Conserving rich creative heritage

Loiyangalani Desert Museum
The main entrance of the Loiyangalani Desert Museum in Marsabit County. PHOTO | KENNEDY KIMANTHI | NMG 

National Art Galleries across the world are recognised as a convergence point for art and culture. They are counted among the top tourist hubs and revenue generators in major cities.

Despite the emphasis on promotion of culture and arts in the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 in Chapter 2, article 11, our country lacks a central public space for Kenyans and other nationalities to learn and appreciate the historical development of art in Kenya.

This is the second of a series of articles reflecting on the need for the establishment of a national art gallery in Kenya.

In the previous piece we gave a brief history of attempts that have been made by Kenyans towards the establishment of a national art gallery, the most recognised having been by Kenya’s second Vice-President the Late Joseph Zuzarte Murumbi, during his tenure in 1965 – 1966. It also gave an overview of the series — why would a national art gallery be important to the country’s national agenda, who would it benefit, where would it likely be situated, how would it be funded, who would manage it and what should be exhibited in it. It is a subject that attracts a broad national and global appeal.

Writing from the perspective of heritage management and museum practice, we acknowledge scholarly efforts that have been made previously on this topic. The discourse is on-going amongst stakeholders amidst the awakening of an ever growing rich and vibrant creative industry in Kenya.


It is precarious not to have a documented reference point to any history as it otherwise becomes a fable. The need to have a one stop infrastructure with a well-documented system for the art industry in Kenya is indispensable.

The current status of art collections in Kenya lacks coherence. Most tend to be variedly held in individual, public and private collections, with unknown provenance, origin and transits made.

The National Museums of Kenya as a custodian of our national heritage has a collection that sets grounds for an internationally recognised conventional system of collecting, documenting, preservation and dissemination through channels that facilitate access to the collections to discerning audiences.

The national art gallery will keep and provide records of art in Kenya through valuable qualitative and quantitative data. This, in turn, will enable Kenya savour its creative economy net worth. The envisaged national art gallery will bring together artists and art forms with a national and regional outlook, giving them both lifelong social value and economic significance.

Harnessing and managing a rich and diverse creative heritage respects professionalism.

Clear museological records provide a safe haven for tart collections. This involves properly cataloguing artwork that has been collected, identified, categorised, digitised, and preserved.

It is done with various levels of attention on artists, materials used, date of production, aesthetic differences, art trends, technologies of storage and other relevant factors.