Asian African Heritage Trust

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» Chairperson’s Welcome (AAHT) and Director-General’s Message (NMK)

Chairperson's Welcome

The Asian African Heritage Exhibition ran at the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) Nairobi Museum from 2000 to 2005. This was at the invitation of the then Director-General of the NMK, Dr. Isahakia, now Permanent Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office. He pointed out that “the preservation and presentation of Asian history in Kenya must be a critical concern to the Asian community itself.”

All over the world this responsibility has devolved from the central government and the central museum networks to the respective communities themselves in a shared enterprise and effort. To do that, the community has to gather and examine its heritage.

The task as we move into a new Kenya is to define ourselves and our social identity within our primary political identity as Kenyans. Our Kenyan heritage then helps us to keep constantly a national outlook, as opposed to a communal outlook.

Thus, the Trust moved away from the colonial, racial and sectional labels of the past. Three years of long debate and careful scrutiny followed Dr. Isahakia’s invitation : after more than 200 years of settlement and many generations in the country, we had become African, and though we had ever increasingly fewer ties with India or Pakistan, we had also retained much from that sub-continent. We had become Asian Africans.

This was what the exhibition celebrated. We have continued to work closely with the NMK since, and have always received support and encouragement from the Museum’s Board of Trustees and Issa El-Timamy, its Chairperson, as well as the Director-General, Dr.Idle Farah and all his staff. Very generous funding from the Chandaria Foundation and the Desai Memorial Foundation has now enabled us to reinstall the previous Exhibition in improved fashion. This is the work in progress. Further generous funding from the Ford Foundation enables this Newsletter and other activities to advance the aims of the Trust. The Trust is very grateful to each of these supporters.

This and succeeding Newsletters will enable us to be together in these exciting journeys.

Pheroze Nowrojee
Chair - Asian African Heritage Trust

Message from the NMK

The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) is pleased with its fruitful co-operation with the Asian African Heritage Trust. The first Asian African Exhibition generated an overwhelming response, attracting many visitors from the public, national and international media and academics. It led us into a discourse about who we are, and the key role each segment of our society has played towards the making of the Kenyan nation.

The exhibition, though temporary, opened a discussion of the possibility of developing a more permanent exhibition, now in its initial stages of planning. The Asian African Community in Kenya has a rich history dating back to the 1900’s, which needs documentation so future generations appreciate the role played by this community in the making of the Kenyan nation, and the larger East African community. We hope this exhibition will demystify the tags which others have given this community.

As an institution of international repute, the NMK is obligated by Kenyan law to showcase and promote the cultures of the peoples of Kenya. We strive to be a centre of excellence in the production and dissemination of knowledge, and to be a place of dialogue and understanding between the cultures and peoples of a nation. The NMK is dedicated to meeting the recognized and perceived recreation, information and educational needs of Kenyans by providing access to heritage resources in the country.

On behalf of the Board and the staff on NMK, I would like to express our deepest gratitude to the Asian African Trust for supporting the NMK in the establishment of its Endowment Fund. Through the support of the AAHT, and its Chair Mr. Pheroze Nowrojee and Treasurer Mr. Nazim Mitha, the Endowment Fund received a total of 35 million from the Desai Memorial Foundation and the Chandaria Foundation. The Endowment Fund will help to build, over the years to come, an institution worthy of bearing this great name, and hope it will continue to be a source of pride for Kenya and the world.

We invite readers to visit our other exciting exhibitions, both temporary and permanent, as we await the new Asian African Exhibition.

Dr Idle Omar Farah
Director-General - National Museums of Kenya