Tracing the Journey
A Community-led Effort to Remember
Image 7.1 Ruslik. (May 5, 2015). Nairobi National Museum. Wikimedia Commons.
As a community defined by migration, the Indian-Kenyan community has maintained a distinct and fluid identity throughout the many pathways it has followed. The preservation of Indian-Kenyan heritage is also part of the larger desire to preserve Asian heritage in Kenya. The Asian African Heritage Trust was created with the specific goal of creating and recording this unique history.
In the year 2000, the ‘Asian African Heritage: Identity and History’ exhibit was unveiled at the National Nairobi Museum (part of the National Museums of Kenya).
Family photos, keepsakes and artefacts in the exhibition provided by members of the Indian-Kenyan community depicted a community proud of its heritage and its contributions to the development of post-independent Kenya. The exhibition also included 16th century trade connections between India and Kenya, highlighting the long-standing link between the two countries.
‘Asian African Heritage: Identity and History’ was popular with the public and remained on display at the National Nairobi Museum for five years, far surpassing the six month exhibition plan. The success and content of the exhibition demonstrates that Indian-Kenyans feel strongly connected to Kenya and want their contributions to the nation to be known.
Likewise, with the passing of the National Museums and Heritage Act in 2006, and a second, permanent, exhibition about Indian-Kenyan heritage in development, it is evident that the museum plays a critical role in preserving this history.
Why is it important that communities are able to tell their own stories?
What would you contribute to an exhibition about your community and why?
Previously known as the Coryndon Museum (1930) the National Museum of Kenya (1963). The museum was closed from 2005 -2008 for renovations, reopening in 2008 as the National Nairobi Museum.
The Asian African Heritage Trust describes its mission: “It is important for us as Kenyans to record all our stories, all our heritages, all our struggles for our freedom, and all our cultures, from every part of our country. And thereby, most importantly, ourselves write, record, sculpt, dance, paint, and teach our history, the ideas that move us, and our aspirations. The Asian African Heritage Trust explores these themes through research, exhibitions and other activities.”
Click here to learn more about the Asian African Heritage Trust.
According to the National Museum of Kenya, this Act replaced two other outdated acts as a legal reform regarding the protection of heritage in Kenya. It “is a noble attempt to ensure protection of Kenya’s rich and diverse heritage. It is also aimed at establishing new legal framework for Heritage Management that will domesticate some of the international conventions and protocols on heritage for which Kenya has ratified.” The 2006 Act states that the function of national museums is to “identify, protect, conserve and transmit the cultural and natural heritage of Kenya.”