Kenya Museums and art galleries Guide

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While in Nairobi City you may need to visit Kenya National Museum and other private owned art galleries, Therefore, this page is giving you all the details about them and all art galleries in Nairobi.

The galleries have been reorganised to interpret the heritage of Kenya to stimulate appreciation and learning. To capture the feel of diversity and interactivity, there are mixed galleries to show the personality of the new museum. Under the nature pillar, there are 5 exhibitions.

These are Human origins, Mammalian Radiation, Ecology of Kenya, Natural Diversity and Geology. Under Culture, the exhibitions include Cycles of Life, Cultural Dynamism and Creativity.

The history pillar has two exhibitions: Kenya Before 1850 and History of Kenya.

List of Museum and Art Galleries in Nairobi City Kenya

National Museum of Kenya (NMK)

Museum Hill, off Uhuru Highway, P0 Box 40658, Nairobi; tel: 020 742141-4; fax: 020 741424; email:; web:

This is a superb museum, with a collection comparable to Western museums, and it has excellent exhibits for anyone interested in the origins of man, the geomorphology of the landscape, natural history, Kenya’s tribal cultures and contemporary art.

For an enlightened insight about the country, a morning’s visit here is well spent prior to traveling around, as it gives a valuable introduction to Kenya’s rich natural and cultural heritage. Within the museum are several galleries.

The Mammal Gallery is divided between displays of animals in their natural setting and mounted specimens so that you can get a close up of animals you might see on safari, like giraffe and elephant.

The Bird Gallery has a collection of the birds seen in Kenya, from raptors to tiny sunbirds, while the Fish and Reptile Gallery contains some bizarre exhibits, like the kingfish found in Lake Turkana which can survive for up to four years in mud during a drought Casts of snakes are exhibited for identification purposes, although the live exhibits in the snake park outside the museum are more interesting — with snakes, crocodiles and terrapins — although it’s not as informative as the Bio-Ken snake farm at the coast.

The Prehistory Gallery covers the origins of man in East Africa, from palaeontological discoveries through to the Stone Age and early Iron Age.

Perhaps its finest exhibit is a case containing a complete skeleton of Homo erectus 1.6 million years old, from western Lake Turkana, discovered by the Koobi Fora Research Project in the 1980s.

The Geology Gallery gives a good background to Kenya’s most significant geological feature, the Rift Valley, with its faults, volcanoes and calderas, and is also of interest to those climbing Mount Kenya, which at one time may have been as high as Everest.

The Ethnography Gallery has a collection of Joy Adamson’s Peoples of Kenya portraits — detailed watercolours, commissioned by the government between 1949—1955 to document Kenya’s traditional tribal cultures which even at that time were beginning to disappear.

They provide a fine historical record of over 44) of Kenya’s ethnic groups.

In addition there are artefacts from different tribes around the country, with displays relating to daily life and ceremonial significance, from skin clothing, basketry and beadwork to agriculture, medicine, music and religion.

The Botanical Paintings Gallery contains another collection of Joy Adamson’s work watercolours of indigenous plants, hung in groups reflecting the country’s different habitats.

The herbarium contains plant specimens she collected, and notes on their ethnobotanical use in medicine and rituals, food, crafts and natural insecticides.

The Swahili Gallery illustrates the history of the coast, from the first century to the present day and the development of Swahili culture.

Items on display include typical Swahili furnishings, pottery and furniture and a replica 19th century kitchen.

The Gallery of Contemporary East African Art exhibits a wide array of paintings, prints and sculptures for sale by contemporary African artists.

There’s also a Museum Studio and Arts Centre which encourages young talent. Open daily 09.30—18.00; entry KSh200/KSh 100

Also based at NMK are:

Kenya Museum Society

P0 Box 40658, Nairobi; tel: 020 743808; email: info@knowkenya.orgBoth the contemporary art gallery and studio are coordinated by the Kenya Museum Society (KMS), a voluntary association promoting the work of the museum.

It runs an annual Arts festival, normally in March, and an excellent Know Kenya course with a series of lectures, usually in October.Office open Mon—Fri 09.00—14.01)

Nature Kenya

(The East African Natural History Society) P0 Box 44486, 00100 Nairobi; tel: 020 374995; email:; web:

The oldest scientific society in Africa — it started in 1909 — the office, shop and library are located in the museum compound.

The society supports a number of conservation projects ranging from succulent plants to butterflies, and often arranges natural history outings and bird watching excursions, It organizes Wednesday morning bird walks at sites in and around.

Nairobi, meeting at the National Museum car park at 08.45, returning about 12.30. Those who are not members of Nature Kenya can get temporary membership at US$2 per bird walk.

payable on arrival at the car park. As available transport is shared, there is no guarantee of a place, but they almost always manage to take everyone.

It also organizes a Sunday bird walk on the third Sunday of the month. An all-day outing for members, it meets at the National Museum car park in Nairobi.

