Visiting Nairobi National Museum to Revisit Kenyan History

Najwa Gaines

Najwa enjoying the morning sun

I’ve always read books about African history. Books about the continent, individual countries, individual individuals and anything else about how Africans got to where they are today. Naturally, a lot of the books focused on colonialism, the civil wars that broke out after independence, the “Big Men” and the heroes.

Kenya’s past has been relatively free of the strife other countries have endured, some to this day. No Idi Amin, no Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga, no Charles Taylor or Robert Mugabe. No genocides, no military dictators or coups, no militia takeovers.

But, there was the Mau Mau uprising.

To keep it simple, the Mau Mau uprising occurred from 1952 to 1960 when Kenyans fought back for their rights, their land and their dignity in general. They fought the British and the British’s allies, other Kenyans who thought they were on the winning side. Eventually the British did put down the rebellion, in about as an inhumane way possible as the British has done ever before; but three years later, the Union Jack was lowered for good and replaced with the Kenyan flag.

When Nduku and I went to the Nairobi National Museum, I was looking forward to learning more about Kenyan history and get the Kenyan point of view of the Mau Mau, colonialism and the history of Kenyans before the British called them all Kenyans.

When we got inside, there was the historical stuff I was looking for that you rarely find in books. The tribes that existed before the British showed p and claimed they were all the same. The way they lived, the way they viewed themselves as different from each other, their individual histories and cultures.


They slept with headrests, which looked like little uncomfortable stools, made of wood instead of pillows. Some of the ear plugs looked impossible to put in your ear, but they all did it because it was customary where in America today, it’s looked at as, well, just being different.

Kenya is the cradle of mankind. There were skeletons and skulls from the first discovered human beings and the “species” that existed before homo sapiens. There’s the story of Phillip Leaky, the famous anthropologist who made many of the discoveries that propelled him to the top of the food chain when it comes to discovering where mankind started.

While we were in the exhibit about the founding of mankind, the power went out. It got pitch black. I was thinking someone accidentally turned off the lights. Nduku said power going out isn’t that uncommon. It took several minutes before the lights came back on. I was thinking maybe they found the light switch to turn them back on. Nduku told me they probably turned on a generator.

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