Seeking a living culture, heritage that benefits all

Saturday May 25 2019

Igongo Cultural Centre and community museum in Mbarara, Uganda.

Igongo Cultural Centre and community museum in Mbarara, Uganda. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI 

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May has been a busy month on the culture and heritage scene as the world marked International Museums Day on 18th and the World Day for Cultural Diversity on the 21st.

As part of the events that commemorated Museums Day, the Uganda Community Museums Association called on the government to include community museums in the national budget allocations and technical support.

The association’s chair, Abraham Kitaulwa, argued that museums played a big role in promoting the country’s cultural diversity while offering space for cultural exchange and co-operation.

He further added that the funding “will go a long way in supporting research and documentation to enhance the knowledge base of community museums.”

Uganda already has a law, the 2015 Museums and Monuments Policy which is yet to be implemented, and the association believes that funding will unlock cultural tourism. Uganda has 35 community museums and 22 of them are members of the community association.

In Kenya, a survey result released on Cultural Diversity Day shows that 98.8 per cent of 519 respondents polled think it is important to preserve Kenya’s cultural heritage and 53 per cent say it is important to do so because, ‘’it defines us.’’


But while Kenya’s cultural heritage sector boosts economic growth by supporting creative industries and the people working in them, only 1.7 per cent of respondents knew this.

However, all respondents agreed that regular and more cultural events throughout the year would improve engagement with cultural heritage. Less than half the respondent at 48 per cent recommended that cultural heritage be added to the school curriculum.

The sample survey was part of the Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth programme, known as #CultureGrows, run by the British Council through its East Africa Arts programme.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most people surveyed said they engage with their culture primarily through oral stories told by their parents or grandparents, and through the media, museums, cultural events such as fashion shows and music concerts, and finally through libraries and school.

Oral traditions and language emerged as the most highly valued part of Kenya’s cultural heritage, closely followed by music and dance.