When certain words are paired, they end up becoming a revelation- something you think the planet needed. An example of those paired words is “paid leave”. Another is “free food”. A third would be ‘Desert Museum’.
The first time I heard about the Desert Museum in Loiyangalani, I thought I had misheard someone. What does that even mean? A museum in the desert? A desert with a museum? None of the education I had had up to this point in time prepared me for the marvels located within the building that serves as the only museum in Northern Kenya. The Desert Museum is basically a collection of artefacts, stories, pictures and other paraphernalia belonging to the Northern Kenya communities. It is located in Marsabit County. If you cannot make the trip to the Loiyangalani Desert Museum, allow these pictures to take you on a visual journey to the place where humanity is believed to have begun.
Of the 42 tribes in Kenya, 14 of them reside in Marsabit County. The Desert Museum Loiyangalani ensures the rich history, culture and background of these Kenyans is not only shared, but celebrated. The museum houses materials used by communities in Northern Kenya including the Burji, Gabbra, El Molo, Somali, Borana, etc. Most of the materials from these communities are made by hand using cow/camel/giraffe hide.
L: Khil (Borana)- container made from a gourd for carrying fat made during a wedding for the bride to carry it to her new home.
R: Chicho (Sakuye)- milk container made from wild asparagus root called ‘ergams’. Can take up to ONE YEAR to make. Used for storing milk for family use
L: DjUJUM (Gabbra)- wooden straws made from the branches of a tree called ‘ujummay’ for drawing water from sour milk.
R: Shayii (Burji)- Musical instrument. The fork is made from a hardwood tree, for strength, while the thin beating sticks from the same wood. The sticks are beaten between the fork and produce a musical sound. It’s used during circumcision period when initiates return to their homes after the seclusion period. Also used during traditional dances.
L: Tokolla (Burji)- Leather shoes worn by children, women and men. Made by men.
R: Salaal (Borana)- Traditional leather slippers made by men from cow hide.
It’s a place you go to if you want to find out who the Turkana girl is. Not the Wikipedia version, but the real story about her. It’s where you go to if you want to know the meaning behind ‘the Cradle of Mankind’. The desert museum has pictures of actual rock art. It’s fascinating looking at what was going through the minds of our early ancestors. These pictures indicate that giraffes were very important to them or that back then, they roamed freely in large numbers in Northern Kenya.
Very few of the materials at the Desert Museum are present at the National Museum of Kenya. This museum is also a separate entity from the Nairobi Museum. To access the museum you will need a 4WD vehicle. It is approximately 15 minutes away from the airstrip at Loiyangalani. The journey to the Loiyangalani Desert Museum was undoubtedly treacherous and long, but the knowledge and sights were worth it. If you’re ever in the area and in the mood to get a little more acquainted with the North’s history, make sure you visit this place. There is a curator on standby who will explain to you every piece in detail if you so wish. Leave a comment in the visitor’s book and look out for mine- ‘A magical place that is rich in history, every Kenyan should visit before they die’.
(Photos taken using LG Nexus 5)