, and even slaughtering a goat”, a festival official told The Eastern Newspaper.
The event features songs, dances, and cultural exhibitions where communities are provided with a platform to showcase their unique culture, agricultural products, and community art, as well as
The government has, on previous festivals, reiterated its commitment to promote indigenous cultures, market artifacts locally and internationally, as well as setting up regional economic blocs to strengthen local economies.
As part of the government’s effort to implement Kenya’s Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions Act 2016, Tharaka Nithi became the fifth county to roll out the Indigenous Knowledge Documentation and Digitization (IK DoDi) project through the National Products Industry(NPI) in June 2023.
The festival contributes significantly to the cultural and economic development of the county, attracting local and international tourists through cultural tourism.
In 2018, Phoebe Education Fund for Orphans (PEFO), a group from Uganda, participated in the event, displaying their rich, diverse foods and culture.
In its preparations, the county government has announced auditions are set to take place between 27th June and 18th August 2023 to identify participating groups.