Kenyans across the globe can now virtually experience the country’s diverse cultures and heritage at the National Museums of Kenya through Google Arts and Culture.
Just at a click of a button on ‘Utamaduni Wetu, Meet the People of Kenya’ on Google Arts and Culture, one can scan through rich cultures that have put National Museums of Kenya in a world-class league.
This is the result of a large-scale digitisation project between the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage and Google Arts and Culture.
According to the ministry, the project will enable audiences to access the collections of National Museums of Kenya online.
Sports, Heritage and Culture Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the project is also part of re-inventing the museums to adapt to and benefit from major social and technological changes.
“Museums, and I believe, archives, galleries, libraries, theatres and art centres, are not exempt from this rule,” Amb Amina said in a statement.
“In fact, historically, this imperative has informed the evolution of museums from their classical origins when they housed the private collections of kings and wealthy merchants to the public galleries of the 18th and 19th centuries with their dedicated focus on education,” she added.
The project, Amina adds, speaks of the efforts to change with the times and embrace the broad trends of heritage and culture towards making museums social and digital institutions in which the audiences are active actors.
It is also expected to be a boost to the education sector as students across the globe can access amazing collections with ease.
The virtual experience is also expected to engage people and inspire interest in understanding and learning about Kenya’s cultural and natural heritage.
Music and dance
“The digitisation of our intangible heritage will help us better preserve and broaden access to collections, and also enable us to engage, inform and inspire audiences in a way that can have a positive impact on society as a whole.
“I am encouraged that the digitisation of the NMK collections opens our compendia to all those who have access to the internet in Kenya and the world as a whole,” Amina said.
A peek through Google Arts and Culture takes one through cultures of the Kenyan people, music, contemporary creatives, colours of Kenya and little-known cultures and tribes.
On the virtual journey to meet people of Kenya, audiences can also sample the taste and experience Kenya through music and dance. The traditional music, according to the website, is “more than artistic expression”.
Here, an array of traditional music passed down orally accompanied by instruments and costumes, are lined up.
From dancers wearing masks to those carrying shields, singing lullabies, initiation, marriage and burial songs, one can virtually have a feel.
One can learn about instruments such as the Rabai whistle, the Kipsigis flute, the Samia and Tugen horn trumpets, Kikuyu witchdoctor’s horn and the Kuria dance masks.
And if one wants to travel down the lane to sample the make-up in traditional Kenyan communities, they cannot miss the ochre, charcoal, henna, among several body masks.
One can also learn the appeal behind scars in the virtual journey.
One can also learn of the cultures of little known communities like the Isukha, Duruma, Bujan, Elmolo and many others.
Audiences can also read through rich history behind legendary Kenyan warriors who are praised as having unique attributes that range from “the speed of a cheetah, agility of a cobra and strength of a rhino”.
The historic legends are all lined up, including Syokimau (the Kamba oracle), Sakawa (the Kisii foreteller), Aljuran Sutanate (the royals from Somali), Mukite Wa Namene (the Bukusu warrior) and Lenana the wise Maasai.
Audiences can also visit literary warriors like Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Oscar award winners like Lupita Nyong’o and other heroes.
Enthusiasts can also meet superheroes at a click, from reading about Mekatilili wa Menza, the Giriama wonder woman, to Gor Mahia, the powerful Luo magician. You can also find ‘your ukoo’.
Some of the 21 superheroes one can meet online are Abba Gadas (the Borana leader), Hawecha (the Oromo dreamer), Koitalel Samoei (the Nandi legend), Luanda Magere (the invisible Luo warrior), Mugo Wa Kibiru (the Kikuyu seer), Ciokaraine (the brave Meru), Cierume (the Embu dancing warrior), among many others.