Richard Leakey secures Sh305m to build museum

Thursday June 1 2017

Kenya Wildlife Service chairman Richard Leakey addresses a press conference

Kenya Wildlife Service chairman Richard Leakey addresses a press conference at the Office of The President on February 26, 2016 during the inaugural Giant Club Summit. Dr Leakey plans to build a museum in Turkana County. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Coming soon in a dusty terrain in Turkana: museum whose outer structure looks like the rugged stone tools used by Early Man.

And The Cathedra will not be one such stone-like structure but a cluster of at least four adjacent to each other.

They will be erected near Lake Turkana, where many a fossil of man’s ancestors and their tools have been found.

The architect, Polish-American designer Daniel Libeskind, was involved in construction of more than 30 iconic structures, including the World Trade Centre rebuilding, and led the design of famous museums such as the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester.

The project is the brainchild of 72-year-old Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) chairman, Dr Richard Leakey, who has pushed for the idea since 2015.

London-based The Independent reported on Saturday that early last month, Dr Leakey secured Sh305 million from firms prospecting for oil in the county, including Tullow, the amount he needs to get started.

At least Sh106 billion is required, he revealed, saying he had instructed Mr Libeskind’s firm to start creating the plans of the building.

He has asked the architect to do something that is “absolutely stand-alone” and “wow”.

He said: “We’re as keen to make the technicalities of the building as ground-breaking as its overall design.

“Early design ideas show a cluster of irregularly-shaped buildings inspired by Stone Age hand axes and other tools unearthed nearby.

"The central hall rises 15 storeys above the desert. The site’s footprint’s shape is the outline of the African continent.”

Speaking in September 2015 in Turkana, where he announced plans to build the museum, Dr Leakey said one of the items to be displayed are the bones of the Turkana Boy.

That is the nickname given to a nearly complete skeleton found to have lasted 1.6 million years when it was discovered by a team led by Dr Leakey, who comes from a family of archaeologists.

“It will be a boost to our tourism potential as counties in the North Rift form an economic bloc,” a local publication quoted Dr Leakey as saying.

But in the interview with The Independent, Dr Leakey – who said he was too busy to answer questions from the Nation for this story – said it may not be a good idea to only display the Turkana Boy and other glass-enclosed items as in a conventional museum.

“Maybe we don’t want to exhibit the original (fossils) at all,” he said.

Saying he wanted the museum to be something “very creative”, he added: “Why don’t we have a room you come in to wearing a 3D headset and sit quietly in the middle of a band of Homo erectus moving all around you? That’s much more interesting than a skeleton of Turkana Boy behind glass.”