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Journeys of Peace: an update

 Pescalia Sergon

We previously reported that our research has led to exciting new developments for Kenyan peace museums, with the help of funding through The Swedish Institute and new partners. A travelling exhibition on Kenyan peace cultures, called Journeys of Peace, has been touring the country. The exhibition is the first of its kind, and aims to reach ordinary citizens who don’t usually visit museums.

The two partners – Kenyan NGO the Community Peace Museums Foundation (CPMF), which took part in our previous research, and Sweden-based Cultural Heritage without Borders (CHwB), which works largely in the Western Balkans – have now been awarded a further two years’ funding from the same donor. They plan to roll out an exciting series of new activities under the banner Youth 4 Peace, culminating in Kenya’s first national youth conference. Diana Walters of CHwB, a museums specialist, said: ‘The main objective of the new project will be to engage young people in creative activities to promote traditional African cultures of peaceful co-existence and diversity.’

Journeys of Peace has been a big hit, reaching around 4000 Kenyans from different ethnic communities. Many took part in dialogue sessions; the exhibition engaged particularly with young people and encouraged inter-generational dialogue. Visiting eight venues in different parts of the country, it raised awareness of the age-old traditions that have been used to forge peace within and between communities, and created vital spaces for intercultural discussion and education. Its message is particularly important at a time when Kenyans are struggling to heal rifts caused by the 2008 post-election violence that tore the country apart. Elder Stanford Chege (pictured below) said at the project’s final workshop in Nairobi in March 2014: ‘Journeys of Peace has come at the right time. We need to get together all our people and get them working for the good of the country.’ 

Journeys of Peace, Stanford Chege

CPMF coordinator Timothy Gachanga explained: ‘Journeys of Peace made people see their connectedness. It aimed to empower and transform communities through the use of cultural heritage in the realization and respect of human rights, peaceful co-existence and sustainable human development.’ Special sessions were organised for school-children, building on the peace education work that CPMF already does in schools.

Exhibition outcomes included:

● new peace clubs formed in schools

● involvement by local leaders led to museums becoming centres for peace education

● work with marginalised women has reduced discrimination and exclusion

● increased dialogue between men and women on peace building and community issues. Before, men and women used to hold separate meetings in the community

● certain artefacts created opportunities to openly discuss, for the first time, difficult subjects like FGM, which is still practised by some Kenyan communities.

The Swedish Ambassador to Kenya, Johan Borgstam, delighted participants by attending the final workshop, held at Mtaani University, in a slum area of the city. He congratulated the two partners: ‘I salute you for trying to get Kenyan communities involved in peace building. I am humble standing before you because what you are trying to achieve you are doing in an extremely difficult context. Your work is more important than ever.’ He noted the challenges facing Kenya, including the erosion of democracy, lack of human rights, and inter-ethnic tensions, and praised the peace museums for ‘creating knowledge in communities about other communities. What feeds suspicion of other communities is ignorance. Ignorance breeds hatred. But it’s very difficult to despise and hate people when you know them.’

The partners were introduced to one another by Lotte Hughes of The Open University, who led the ‘Managing Heritage, Building Peace’ research project (2008-11).

Further information on the Cultural Heritage without Borders website Munuve Mutisya

This project is grateful for the support of: