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ISK Exhibits its Strong Commitment to Kenyan and Samburu History

By Bill Parsons and Linda Henderson
ISK Exhibits its Strong Commitment to Kenyan and Samburu History

The Rhodia Mann Museum of Samburu Culture at the International School of Kenya. ISK’s Interact Club received the AISA Outstanding Project Award for this remarkable achievement (photo: Clive Ward). _________________________________________________________________________ In the fall of 2016, the Interact Club at the International School of Kenya (ISK) was looking for a project that could help the people of Kenya. We had resources, money, and interest in building connections to Africa. All we needed was a plan. Luckily for us, Rhodia Mann—an author, collector, and an expert on the Samburu people of Northern Kenya—approached us with an offer: if we could find a home for her collection of artifacts and photographs of the Samburu, ISK could keep her collection in perpetuity. For the next two years, students in the Interact Club of ISK, in collaboration with operations staff and faculty, worked with Ms. Mann to develop an exhibition space for her extensive collection. This priceless collection, now a permanent exhibit, includes authentic traditional artefacts, ceremonial beads, warriors’ spears, and other articles essential to understanding the particulars of Samburu culture. In addition to these displays, the exhibit includes maps, graphic descriptions of Samburu star lore, and original photographs and books published by Ms. Mann. Displaying these items solidifies a connection between the ISK community and the Samburu, an important indigenous group in Kenya. The museum provides a constant reminder of the school’s relationship with this community—both through its ancient roots and its current needs, which have changed significantly over the past three decades. During the fifty years that Ms. Mann spent visiting the Samburu of Maralal, she learned that many Samburu people have decided to break from the traditional pastoralist way of life and join communities both nearby and in the larger cities of Kenya. Recognizing that this transition is impossible without education, she partnered with a secondary school that serves the Samburu community in Maralal. Ms. Mann donated a library building to the Samburu school and ISK’s Interact Club students helped raise funds for the delivery of library shelving from Nairobi to Maralal by truck. The students also helped collect over 1,500 books to line those shelves. Thanks to our connection through the museum, we at ISK now have a partner school in this remote region of Kenya. The museum gives students ready incentives to continue their fundraising efforts; one of our current projects involves ensuring clean drinking water for the school students in Maralal by providing water tanks and wells. The Interact Club of ISK chose to take on this museum project out of a sense of duty to our host country, Kenya. The Samburu are one of many indigenous peoples in Kenya experiencing changes to their lives and traditions brought on by population increases and environmental pressure due to climate change. As things inevitably change for the Samburu, the Interact Club is striving both to preserve relics of the traditional culture and to assist the Samburu children at our partner school in Maralal. The museum therefore serves as permanent recognition of the school’s relationship with the Samburu people of Maralal as well as a reminder of our long-term commitment to this community. The museum now occupies a very prominent location on ISK’s campus. A central component of the museum is that it is open to the wider community, particularly to scholars of Kenyan history and indigenous culture. The Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA) recognized this project with the Outstanding Service Project Award for 2017–18.

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