One man’s bid in putting up Maasai Museum bears fruit

By Obegi Malack  

Maasai heritage has become the face of Africa in global cultural tourism. The pastoral community’s rich culture attracts thousands of tourists to Kenya every year giving the country billions in revenue.

Despite their heritage being a tourist attraction, the community is losing its material culture whereby it has been forgotten over time and the upcoming generations have no information about their past. There exist limited sites to learn about the culture; therefore protecting it for future generation would be an uphill task.

Lack of access to information through establishments like libraries or museums is the reason Charles Leshore has come up with a plan of putting up a museum in Kajiado County to empower the community and protect their culture.

Leshore, a former employee of AMREF Kenya says he has been collecting important materials to start the museum. He wants the Maasais to know their heritage and at the same time, benefit from it.

Charles Leshore in his library. Photo obegi Malack.jpg.

His house in Ongata Rongai shows a clear indication that he has spent time and resources in the field to collect valuable materials from as far as Tanzania. He has been collecting these materials for the last 22 years for his Maasai Museum and Centre for Indigenous Culture.

Leshore who is among individuals appointed by Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala on May 2021 as Honorary Warden for the next three years, says  he registered the museum in 2020, and has joined a number cultural of associations already existing including the Community and Private Museum Association.

The museum contains traditional artifacts such as: tools, weaponry and cooking items that were used by Maasai in the past. It also has items that were used for communication like horns. Besides, he has in store the first vehicle to be bought by Maasais with registration number KKE 001.

He says that the Moran’s rite of passage has been forgotten as the community has embraced education and modern religion. Therefore, the center will lead in spearheading the bringing back the Moran rites of passage.

The center also has sculptures of Mau Mau fighters who fought for the country’s independence, in its library; the biographies of respected leaders such as Ole Ntimama, Oloitiptip, John Keen, Mary Mpayeei, Justus ole Tipis, Ole Masaa, Ole Ntipilit, Ole Lemein and Lois Mpayeei among others are well presented.

The center has books about Maasais from around the world while others were bought from Amazon. Leshore has also written a number of books about the Maasai people.

Charles Leshore shows the first Maasai car. Photo by Obegi Malack

Leshore says some of the community’s respected leaders who passed on have to be honored by documenting their stories for the future generation.

The center will also educate the Maasais on importance of protection their land, to enable them solving land conflicts besides giving them lessons on local tourism. Beads, ornaments and other items will be sold at the center.

“Nairobi National Park was Maasai Park but they were pushed out of the area, we do not want such to happen in other areas as we want Maasai to be stewards because they understand the animals and live with them,” he said.

The center will also be used in identifying historical sites that needs to be protected for future generations. Some of the sites will be named ‘heritage sites’. Some of the sites already marked include: Oloiboni Olonana, the Ngong Colonial Court and proposed shrine in Kisamis. There will also be a monument of Olonana ole Mbatian at the center.

Ngong Hills will also be a heritage site as it was voted in 2014 as the World’s Most Romantic Film Location but little has been done to market it.

Although Leshore has the knowledge and artifacts for the center, he is seeking funds to put up the museum and he believes well-wishers will be interested in supporting him achieve the dream.

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