by Leah Kanda
If to collect photographs is to collect the world, as Sontag writes, then humanity, through the presence of the Internet, has built quite the collection. Writing in 2011, Guy Horton observes, “What we see in the images of architecture encompasses all our spatial memories, whether actual or false.” It is important to note that Horton is speaking about the images of architecture, rather than the architectures themselves.
Walking down the streets of Nairobi, one is made to wonder at the arrangements of different architectures, at the conveyance of emotions in the architectures, at the presence of patterns in these architectures. A child’s first kindergarten lessons are in patterns; in lines and circles and zigzags and then mutations and combinations of the same. One then asks whether the omnipresence of the patterns in Nairobi’s architectures is an ode to the patterns one encounters when still a babe, to the beauty of these patterns, to the simplicity of these patterns.
by Leah Kanda
Joseph Murumbi, Kenya’s first foreign minister and second Vice-President, became interested in Alan Donovan’s jewelry collection during an exhibition held in Nairobi in 1971. Murumbi wanted to buy a Nimba fertility mask from the Baga of Guinea for his collection, but it had already been sold to someone else. The Asian trader who had bought it however agreed to take his money back and Murumbi bought it. This mask would later become the logo for the African Heritage business that they, Murumbi and Donovan, set up together.
In 1977, a fire burnt down the whole of the African Heritage. Most of the collections were destroyed, but some were salvaged and those not too badly destroyed were restored. African Heritage then moved to a building on Kenyatta Avenue until the building that had been destroyed was restored.
The current African Heritage House was built by Donovan between 1989 and 1994. It is inspired by the traditional mud-brick architecture of Western Africa, in particular, the Great Mosque of Djenne in Mali and it’s situated in Mlolongo on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. After facing dangers of getting demolished to pave way for the new Standard Gauge Railway, it was gazetted as a monument by the Culture and Sports Cabinet Secretary, Hassan Wario, in January 2016. This was after petitions to save Africa’s richest collection of art, jewellery, fabric and books.
by Leah Kanda
They are popularly christened Inama Bookstores (Inama, Swahili for bend because of how one bends when making a selection of books from the concrete pavements where the books are usually displayed) These recurring points that sell second-hand (mitumba) books are found in along almost every corner of the street in the CBD. They are difficult to miss even to a newcomer in the city. Their existence is necessitated by the constant need to satiate the demands of the Nairobian reader who cannot afford to buy new books from the traditional bookshops. They have revolutionised the way the Kenyan reader can now access and read books.
For as little as Kshs. 100 (1 USD) one can get up to five books on these streets. With better luck, you are able to find a large selection of books from your favourite authors. Kenyan writer Mehul Gohil chronicles his adventurous hunt for books around the streets of Nairobi.