The first Kijani International Festival was held in 2004. It was staged at Hells Gate National Park in the Rift Valley with the Garden Opera of London and Lucia Alvarez from Andalucia giving wonderful open air performances as giraffe strolled by and swarms of swallows swooped over the stage. A second staging at Fort Jesus Mombasa followed and both were met with great acclaim.
Subsequent festivals staged between 2005 and 2010 featured international performers from all over the world including the Royal Ballet, the Stuttgart Ballet, the Vienna State Ballet and the Vienna Festival Ballet. The London Adventist Chorale, Guildhall Strings and Opera Playhouse from the UK, Gaurav Mazumdar from India, Japan’s top pianist and the Cape Town Opera all performed. Participating Kenyans included the Nairobi Chamber Chorus the Pamoja Dance Group, Kenya´s Jazz performers, Eric Wainina and the Nairobi Orchestra.
Performances took place at Ol Pejeta, The Mount Kenya Safari Club, Kisumu and Nairobi´s Arboretum and the Bomas of Kenya and also at Hells Gate National Park, Naivasha.
In 2012, Kijani was invited to represent Kenya at The Queen´s Diamond Jubilee at Windsor Castle. 22 traditional dancers from around Kenya took part and the Nairobi Chamber Chorus was chosen as the choir for the great Commonwealth Pageant where 900 performers honoured Britain´s Queen
Many sponsors contributed to the Festivals including Safaricom, CFC/ Stanbic Bank, AAR, CMC Motors, British Airways, Fly 540, Air Kenya. The Norfolk Hotel, Sankara Hotel, Holiday Inn/ Southern Sun, The Fairmont Group and many more including the Friends of Kijani.
Between 2004 and 2013 the net ticket revenues and donations to Kijani projects for conservation, education and health is stg 243,000 / 31.5 million kshs
The major donor was Safaricom, Kenya – a grant of stg 100,000 / 13 million kshs was received from Safaricom for specialist sound and light equipment for the festivals.
CFC Bank, now CFC Stanbic, another major donor, supported all the festivals.