Chance to explore national treasure at Nairobi Gallery – PHOTOS and VIDEO
Ever wondered when we say Nairobi is 833km to Moyale where the counting started from?
There is an actual starting point, a landmark in the heart of Nairobi known as ‘Point Zero’.
The point is located at Nairobi Gallery that sits beneath the famous Nyayo House at the junction of Kenyatta Avenue and Uhuru highway.
Inside a hexagonal-shaped chamber of the Gallery is a plinth supporting a charcoal-coloured Murumbi Vessel, a ceramic pot crafted by renowned Kenyan ceramist, Lady Magdalene Odundo.
The plinth is positioned exactly on the ‘Point Zero’ spot. It is from here that distances to every part of the country and continent are measured.
After Kenya’s independence in 1963, it housed the office of Nairobi’s first Provisional Commissioner until 1984. Thereafter it housed Kanu’s Nairobi branch office until 1997.
When officials realized the building’s important role in Kenya’s history, it was gazette as a national monument in 1993 and officially declared a national monument in 1995.
Following the declaration, the building was handed over to the National Museums of Kenya in 1997 for preservation, and the agency began renovating it in 1999.
The work was completed in 2005 and the Nairobi Gallery opened its doors to the public.
WHO IS MURUMBI?
Joseph Murumbi was born in 1911 to Goan trader and a Maasai woman. Years later, Murumbi become the second Vice President of Kenya (1964-1966).
In 1966 Murumbi resigned from his position and went into artifacts collection across Africa together with his wife Sheila Murumbi.
They collected African textiles, jewelry, stamps and rare ancient books all over Africa.
In 1972, the Murumbis, together with their longtime friend and partner, Alan Donovan, opened doors to the first Pan-African Centre in Nairobi, where artists and art works and artifacts from all parts of the continent was showcased African Heritage was borne and was a success from the beginning.
They went on ahead to open close to 51 outlets across the world but closed down in 2003.
Murumbi died in 1990 and left everything to his wife who continued collecting the artifacts mostly stamps.
By the time Murumbi died, their shared stamp collection was said to be second only to the Queen of England’s.
When Sheila died in 2000, all the collection were to be taken to England but Alan and former Vice President Moody Awori intervened and stopped the exportation.
It’s here the collections were handed over to National Archives and the National Museums of Kenya for safe keep for the people of Kenya.
THE SIX ROOMS
The gallery is divided into around 6 rooms each containing a different collection from Murumbi African Heritage collection from all over Africa.
There is also a room full of jewelry from different communities across Africa. The jewelry were handmade and locally found materials were used to make them. Some of the jewelries were worn by Sheila.
Adjacent to the jewelry room is another room full of artifacts from kitchenware.
There was another room that housed furniture used by the Murumbi. The setup at the gallery is the same as the one in Muthaiga. There is also a family album in the middle of the ‘sitting room’ on a wooden stool.
There was a room full of printed stamps as samples of the real collection. There are no original stamps in the stamp collection room as all are housed at the Kenya National Archives along Moi Avenue. In this room there is a safe that has never been opened.
Another room housed artifacts from African royalty and textiles. The textiles were from as far as Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa and from our neighboring countries of Ethiopia and Somalia. At the corner stood a second safe which could be opened. The safe is made up on heavy metal.
Of its six rooms, one has been dedicated as exhibition space for artists and it’s the only room that has collections for sale. The other room is dedicated for children to learn traditional art of basketry, bead-work, crocheting, painting and storytelling from the older generation who are invited by the management.
Along the corridors photos and artwork from different artiste across Africa have been displayed.
According to the gallery’s curator, Rhoda Lange, the site does not get many visitors, as most Kenyans are not aware of its importance in Kenya’s history.
Citizen: Adults Sh150, Children below 16 years Sh100
Residents: Adults Sh600, Children below 16 years Sh400
Non Residents: Adults Sh1,000, Children below 16 years Sh500