Home to Luo’s rich cultural heritage

By Ferdinand Mwongela

Kenya has got two cities seated right next to large water bodies. One, Mombasa next to the Indian Ocean, is synonymous with tourism; the second Kisumu next to Lake Victoria is better known for its fish than as an attraction but this disguises its true beauty.

 A glass case exhibition of fish and crustaceans.

Enthralling custom

From hunting tools and weapons to baskets and cooking implements. I’m more fascinated by the stuffed snake and bird displays in a corner of the gallery, probably prompted more by my healthy fear of reptiles coupled with the chance of seeing them up close.

From here we move on to the aquarium in a different building beautifully set at ground level in a tunnel like walk-through set up. I finally get the chance to see the different types of fish I have read about. From the lazy Kamongo to tilapia and the catfish.

The next stop is at the full-scale recreation of a traditional Luo homestead, Ber gi dala. It is the museum's most important and largest exhibition and comes complete with traditional huts for three wives, Achieng, Akinyi and Aketch and simba (hut for the eldest son). Apart from the homes of each wife, Ber gi dala consists also of granaries and livestock kraal of the imaginary Luo man.

Through signs and taped programs in both dholuo and English, the exhibition also explains the origins of the Luo people, their migration to western Kenya, traditional healing plants and the process of establishing a new home.

Guests at the tortoise park. [PHOTOS: MAXWEL AGWANDA/STANDARD]

The guide’s anecdote that after a bite, one has about three minutes to bequeath their earthly possessions to the next of kin was not very helpful.

The short but fat gaboon viper also lay close by. Altogether this must be a huge collection of potential killers in one place at any given time. I was more fascinated by the pythons as they crawled around and on each other their length and size awe-inspiring.

To wind up our tour of the museum we sat down under a tree with the curator, Peter Nyamenya whose explanations and oceans of anecdotes brought the lessons closer home.

As he droned on, I could not help but notice how quiet the museum was, compared to the troops of visitors often seen at the Nairobi National Museum.

Nyamenya, however, assured us that they get their own fair share of visitors especially school children, but agrees that more needs to be done to attract more to this region.

A tour of Kisumu, is never complete without a boat ride in the waters of Lake Victoria, and this we did. For the residents here boat rides are part of their lives but for one whose only ride was at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, this was an adrenaline charged event.

The experience as we stole away from land and deep into the waters was simply unforgettable.