ASIA SCENE: Conserving culture and heritage

Sunday July 22 2018

The organising committee of a gallery initiative on Asian heritage.

The organising committee of a gallery initiative on Asian heritage. PHOTO | ALLAUDIN QURESHI 

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An honourable initiative to conserve history and cultural heritage of Asians in Kenya was recently launched at Dusit Hotel Riverside Drive Nairobi.

The cocktail launch hosted by Asian African Heritage Trust and the Asian Foundation was to create awareness about a historic gallery at the National Museum of Kenya and to seek financial pledges towards the project.

Mr Nazim Mitha from the Asian African Heritage Trust provided details of the proposed gallery, which is directed towards preservation of intellectual, social, commercial and philanthropic heritage.

An addition to the existing exhibits at the museum relating to the arrival of Asians in Kenya, the construction of railway line and the Indian Duka culture, the project further highlighted by Dr Sheth of the Asian Foundation will depict the origin, inheritance, struggles and resilience of the community in the country of its adoption.

Both the Asian African Heritage Trust and Asian Foundation are non-profit social and cultural organisations without any political, racial or religious leanings, and they have served the well-endowed multi-racial, multi-cultural and diverse Kenyan society consistently and significantly over the years.

Whilst the foundation has championed the cause of education, entrepreneurship, medical health and elderly care, the Heritage Trust has promoted and enlightened Kenyans and the world at large about the literary, social and cultural exploits of Kenyan Asians.

The distinguished gathering at the launch donated generously towards the completion of the project. The Heritage Trust and Foundation gatherings are always nostalgic and not only bring cultural and creative happiness to those who attend, but they also provide inspiration to work towards the betterment of the community and the Kenyan society.

In a related story about cultural heritage, Kenya theatre director and playwright Titi Wainaina had dramatised Pheroze Norowjee’s publication, A Kenyan Journey, and plans were to stage it as a tribute to Asian ancestors who sacrificed their lives in the process of building our railway at the turn of the last century.

Pheroze’s book is more than a history of his own ancestors of Indian origin and their settlement in Kenya. Wainaina’s Art and Culture Africa group for some reason was unable to face the stage lights last year, although during the launch of standard gauge railway service, an animated version of the play was seen at various stations along the railway route.

I now understand that plans are ripe for Arts and Culture Africa drama group to fulfil the promise. It is welcome news and readers can look forward to further details in this column in days to come.