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. It celebrates research on contemporary heritage developments in Kenya, with some comparative reference to South Africa.
The research project ‘Managing Heritage, Building Peace: Museums, memorialisation and the uses of memory in Kenya’ has now ended (30 September 2011). However, we hope to obtain further funding for research on other aspects of heritage in Kenya, and build upon this groundbreaking study.
For the past three years 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 heritage, memory and identity. 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. Nationhood was also a central theme, because shared heritage, memory and identity help to create a sense of nation – or in the absence of shared narratives, to divide it. Our focus has been contemporary society, seen from an historical perspective.
The legacy of Mau Mau and liberation struggle has been a constant theme throughout, and continues to cast a long shadow over Kenya. In some ways, Mau Mau is being fought all over again - not in the forests of the Aberdares, but in the realm of heritage and memory, as Kenyans continue to contest the story of independence struggle.
We wish to warmly thank everyone who has contributed to the research, generously shared information, knowledge and viewpoints, and hosted us while doing fieldwork in Kenya. We hope that our research partners have benefited from being involved in the research. Special thanks go to the funder, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and to the British Academy for funding a UK-Africa Partnership element that preceded the AHRC award.
(Please note: on the pages that follow, we have not changed the present tense to past.)
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
We are pleased to say that, contrary to earlier fears, the March 2013 Kenyan elections passed off peacefully.
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
Website updated: 24 May 2013
This project is grateful for the support of: