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Managing Heritage, Building Peace: Museums, memorialisation and the uses of memory in Kenya

 Managing Heritage, Making Peace

A major book based on our collaborative research was published in 2014. Annie E. Coombes, Lotte Hughes, and Karega-Munene, Managing Heritage, Making Peace: History, Identity and Memory in Contemporary Kenya (London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 9781780761527). Find out more. You can read excerpt and reviews of Chapter 5 here.

The publication was timely, as Kenya kicked off a year-long celebration of 50 years' independence from Britain. Kenya stood at a crossroads in its history and heritage, and thorny issues around history, heritage and memory lay at the heart of the Kenya@50 events – and continue to present challenges. At that important juncture, we asked what parts of the nation's history do state and citizens wish to commemorate? What is being 'forgotten' and why? What does heritage mean to ordinary Kenyans, and what role does it play in building nationhood, peace and reconciliation? These questions remain highly relevant.

Farewell to the previous research project, and welcome to new research on cultural rights in Kenya …

The research project ‘Managing Heritage, Building Peace: Museums, memorialisation and the uses of memory in Kenya’ has now ended. However, Principal Investigator Lotte Hughes later won funding from the ESRC for new research on other aspects of cultural heritage in Kenya. You can read all about the new project here.

The previous research

From 2008 to 2011 the research team worked with Kenyan museums, scholars, students, NGOs, communities and other civil society groups to investigate the different ways in which Kenyans were engaging with their past. There was a strong peace and reconciliation theme to our study, since Kenya is grappling with a painful legacy of civil conflict and trauma that is rooted in the colonial era. The legacy of Mau Mau and liberation struggle became a central focus. Constructions of nationhood and identity were also a key theme, evident in the 50th anniversary year of independence from Britain, in public events that celebrated post-independence history.  

We wish to warmly thank everyone who contributed to the previous research, generously shared information, knowledge and viewpoints, and hosted us while doing fieldwork in Kenya. Special thanks go to our funders, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the British Academy, which funded a UK-Africa Partnership element that preceded the AHRC award in 2008.

(Please note: on the pages that follow, we have not changed the present tense to past.) 

Journeys of Peace: an update      

We previously reported that our research has led to exciting new developments for Kenyan peace museums, with the help of funding through The Swedish Institute and new partners. A travelling exhibition on Kenyan peace cultures, called Journeys of Peace, has been touring the country. The exhibition is the first of its kind, and aims to reach ordinary citizens who don’t usually visit museums.

Journeys of peace
Stanford Chege (right) explains the importance of peace cultures to schoolchildren from Kalala Primary and Kyansasu Secondary Schools. They were attending the launch of Journeys of Peace at Akamba Peace Museum, Machakos County, Kenya. 

Read more ...

Kenyan peace museums

Our story on the role played by Kenyan peace museums in peace and reconciliation was picked up by the International Network of Museums for Peace (INMP).

We are pleased to say that, contrary to earlier fears, the March 2013 Kenyan elections passed off peacefully.

Other project outputs

Symposium 'Commemorating the Past, Creating the Future: Kenya's Heritage Crossroads', 09 September 2011

African Studies Volume 70 Number 2 August 2011 
Special Issue: Heritage, History and Memory: New Research from East and Southern Africa

Ferguson Centre Working Paper No 1: Lotte Hughes, Promoting Peace through Dialogue: Facilitating cultural exchange visits in Kenya (February 2011)

 Njiru Njeru addressing visitors to Akamba Community Peace Museum  School children dancing and singing World Environment Day 2008

This project is grateful for the support of:

Logo for Arts & Humanities Research Council

Logo for The British Academy