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Heritage, Museums and Memorialisation in Kenya: exploring the past in the present


A major book based on our research is now available from I.B. Tauris Managing Heritage, Making Peace: History, Identity and Memory in Contemporary Kenya. Annie E. Coombes, Lotte Hughes, and Karega-Munene ISBN 9781780761527 (I. B. Tauris), Find out more

This publication is timely, as Kenya kicks off a year-long celebration of 50 years' independence from Britain. Kenya stands at a crossroads in its history and heritage, and thorny issues around history, heritage and memory lie at the heart of the Kenya@50 events. At this important juncture, we ask 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?


Welcome to our site, which celebrates research on contemporary heritage developments in Kenya.

The research project ‘Managing Heritage, Building Peace: Museums, memorialisation and the uses of memory in Kenya’ has now ended. However, we hope to obtain further funding for research on other aspects of heritage in Kenya, and build upon this groundbreaking study.

Since 2008 the research team has worked with Kenyan museums, scholars, students, NGOs, communities and other civil society groups to investigate the different ways in which Kenyans are 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, one very evident in this 50th anniversary year of independence from Britain, in public events that celebrate recent history.  

We wish to warmly thank everyone who contributed to the 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       

Our previous project has led to exciting new developments for Kenyan peace museums, with the help of Swedish funding and partners.

A travelling exhibition on Kenyan peace cultures is now touring the country. The exhibition is the first of its kind, and aims to reach out to 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. 

The exhibition, called ‘Journeys of Peace’, is raising awareness in different ethnic communities of the age-old traditions that have been used to forge peace within and between communities.  Its message is particularly important at a time when Kenyans are still struggling to heal rifts caused by the 2008 post-election violence that tore the country apart. 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).

Link to the original story

Link to the INMP site

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 Find out more

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

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


updated: 08 January 2014

This project is grateful for the support of:




Managing Heritage, Making Peace
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