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Symposium: Commemorating the Past, Creating the Future

'Commemorating the Past, Creating the Future: Kenya's Heritage Crossroads', 09 September 2011

Chris Morton (Pitt Rivers Museum) gives his paper on The Paro Manene project: Exhibiting Photographic Histories in Western Kenya. Photo: David Kerr

The final event of the research project was held in London on 9 September 2011. A Symposium entitled ‘Commemorating the Past, Creating the Future: Kenya’s heritage crossroads’ was held at the British Library, and involved scholars from Kenya, the UK, Sweden and the US.

Margaret Gachihi gives her paper on The Ethnic “Genie” and Public Attitudes to History in Kenya: A Grassroots View of Revisionism, pictured with Celia Nyamweru (left). Photo: David Kerr


Hosted by Dr Lotte Hughes (OU), with research colleagues Prof Annie Coombes (Birkbeck College, University of London) and Prof Karega-Munene (United States International University, Nairobi, Kenya), this closed event featured presentations on a wide range of heritage and memory subjects, including: memorialization as a human right; exhibiting photographic histories in Western Kenya; an examination of memorials to Barack Obama at K’Ogello; Akamba carving; memorialising Mau Mau; managing heritage as a resource for building nationhood and social cohesiveness; community conservation of sacred forests; an examination of displays on material culture and Kenyan identity at National Museums of Kenya;  the challenges of commemorating former president Daniel arap Moi; and efforts to commemorate Giriama heroine Mekatilili wa Menza.

Wambui Kimathi (KNCHR) gives her paper on Memorialization as a Human Right: Dilemmas and Challenges,  A Practitioner’s View. Other panel members pictured are Godfrey Muriuki (right) and Margaret Gachihi (left). Photo: David Kerr

We would like to warmly thank Marion Wallace and the British Library for generously providing a free room and other facilities, the AHRC for funding the Symposium; Dr Anna Bohlin (University of Gothenberg) for chairing a session; and Dr Daniel Branch (University of Warwick) and Prof John Mack (University of East Anglia) for acting as discussants. 


Elsbeth Court (SOAS) Akamba Mavisa Carving a local art world in East Africa
Abstract Pdf (1,918 kb)
Powerpoint presentation (2,323 kb)

Celia Nyamweru (St. Lawrence University) and Neil Carrier (University of Oxford) 
The (re)creation of a heroine: the case of Mekatilili wa Menza

Paper (2,121 kb)