by Wachira Njenge
The 2017 polls were Kenya’s second elections since the promulgation of the country’s new constitution in August 2010. They attracted a total of 11,330 candidates (among them eight presidential candidates), most sponsored by various political parties, but also 3,752 independent candidates; all of whom were battling for 1,882 available elective positions.
It was survival for the richest as politicians criss-crossed various towns across Kenya in attempt to woo voters; some were calling for a six piece voting, popularly referred to as “Suti”, while others threw in slogans such as “Tano Tena”, “Tano Fresh,” and “Mambo Yabadilika” as they went on a charm offensive.
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.
After the two poets, Clint Smith and Pages Matam, launch into their powerful poem, ‘Flash’, reciting the opening line together, “Sometimes I stalk myself on Facebook,” followed by a short stanza, such that each poet recites only a single line, the poem begins. The function of the opening stanzas have the feeling of only existing to interrupt the permanence of silence, the moment a room falls silent in anticipation of the performance and so the sentences work as a way to ensure that the entire audience takes a breath at the same time, that nobody is left behind. It is when Smith begins the next stanza that things get interesting. Smith says, “Then I come across images from the year I spent living in South Africa, a place where I fell in love with photography but struggled with the fine line between capturing my own experience and exploiting someone else’s suffering.”
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.