Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Arms of Kenya

Why is the subject of coat of arms worth a mile in a Kenyan context? What are the salient nature of its application in Kenya and abroad. 
Boldly, I will attempt to spend a reasonable time to expertly explain and expound on this matter to the best of my knowledge. I seek to demonstrate that the significant of a properly designed and presented coat of arms, flags and their associated by-products do have an intricate and well balanced approach based upon proper logic, articulate research, full interrogation of heritage and finaly simplicity of its wholesome artistic merits. I presume the publication of this informal thesis will shade some much desired light into the appreciation of this subject that is very dear to my heart. The randomness and lack of competent referral into the subject within Kenya, significantly with the advent of the creation of County Governments, has lead to the composition of rather questionionable articles that fail even the simplest quality test in their heraldic interrogation. 

To begin, it is important to understand that there exists two disciplines that involve the issue of flags and coat of arms,  these are; Vexillological and Heraldry.

'Vexillology' which is the "scientific study of the history of flags, it's symbolism and usage, or, by extension, it is the general interest in the creation of flags of all types, their forms and functions."

'Heraldry' is the practice  of devising/creating, displaying, describing/blazoning, granting, recording of coat of arms and its allied devices. The officer's of heraldry by Commonwealth traditions also rule on questions of rank and protocol. In Kenya, the Honourable Attorney-General is the Chief-Herald by virtue of his position as the Chair of the College of Arms of Kenya. The origin and development of this professions will be a topic for another forum. 

Ofcourse these two disciplines are very much foreign whithin our local academic institutions, primarily,  those of School of  'Arts'  and of 'Law'.  This could be due to the lack of any insightful interest by academic scholars and a lack of a considerable homegrown consumerism due to lack of awareness. The same is also a rarely instructed unit even within most international acclaimed and distinguished universities hence you will, always, have to rely upon your own self-motivation and networking to access reliable  published information, regardless, you will still need to indulge seasoned experts due to the privilege of the application of customs and values that vary with the passage of time, politics and varied aspects of geographical influence. 

Kenya does have legally recognised institutions and resources for the engagement in the composition, flying and displaying of flags and there protection from abuse. These authoritative establishment are found within the College of Arms Act Chapter 98, the National Flag, Emblems, Names Act Chapter 99, our Constitution and the County Government Act. However, I must admit that these legal instruments are not  been quite elaborate and exhaustive enough to keep up with the progressive state of our society presumably due to an innocent oversight in their implementation. 
Why do I say this? Well, the intentions of the crafter's of our laws intended the said practice to self-develop and progressively evolve by its own application through acceptable civic and customary tradition vis-a-vis the best practices both locally and internationally.  This developed mode would then be codified into a set of guide rules to be reduced into writing and be Gazetted for consistency and public referral. In essence our Act has always been progressive enough to address it's targeted audience. I believe the larches in its current application likely due to the historical nature and colonial privileges accorded to this issues as a distinct prereserve of the military service and State protocols,  and rightly so,  causing the public to limit it's appreciation to only during diplomatic State engagements and national jamborees when the military displays their emblems and articles to the public in full glory. 

In between 2009 &  2014, as a much younger State Counsel in the Office of the Attorney-General and Department of Justice at Sheria House, popularly referred to as the State Law Office. I was honoured to serve the Coat of Arms Section within the Registrar-General's department.  This rare opportunity occasioned  I with an immense insight and understanding of flags, coat of arms, badges, emblems, military ribbons, honourable titles, insignias, medals and their protocol. I realised these instruments are very much in use within our society oblivious of their details, heritage and functions. For example, during my services at the Coat of Arms Section I did a great deal of research to trace the inspiration behind the composition of our national coat of arms as we are familiar with it. I was reliably informed by the officer's at our National Archives that two of our founding fathers, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Hon. Tom Mboya played a key role in proposing the elements and colours displayed therein.