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Artifacts must be brought back, says museum boss

Historical statues must be returned to the city from the US for preservation, museum authorities have said.

The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) management said on Sunday they had been consulted by the County Assembly and agreed that the artifacts, referred to as Vigango, be preserved in the country.

Museums and Monuments director, Dr Purity Kiura, said although NMK would not be represented at the handing over ceremony at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, they supported the repatriation.

“Kenya has categorised the statues as ‘‘protected objects’’ as enshrined in the 1983 Antiquities and Monuments Act, which makes it illegal to take them out of the country,” said Dr Kiura.

She said the presence of the statues was revealed during a twinning programme between the Nairobi County Government and the County of Denver officials last year.

We are tasked with enforcing laws concerning heritage management, hence our support for the process of spearheading the repatriation process. 

The collection of the statues, as a way to honour troubled spirits of deceased community members among the Mijikenda, has sparked a row in the County Assembly over whether the expensive trip was necessary.

A committee, led by Speaker Alex Ole Magelo and Majority Leader Elias Otieno will travel to the US tomorrow or Wednesday to collect the statues at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Denver Museum claimed it had received the 30 statues in 1990 as a donation from two Hollywood Collectors; actor Gene Hackman and film producer Art Linson.

Dr Kiura said each of the statues is between four and six feet tall.

“They are unique and most of them bear faces, some carved with geometrical designs, some painted and a few adorned with cloth at the neck or waist,” she said.

Earlier, some of the County Reps had expressed ignorance of what the ‘Vigango’ were about, wondering what County Hall had to do with them.