Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions in Kenya

The kiondo, the Kikoy, now the Maasai Shuka have been ‘stolen’ from Kenya! This is something we read about every other day in the press, over the social networks and commonly discussed. We hear about traditional medicines and therapies, traditional cultural expressions are used in music, artwork and designs. These are all elements of what is known as traditional knowledge.

Kenya, like many other African countries is rich in traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs). One may ask why the renewed interest in TK and TCEs in the 21st century? In the traditional systems, traditional knowledge was protected by a system of customs and taboos which ensured the preservation and proper utilisation of resources. Currently, this knowledge is being exploited by third parties for use in pharmaceutical products, therapy, building, arts and craft, music, design and even works of architecture. TK is used in the exploitation of genetic resources.

The defining characteristics of TK and TCEs is that they belong to a particular community(ies) and have been passed on from generation to generation.

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