In the last few weeks I have become a regular visitor to the Kenya National Services Library along Ngong Road and the Kenya National Archives along the busy Moi Avenue.
The reason I spend hours poring through files and books in the crowded rooms of the KNSL and in the once-dusty but now crispy corridors of the Archives has to do with my next book project.
As my publishers burn the midnight oil in a rush to finalise my biography, Dash Before Dusk, in readiness for its launch in June, I am already into my third book; a scholarly work on slavery along the East African coast meant for history and social sciences students.
Dash Before Dusk follows the successful release in 2011 of a political memoir, The Politics of Betrayal, which details political events in Kenya between 2001 and 2008.
The Kenya National Archives and Documentation Service (KNADS) was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament. Today, it is the custodian of well over 40,000 volumes of documents stretching back many centuries ago. It also houses a huge collection of books, some of them difficult to find anywhere else.
In a nutshell, the Archives holds a rich heritage of our history as well as information that researchers, scholars and students from all over the world find useful. Interestingly the number of foreigners – at least during the times I have been there – using the research facility far surpasses the number of locals. The other way should be the case.
The only setback is the location of the facility. The area around Hotel Ambassadeur is one of the most crowded sections of our CBD. Thousands of people use the two major bus terminals in the area. As a result, preachers and promoters of goods and services find it a perfect place to set camp, with noise from loudspeakers permeating the corridors of the Archives throughout the day, disturbing the peace that should be the hallmark of a place such as the Archives.
In addition to having a section that highlights key figures in our independence struggle, the former Grindlays Bank premises also features the Murumbi Africana Collection of artifacts and ancient art collections from all over the continent, described by many as the largest Pan-African art gallery in the world. Joseph Murumbi was Kenya’s second vice president after Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.
Also featuring now is a historical representation of the life and times of Tom Mboya, the Kenyan politician and cabinet minister who was assassinated on 5 July 1969. The display is only a few yards away from where his statue stands.
The KNADS attracts many school parties which is good. However, I would like to see more Kenyans making use of the research rooms. We should not have foreigners partaking our heritage in larger doses than ourselves.
And that is my say.