The cabinet secretary for Culture and Sport, Hussein Wario GAZETTED the House as a MONUMENT
PETITION TO SAVE THE AFRICAN HERITAGE HOUSE FROM DEMOLITION
Joseph Anthony Zuzarte Murumbi was the first Foreign Minister
of Kenya and the country’s second Vice President.
During the l980’s, his house in Muthaiga was demolished and
the land upon which the house stood grabbed by unscrupulous politicians, high
and mighty in the government of the day. A few years before, Murumbi had sold
the said house in Muthaiga with some of his vast collections of books and art
to the Kenyan government to be an Institute of African Studies. UNESCO agreed
to fund a hostel, a library and a kitchen at the house. Murumbi then moved with his wife, Sheila, to his
native Maasailand, where he built another stunning house. After a fall in his
bathroom, he was evacuated to Nairobi. It was then he heard that his house had
been torn down and his collections moved out. He went to the house to
investigate the matter. From his
wheelchair he peered through the gates of his former home and saw that his
beautiful indigenous trees had been felled for developers to build houses for
those who took the land. A short time later he suffered a final stroke
and died. Joseph Murumbi was, arguably, Africa’s greatest art collector, along
with his American-Kenyan friend, Alan Donovan, who were co-founders of African
Heritage, Africa’s first Pan African gallery.
In l994, Alan Donovan completed the
African Heritage House overlooking the Nairobi National Park, which is
described by the prestigious Architectural
Digest as "an architecture rising from the sere Kenyan plain like an
outcropping of earth, a vision of usefulness informed by the African genius for
decoration." The house is a
combination of the indigenous mud architectures from across Africa. It has been described as ‘Africa’s most
photographed house.’ This architectural masterpiece hosts art collections from
all over Africa spanning 50 years. Some of the collections are rare pieces
whose value aptly stands as invaluable. This House therefore remains of
immeasurable cultural value to all Africans, and indeed the whole human race.
It is in the process of being made an Advanced African Studies Centre as a
tribute to the late Murumbi.
The African Heritage House is under
the threat of being demolished!
The House stands to be demolished
on the excuse that the Standard Gauge Railway would need to pull it down to use
the land for construction. However, that view stands to be challenged on several
1. The present railway was built in l889, fifty years before the
Nairobi National Park came into existence which used the railway line as its
border. As there were no blasting
materials at the time, the Railway line meanders around stone outcrops. The SG railway should stay on the railway
reserve but it needs to straighten the old
colonial line for the 21st century train and should be allowed to do
2. The SG railway can be built on a platform so that wild animals can
pass freely below it. This would not require any additional land, just a leeway
to pass through park land as is already being planned through Tsavo National
Park by the same SG railway.
3. The families living along
the border of the Nairobi National Park have all occupied these lands for over
40 years. These borderlands provide a
bulwark to protect the park from unwanted structures, poaching, sewage, lights
and noise. To take these lands would not
only be an environmental disaster but would cost taxpayers huge amounts for compensation.
Whereas if the SG railway remains on the present railway route the costs for
construction, including the platforms, would be paid by the contractor, not the
4. The existing route would
provide passengers with sweeping views of the park, as well as preserve the
borderlands along the park for other uses that are compatible with the Nairobi
With this in
mind, we ask that fellow Kenyans, Africans and citizens of the world to join us
in signing this petition to prevent the African Heritage House from being
demolished whereby history would repeat itself and the house will meet the same
fate as the Murumbi houses!