If you were to be asked to say a word you find synonymous to the museum, words like ‘boredom’, ‘school trip’ and ‘boredom’ are likely to turn up repeatedly. Most people have never gone to the national museum, apart from that one time they went as a class and there wasn’t really much of an option back then. I recently went to the Nairobi National Museum and no, no one was holding a gun to my head. And again, no, I did not want to kill myself after. In fact, it was a pretty great experience.
The Nairobi National Museum is located at the Museum Hill and is about a fifteen minute walk from the CBD. The entry fee for citizens is only Kshs. 100/- but for foreigners, it’s about Kshs. 1200/-. Don’t you appreciate being Kenyan already?
The museum was reopened to the public in June 2008 after three years of being closed for extensive modernization and expansion, which now puts it in competition with other world-class museums. There are four pillars of Kenya’s national heritage: nature, culture, history and contemporary art, and the museum highlights on these four, right from the landscaping to the exhibitions.
Whether or not you have watched the Night of the Museum movies will determine your experience of the ‘nature’ part of the museum, I think. Nothing puts life in perspective like standing next to an elephant whose trunk is as long as you are tall. The mammalian section is not as creepy as the birds section. It’s like they are following you with their eyes! (shiver). If you have never been less than a foot away from a lion, then you will definitely appreciate the experience of being eyeball to eyeball with the King of the jungle. Of course, if the Golden Tablet of Pharoah Arkhmenrah does exist and by some chance you are locked up in the museum, I only have one word for you; run.
Kenya has gained international audience for its contribution to the theory of evolution by the discoveries of fossilized human remains. We were all in class when the teacher talked about austrolopithecus anamensis (getting through the words was half the challenge), we crammed their characteristics, (none of which we bothered to remember after the exam) and maybe even saw the picture in a book. After that, there never seemed to be a reason to remember that Homo Rudolfensis is the earliest of the Homo.
Well, high school is over people! Now more than ever, we realize the importance of loving our country and what better way to do that than to find out what makes her special and beautiful? For one thing, the world’s most important collection of human fossils found exclusively at the museum.
My favorite part of the trip to the museum was the spiral staircase, where photographs literally hang from the ceiling. As you climb the stairs, there is a different moment of Kenya’s history captured, like Retired President Moi’s wedding day, H.E Mwai Kibaki and his wife, Lucy Kibaki looking like she’d bumped her hair (definitely the 60’s) and so many more.
Then there are the temporary contemporary art exhibitions. I’m no art critique but I would think that the purpose of art would be to communicate. So any person who stands in front of a painting should see something that they can relate to. Well, I stood in front of many paintings and nada. Some were abstract and I guess that means you have to have a degree in art to understand. I could say that there were only about two canvases that actually caught my attention and engaged my mind. An artist has the freedom of expression, of course, but art as a tool could be used for something greater than just paying one’s bills. Why don’t Kenyan artists take a risk and paint the equivalent of the world’s next Mona Lisa?
There’s a lot more I haven’t mentioned and that’s not to say that they are not amazing. It only means that you have to discover it for yourself. So the next time you are looking for something to do yet all you have is a 100 bob note in your pocket, go to the museum!