Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nairobi National Museum

The national museum in the city centre is well worth a look if in town 
I was in Nairobi delivering a briefing to a school. The following morning I had some time free before heading back up North and decided to take a look at the Nairobi national museum which I think would rank as the best sub saharan museum, the Egyptian museum in Cairo would probably rank as the best on the continent but only just. 
The main building has sections divided up into wildlife and the mammals of Africa, the cradle of humankind which is the most interesting and then the history of Kenya which is a little awkward as a Brit. I knew walking along the timeline round the walls that one thing is going to pop up that involves the British. 
I started of with this and it was a very good comprehensive trip round and certainly made me think about the big differences between the west and the developing world as we refer to it. Kenya has in reality had very little in the way of changes in comparison to Europe or the US. There was pre colonial Kenya and then post colonial Kenya and that is about it. Where as we have gone through huge changes we move much much faster, the industrial age, swinging sixties, cold war, the digital age or womens rights, gay rights we have women who want to be men or men or who want to be women we have constantly been moving and changing and adapting. 
 At one stage Africa was numerous tribes all wandering around living in balance with the environment around them and bang in came the British and Europeans moved everything around in a bid to get out all the materials needed to grow the industries and then left leaving with it a political system which no one really knew how to deal with. It took us hundreds of years to develop that system. The Africans have had it landed on them and people seem surprised its not working in the same way. I think the west is guilty of expecting to much sometimes. Uganda is the same having had the parliamentary system rushed into place for independence and then quickly leaving it in the hands of people who didn't really know how it worked and where just power hungry led to a disaster under Amin. The history section was an eyeopener even the section on the railway which had one person quoted as saying ‘its usual for a country to create a railway but most unusual for a railway to create a country’. So it does seem clear that we where doing what we wanted for gains to the Empire and those actions have shaped this continent forever. I also wasn't aware of just how much resistance there was to the colonisation and how ruthlessly it was dealt with. But moving on… 
The cradle of human kind was a very good section which highlights the fact that man came from this continent. The skulls section with remains from as many as 17 million years ago highlighted the evolution of man and how it spread from there onwards to what we are today. I have talked with people who believe in the seven day creation idea in groups but a walk round here would put them in the right direction. All the evidence you need is in this exhibit. 

An extremely old skull around 17 million years in age 
From the museum I headed round to the snake park to have a look there which on reflection I now know I don’t really like snakes. They had them all some of which I have seen in camp or out and about on activities. The Green Mamba I have seen a few times in the forest very sharp and quick. I came across one recently in the canyon with a frog in its mouth it saw me and fled up a tree leaving a grateful frog on the floor. There where two I thought where particularly unpleasant the rock anaconda which was huge metres long and at least a foot thick curled up it looked like a giant tractor tyre. I remember in Shimla in Northern India I was with a group and it seemed the done thing to have a photo taken with one of these snakes across your shoulders. Numerous people went through and I refused having already been traumatised enough by the monkey temple. But one girl in the group had her turn while someone was fiddling with the camera settings she and I noticed it getting tighter and then tighter again, I jumped up shouting get the f$%^^ing snake off and it was a bit of a tussle that ensued to get it off. This was a standard thing written in the programme but the snake was doing what it does which is strangle the victim slowly and then eat them.  

Horrible really a giant rock anaconda ! 
The other was the Puff Adder which as soon as it saw me jabbed the glass window to get at me, I moved on swiftly. From the snakes you moved to a very poorly caged area with holes in it past the different types of crocodiles. The Nile crocodile being the biggest and could easily rip the fence apart I thought. It looked dead but as I peered through the fence one eye opened and it slowly opened its mouth bearing its huge teeth no other part of its body moved it was a bit spooky. This area gave me the jitters and made me think it could only end with some gruesome incident of a tourist being eaten in the museum so I headed to the gift shop and cafe. 

All in all though if you are in Nairobi have a look as its well worth it and there is lots to be learnt especially about the colonial years as I cant remember being taught that at school history was all about a sailor who found a potato and then we won the war.

Crocodile, note the bottom of the fence on the right you can lift up !