One-of-a-kind concept behind Kisumu museum

Friday July 5 2019

Kisumu Museum

Kisumu Museum which is built around the concept of a traditional Luo homestead. It was built by the government with Unesco support. 

ELIZABETH OJINA
By ELIZABETH OJINA
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Along Kisumu-Kericho Highway, almost 2km away from the lakeside city’s CBD, lies Kisumu Museum.

The property was built around the concept of a traditional Luo homestead. The museum was built by the government with support from Unesco and was officially opened to the public on April 7, 1980.

Kisumu museum

A diorama of a lion with its prey inside the Kisumu Museum's gallery. The museum is rich with information on the culture and heritage of Nyanza, rift Valley and westers Kenya people. PHOTO | ELIZABETH OJINA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Kisumu Museum senior curator Phoebe Awiti says the land was donated by the municipal council.

EDUCATIONAL SERVICES

“Former Mayor Grace Onyango allocated the land to the museum. It was built for three years, courtesy of funding from Unesco,” says Ms Awiti.

The museum provides educational services to schools in its neighbourhood. Children pay Sh50, and adults Sh100. Non-resident children and adults pay Sh200 and Sh400, respectively, to enter the museum.

Kisumu museum

The gallery, which serves as a learning centre. Students flock the museum to explore the rich culture of western Kenya. PHOTO | ELIZABETH OJINA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The museum stores and disseminates information on cultural and natural heritage, with an emphasis on western Kenya.

At the gallery, there are different displays of the material culture of the people of western, Rift Valley and Nyanza.

These include traditional clothing and adornment, basketry, fishing gear, agricultural tools and hunting weaponry. Also on display are several dioramas, including a lion, De Brazza monkey, and one of the largest Nile Perch ever caught in Kenya.

AQUARIUM

Unique to Kisumu Museum is its natural history exhibits in the form of a freshwater aquarium. It houses various fish species from Lake Victoria and the surrounding wetlands.

“Most museums don’t have an aquarium. Apart from Kisumu, the only museum with an aquarium is the Nairobi National Museum,” Ms Awiti says.

The Kisumu Museum has a full-scale recreation

The Kisumu Museum has a full-scale recreation of a Luo homestead. Ber-gi-dala consists of the home, granaries and livestock kraals of the original Lou man. PHOTO | ELIZABETH OJINA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The museum’s most important and largest exhibition is the Unesco sponsored Ber-gi-dala. This is the full scale recreation of a Luo homestead.

The Ber-gi-dala consists of the home, granaries and livestock kraals of the original Luo man as well as the homes of his three wives, and his eldest son.

Through signs and taped programs in both Luo and English, the exhibition also explains the origin of the Luo people, their migration to western Kenya, traditional healing plants and the process of establishing a new home.

A visit to the museum is not complete without viewing the 300-year-old giant tortoise brought to Kenya from Seychelles in 1930. The snake pit houses a collection of snakes, both poisonous and non-poisonous. Notable species include the big pythons, Gabon viper and Black mamba.

There are two ponds at the crocodile pen with a species of the Nile crocodile.

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