NAIROBI, July 14 – President Mwai Kibaki said on Monday that his government would recover all Kenyan artefacts in foreign countries to ensure the nation preserves its national heritage.
The Head of State, who was presiding over the re-opening of the Nairobi National Museum following a Sh847 million renovation, said the government had begun the process of reclaiming the artefacts.
“There are numerous artefacts that were taken out of the country, especially during the colonial period. These are crucial aspects of our historical and cultural heritage, and therefore every effort must be made to bring them back,” he noted.
The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) Director General Dr Farah Idle said the museum had a new face that includes a commercial wing and seven new galleries.
He said with the restructuring, NMK hopes to attract up to 500,000 visitors annually, up from current 350,000.
However, NMK Board Chairman Issa Timamy noted that the museum still required Sh150 million to expand storage space for national collections, and Sh200 million to establish exhibitions at the museum.
The chairman said NMK maintained 22 museums and hundreds of sites in the country.
He noted there were over three million zoological specimen, 1.5 million botanic specimen and over 50,000 cultural artefacts.
President Kibaki directed the Finance Ministry to release the necessary funds to the museum for the completion of the remaining galleries.
Culture Minister William Ole Ntimama meanwhile said they had embarked on a programme to identify and reward national heroes.
New look Museum
After the official opening, Capital FM reporter Judie Kaberia was among the first people to have a taste of the new look galleries under the guidance of the Nairobi Museum Assistant Director Simon Gatheru.
The restructured museum has four permanent galleries namely the Great Hall of Mammals, which informs people of ancient animals like the Dinosaurs.
The second gallery is the Cycle of Life and it details the milestones a person goes through i.e. birth, initiation, marriage and death and the various cultural activities involved. It also features the childhood, youth, adulthood, and ancestral phases and activities that happen in each of the stages.
The Cradle of Mankind gallery is another universal attraction that tells the human story through fossils found in Kenya.
“This is the home of mankind,” Gatheru said. “The fossils were discovered here by our own scientists and most of them cannot be found anywhere else in the world. We have the most complete fossils skeleton of Homo erectus.”
The last gallery is the Hall of Kenya. It has discrete objects that characterise Kenya. The traditional bag commonly known as the ‘Kiondo’ is one example.
To make it more attractive, the Museum has also refurbished several temporary exhibitions, one of them being the Birds of Kenya that comprises of 900 different species of birds.
The Rock Art temporary gallery keeps a record of old tools and thoughts of old people in East Africa as displayed in their work on the stones.
Despite all these changes at the museum, Gatheru noted that the Snake Park remains closed as further restructurings are on to give the museum a world class heritage look.