Oct 19, 2021

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

Kibunjia speaks on return of artefacts from foreign museums

Sir, considering that one of the tasks of the NMK is to study, collect and document past and present cultural heritage in order to obtain knowledge and to improve appreciation and respect for the diverse cultures of Kenya and the world. Can NMK consider establishing satellite cultural heritage sites in all 47 counties? I believe that there is a unique culture in almost every county and that it is necessary to collect and document it at this basic level. Munene Gitari, Chuka

has NMK a proposal as part of the “100 Best Monuments in Kenya” project. This is a campaign to promote 100 monuments or cultural heritage sites in all 47 counties. This includes conducting research on the monuments, building interpretation centers around them, and creating activities to improve the livelihood of communities near these monuments. This project aims to improve cultural heritage tourism. It will also open spaces for small business incubation such as souvenir shops, youth technological advancement, research and education, and general revitalization of the community.

Many of the monuments and heritage sites in our country are in remote locations or locations are marginalized and once this project is completed, these areas will be accessed by the infrastructure that is the cornerstone of economic growth.

In 2018, a dyke was built for protection the erosion of Fort Jesus had caused a conflict between the NMK and Mombasa County, with the latter claiming that NMK would recapture the ocean rather than building a levee. Has this dispute ever been resolved? Was the construction of a dike complete? What can you say about the future of Fort Jesus? Ahmed Khamis, Mombasa

The levee is ready and NMK is now in the second phase of the landscape and facility development project and facilities in this area for use by the public. There was no conflict. It was a misunderstanding. NMK only built the original wall from the time the fort was built.

The future of Fort Jesus is stable for many more years to come. There will be better public spaces for use, especially for cultural events. There are also plans to liven up the public activities offered there with virtual tours. There is already the 3D technology light and sound show that goes on at night and shows the history of the fort.

The National Museums of Kenya and the National Archives have more or less similar tasks . What is the starting point in relation to the functions of the two institutions? Jeff Mwangi, Nairobi

The two institutions complement each other. The NMK’s mission is to document and collect cultural and natural objects, materials and specimens, including fauna and flora. It is also mandated to conduct heritage research and education, as well as exhibitions through its museums. The mandate of the National Archives is more focused on the preservation of historical documents, including pictures and films. All official government documents are archived in the National Archives.

During the pandemic, some of these museums launched virtual tours to help mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic. How has your institution used technology like its counterparts in other parts of the world? Komen Moris, Eldoret

NMK has partnered with Google Arts & Culture and digitized over 10,500 high-resolution photographs, 90 expert curated exhibits and 60 street views of 16 museums and sites related to the culture and history of Kenya. These can now be experienced anywhere in the world with a click of the mouse.

In June 2021, one year after its launch, the Utamaduni Wetu site (the NMK site for virtual tours) became a platform on Google Arts & Culture has over 600,000 views. This number is almost comparable to annual visits to our museums.

The NMK, through its education department, has also run online educational programs that virtually guide students through Kenya’s heritage. This is particularly popular with children under the age of 13.

We are currently developing more virtual reality and augmented reality tours as well as curriculum-based virtual education programs for all of our museums.

In the recent past, many African countries have managed to campaign for the return of some of their most precious artifacts that were stolen or taken abroad during colonial and independence times. How do we stand on this front? Komen Moris, Eldoret

Kenya continues to support the debate and the implementation of restitution. The country is in the process of ratifying the 1970 Unesco Convention “Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Unauthorized Import, Export and Transfer of Property of Cultural Property”.

The country has already identified over 32,000 cultural objects in over 30 institutions in the north. She is currently in the process of developing a policy and framework for her return. This will involve local communities and the public in general, particularly on what to do with these items after they are returned.

Negotiating with some of the institutions, especially those who are ready to return these items , have began . There are already success stories: in 2011 we received 39 vigangos from California State University in Fullerton, in July 2019 a further 30 vigangos were repatriated from the Denver Museum of Natural History.

There are many Students who would like to work in the museums, but it is not clear what to study at the university. Which courses can you study in order to be able to work in museums? Dickie Murimi, Kirinyaga

Museums offer job seekers a wide range of opportunities. Because museums are diverse in their roles. In order to work at the NMK, students can take both natural science and history subjects. In the field of biodiversity, students must have taken subjects such as biology, chemistry and ecology and other related courses.

The field of museology requires disciplines such as archeology, history, tourism, sociology and art. Others include support areas such as human resource management and finance.

Due to various factors including advances in information technology, many people, especially the youth, are no longer interested in visiting prehistoric sites that Could render your agency irrelevant. What new approaches have you chosen to attract Kenyans, especially the youth, to the museums? Dan Murugu, Nakuru

We work with the youth through a heritage hub in Swahilipot . together, Fort Jesus, towards youth commitment to heritage. This will allow the youngsters to develop online virtual tours of some of the sites and develop games using the heritage.

I’ve found private historical and cultural centers like Mushrooms grow, complete with traditional clothing, dancers, brews, and other historical artifacts that operate commercially. Does your institution have regulatory powers over such centers to ensure that Kenyans and tourists are not exploited by crafty local entrepreneurs? Dan Murugu, Nakuru

Since the 2010 Constitution was promulgated , the regulatory powers for cultural products lie with the Ministry of Sport, Culture and Heritage. There is a Ministry of Culture and it has a cultural policy that is supposed to regulate this sector. The district governments are also supposed to regulate the museum sector, since museums are a delegated function. This fungal growth could take place if the counties make an effort to develop guidelines and regulations for culture and museums.

How are the advances in the construction of an underwater museum on the coast in your efforts as the NMK .? to attract more tourists to the country? Davis Basweti Ombane, Juja

This proposal is still ongoing and fundraising is the main activity at the moment. In the meantime, capacity building, especially on underwater heritage, is being carried out in collaboration with Unesco. There are also surveys and documentation of underwater heritage and this will be vital during the development of the underwater museum proposed in Ngomeni, Malindi.

Next week: Hosea Kili , Group Managing Director of the County Pension Fund (CPF) & Chairman, Association of Pension Administrators of Kenya (Apak)