Appreciating the Akamba of Paraguay in South America
Kenyans should appreciate the Akamba who live in Paraguay in South America for maintaining and prompting the Akamba culture – and therefore Kenyan culture in America for centuries.
From what we hear, it has not always been easy for them with governments that want to deny them of their right to be Kambas.
The Kambas founded the two most significant cities for African Paraguayans, the most important being Kamba Cuá where the dance and culture are derived from the main Kamba dance in Kenya. Their ballet is the only Afro-Paraguayan expression in the country. It premiered at the Folk Festival peach “Uruguay Yi sings in” 1992, where it won the “Golden charrúa”.
The Kambas of Kamba Cue are famous in South America for their awesome, intense and lively traditional African drumming and dancing. Their dance which is described as the central cultural identity of the of Afro Paraguayan community.
They arrived in Paraguay as members of a regiment of 250 spearmen, men and women, who accompanied General Jose Gervasio Artigas, the independence revolutionary leader of the Eastern Band (the current Uruguay) in his exile in Paraguay in 1820.
They settled to practice dairy and crop farming. However, in the 1940s, they were dispossessed of their land by General Higinio Morinigo. Out of their land of 100 hectares they were given paltry 3 hectares to stay on.
However, the community has survived, kept their churches and dances, created a football club (“Jan Six-ro”) and one school of drum and dance for children.
Their original lands at Campamento Loma remained vacant, and Kamba Cuá recently occupied them and planted the manioc, but by “unfair and discriminating government decision” they were accused of being “terrorists”, beaten and evicted.
Today, according official estimates, there live about 300 families in Kamba Cuá representing about 58% of the total population are of African descent in Paraguay
“The Paraguayan state does not recognise us as an ethnic minority,” says José Carlos Medina, the general secretary of the Kamba Kuá Afro-Paraguayan Association. “Our children have great difficulty in constructing their Afro identity when, at school, they are so often discriminated against, either because of their skin colour or their clothes. We are proud of our identity and origins, and we want the Paraguayan state to recognise us as the Afro-Paraguayan population we are,” he said
Access to education and health are two key demands of the communities. They emphasize that 7.4 percent of the Afro-descendant school-age population is illiterate, while only 15 percent of this ethnic group has health insurance.