December 21, 2005

Kenya involved in link with British Museum

Posted at 1:39 pm in Similar cases

A lot of publicity has been given to the co-operation between the British Museum & the National Museum of Kenya, however, as I have mentioned before, it seems more like a carefully engineered situation, to allow the British Museum to appear helpful, when in fact they are in the wrong & should be returning these artefacts rather than just offering to loan them.

The East African

Kenya in major link up with the British Museum
Special Correspondent

The British Museum has announced a major link up with the National Museums of Kenya.

The partnership programme has been supported by the British Council and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and will involve unprecedented collaboration between the two museums.

The project’s commencement will be marked by a special exhibition, due to open in Nairobi in March 2006, titled Hazina – Traditions, Trade and Transitions in Eastern Africa.

The exhibition has been devised and developed by a curator from the National Museums of Kenya drawing on the collections of the British Museum and its Kenyan counterpart.

The partnership will also involve more long-term collaborations of mutual benefit to these institutions in training, loans, exhibitions, conservation and research.

One of the exchanges will take place in Mombasa in December next year at a conference for museum professionals from across sub-Saharan Africa which has also been organised by the British Council.

Dr Farah Idle, director general of the National Museums of Kenya said the project between the British Museum and his institutions will “help build a sustainable museum sector in Africa and include African museums in the international circuit of museum exhibitions.”

He added that partnership between museums is an approach that should be embraced in order to promote an understanding of world cultures and promote cultural integration and exchange.

“As moves towards economic integration in Africa continue to be widely embraced,” said Dr Farah, “it is becoming necessary to introduce regional perspectives in curatorial work through pursuance of themes and subjects that transcend national borders with a view to enhance a deeper understanding of cultures within the region.”

According to the director general, such partnership will ensure cultural objects are accessible to the global community and people in countries where these objects originated from. “Rather than view the collections as belonging to one institution, the museum community should instead consider them as global heritage,” he argues.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum said, “we are delighted to be working closely with our colleagues at National Museums of Kenya. Sharing collections and expertise enables a new and different story to be told about how Kenyan cultures have been shaped by the cultures of the rest of East Africa and the Indian Ocean. Loaning material from the worldwide collection of the British Museum allows this exhibition to embrace a wider context and tell a story of crucial importance to Kenya.”

Mr McGregor said the British Museum is committed to developing these kinds of collaborations across the world to generate a deeper understanding of a global citizenship.”

Sir David Green, director general of the British Council adds, said the British Council was pleased to be working with the British Museum and the National Museums of Kenya on the exhibition. It is a fitting culmination of Africa 05 and a signal of our longer-term commitment to creating stronger ties between Britain and Africa,” he added.

The partnership came into being during celebrations to mark the 250th anniversary of the British Museum in 2003, where British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a grant from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to the British Museum to fund a three-year project celebrating the link between Britain and Africa.

The aim of the project is to work with museums in Africa to increase understanding of the rich diversity and cultural heritage of African countries and their people, and to emphasise Africa’s influence on other world cultures.

By showcasing Africa’s art and cultures in the form of exhibitions, performances, conferences and in offering fellowships and training to African curators, the British Museum hopes to assist in building a sustainable cultural heritage sector in Africa.

Building on the partnerships already established with Kenya, Egypt, Mozambique and Sudan, the British Museum will be extending the Africa project to include Ethiopia, Mali and Ghana.

In addition to skills development, curatorial exchanges and assistance on improving conditions such as security, conservation and documentation at the national museums of those countries, the British Museum is planning to develop three exhibitions using the model established with the National Museums of Kenya.

The Nairobi exhibition will explore the relationship and links between the peoples of Eastern Africa. It is a bold attempt to address the issues of regional integration within the area. Objects from Kenya, Uganda, southern Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Burundi on loan from the British Museum will be displayed alongside Kenyan material from the National Museums of Kenya collection.

The exhibition will present new aspects of the region and its cultures using material evidence to show the richness, diversity and resilience in the ways of life of its peoples, built up over years of contacts and exchange. It is hoped that this pioneering exhibition will bring a new appreciation of the many differing cultures of Eastern Africa.

It will examine four main themes: Trade as far back as the slave trade; well-being through African perception both spiritual and secular; leadership through personal adornment and costume and contemporary art.

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