In Summary
  • Historians and noted anthropologists have over the years decried the lack of interest in the country’s history among the general population.
  • In 2014, Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria announced an ambitious plan to rehabilitate the Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga shrine, the alleged origin of the Gikuyu people.

The Tom Mboya square in Nairobi is a magnet for a motley crowd every day of the week.

Photographers call out passers-by, urging them to pose for a keepsake picture by the Mboya monument.

Itinerant preachers are a common fixture here on most afternoons, their target the many people who sit on the low wall next to the monument.

At the centre, the Tom Mboya statue looms tall, towering above the daily theatre. Now and then, someone stops to look at the statue, perhaps to mull Mboya’s place in the country’s history.

Across from the monument, about 50 metres away, is the Kenya National Archives (KNA), sitting in its own glory; standing out in its Indian vernacular architecture. It is a grand building, and like most buildings of historical importance, has a lonesome face to it.

It is not cold or forbidding, but there isn’t a flurry of feet walking up the steps leading to the door.

EXHIBITION WEEK

But traffic was markedly different when the KNA held the Kenya National Archives and Documentation International Archives week, an exhibition that ran from June 3 to 7.

Hundreds of people milled in the tent pitched outside the archives to view rare pictures depicting the country’s history, formerly classified documents and other general-interest items.

The halls of the archives, usually hollow in the working week, rang with the sound of footsteps.

“It is apparent many people are not aware of what the Archives offers,” said Darmi Kadida, a records officer at the KNA.

“Someone asked me how much we charge at the gate, and was shocked when I told him (Sh50 for Kenyan citizens, Sh200 for foreigners). He thought it was much more than that.”

Historians and noted anthropologists have over the years decried the lack of interest in the country’s history among the general population.

One of the goals the week-long exhibition hoped to achieve was to try and pique the interest of Kenyans in their country’s history; to offer an invite to the general population.

MAU MAU

Like the Archives, many other depositories of history around the country are not living up to their capacity and potential.

The Nyeri branch of the National Museums of Kenya sits in the midst of history.

Within the well-groomed lawns behind Ruring’u Stadium, outside Nyeri Town, is the Mau Mau Veterans office; and across the road, down by a scattering of trees, is a spot of land where in 1952 hundreds of men and women gathered to declare war on British rule - an event that birthed the Mau Mau militant uprising.

A stone obelisk commemorates the momentous occasion and its aftermath.

The halls of the museums and the spacious picture gallery carry precious items, from homemade guns used by Mau Mau fighters to a haunting register of those in the old Nyeri district killed by the British, as well as traditional work tools.

The walls in the gallery showcase pictures marking important moments in Kenya’s history.

MUKURWE SHRINE

But, you wouldn’t know any of that unless you were actively looking. There isn’t any signage announcing the presence of the museum.

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