Rock carving

Project: Samburu rock art – a unique cultural heritage

The overall purpose of this seeding project is to investigate whether the unique and still ongoing rock carving tradition among the Samburu people in northern Kenya can be used to create socially sustainable cultural tourism.

This project is concluded.

Project information

Project manager
Peter Skoglund
Other project members
Joakim Goldhahn, Ebbe Westergren och Steven Labarakwe
Participating organizations
Linnéuniversitetet och Empower the Northern Frontier
The Swedish Institute
Institutionen för kulturvetenskaper

More about the project

The Samburu people of northern Kenya are struggling to survive in a very harsh and marginalized desert region. This project will develop their cultural heritage in order to strengthen the local economy and attract visitors to the region.

Ancient African rock art is a global cultural heritage that has been studied for many years, but there is almost no documentation of the unique ongoing rock art tradition that exists among the Samburu community in northern Kenya. The narratives of the men who makes the rock art are seldom recorded, and women’s view on the rock art tradition have never been investigated. In addition, the rock art created by the Samburu during the last century are rapidly fading because of both natural and cultural causes, including the increasing impact of climate change.

Over the last 100 years, external experts in anthropology and archaeology have exploited the cultural heritage in northern Kenya. These endeavors have not really benefitted the local communities economically or socially, and the experiences have not been used for cultural empowerment, which would help provide a sustainable future for Samburu communities. In this project, Swedish experiences on rock art documentation and outreach activities will be shared with the Samburu enabling local communities to take ownership, document, and preserve rock art images and related narratives. By making this unique rock art tradition accessible for a wider audience, sustainable cultural tourism can be developed, which will strengthen the local economy.