The African Heritage House [In Pictures]

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.

Leah Kanda visited it in September this year.

Sanya Noel

Image Credit: Leah Kanda
African Heritage House façade.
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The Street Bookstores of Nairobi [In Pictures]

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.

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