Membership can be obtained from the Nature Kenya office. They have also helped to set up the Ngong Forest birdwalks, see page 190.Office open Mon—Fri 09.00—15.00

Railway Museum

Located to the west of Nairobi station and visible from Uhuru Highway, if you are a steam-train buff, the museum will keep you fascinated for several happy hours.

It was established in 1971 to preserve and display the steam locomotives and rolling stock of the then East African Railways and Harbours Corporation.

It has an eclectic collection of memorabilia from the history of the Uganda railway, from its infamous beginnings when numerous workers perished at the jaws of the man-eating lions of Tsavo (see page 221) until the present day, together with the Tanzanian railway.

There’s an area with wonderful old steam engines, together with smaller exhibits and models.

Exhibits from the Kenya Uganda railway include several 1/ulcan Foundry, 2 &yer-Garatts and a Nasrnyth Wilson.

An East African Railways engine, the 5918 Mount Gelai Beyer-Ganatt has been resurrected to run steam specials (see page 129).Open daily 08.15—16.45; entry KSh200

Karen Blixen Museum

Karen Road, P0 Box 40658, Nairobi; tel: 020 882779; email: karenblixen@bidii.com4.

'I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills...’ So began Isak Dinesen’s classic love stor3i,’ Our of Africa.

With its evocative writing, immortalized by the film of the same name, it captures the magic of Kenya.

Dinesen, who came to Kenya from Denmark as the game hunter Bror Blixen’s wife, is more commonly known today as Karen Blixen. She lived in the house between 1914 and 1932, struggling to run a coffee farm.

Donated by the Danish government to Kenya in 1963, the house is now a museum which opened in 1986.

Much of the filming for Out of 4frica was done here, and the house is a period piece, displaying original items of furniture giving an insight into the privileged lives of the early aristocratic settlers.

There are also pieces of antiquated farm machinery and plans are afoot to restore the coffee factory. There’s a museum shop on site and the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden is close by. Open daily 09.30—18.00; entry KSh200

Rahimtulla Museum of Modern Art (RAM OMA)

Rahimtulla Tower, Upper Hill Road, P0 Box 1040, Sarit Centre 00606, Nairobi; tel: 020 729181; email:

The RAMOMA gallery, as it is more commonly known, hosts revolving exhibitions of Kenyan and international artists displaying mainly paintings and sculpture.

Art workshops are also regularly held in the gallery space. BAMOMA is a charitable trust, works on display are for sale and shipping can be arranged worldwide.Open Mon—Fri 09.30—16.30; Sat 09.30—13.00; closed Sundays. Entry free.

Paa ya Poa Arts Centre

Ridgeway Road, off the Kiambu Road (CM); tel: 020 512421This is very much an African arts centre, run by Mr Njau, a kind, gentle character with a passion for the arts.

It is delightfully refreshing after the more commercial galleries, and contains some powerful works by contemporary artists — large wooden sculptures and paintings — in a low-key, leafy compound, where there’s an informal performing area among the banana trees.

If you have an eye for art, you can often see the work of up-and-coming artists here before they become scooped up by the larger galleries. Open daily — no formal opening times

Gallery Watatu

City Centre, Lonhro House, Standard Street; tel: 020 228737In many ways, this is the antithesis of Paa ya Paa, although it too specialises in contemporary African art.

It’s a formal gallery with a well—lit exhibition space, and is a regular showcase for art in different media — sculpture, paintings, screen prints and etchings — with monthly exhibitions.Open Mon—Sat 09.00—18.00; Sun 10,00—17.00


Kifaru Lane, off Langata South Rd; tel: 020 891251Not far from the AFEW Giraffe Centre, Matbronze is a gallery displaying bronze sculptures, mostly of wildlife, by well-known sculptors like Terry and Denis Mathews (father and son) and Rob Glen.

There’s a foundry on site, where you can see the bronze-casting process from wax model to finished bronze sculpture. There are some exquisite pieces on display, from life-size crocodiles to elephants and sunbirds.

Bronze is not cheap, but most pieces are limited editions and original. Open Mon—Fri 08.00—17.00; Sat 08.00-47.30; Sun 10.00—17.30

Pimbi Gallery

General Mathenge Close, off General Mathenge Drive, Westlands; tel: 020 581124

The gallery displays sculptures made from scrap metal by Kioko Mwitiki whose elephants may be seen on the roundabout at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

An artist first known as the junk man’ and then the ‘elephant man’ his visionary work as a sculptor is now recognized in collections in the US and Europe.

Legend House

Wilson Airport, off Langata Road; P0 Box 42360, 00100 Nairobi; tel: 020 501796; fax: 020 609528; email:; web: and

Located in a small wooden house on the left before entering into Wilson Airport, Legend House is setup as a ‘living gallery’ for a variety of artists and designers, with sculptures, paintings, engraved glass, furniture and jewellery alongside safari clothing. Cheap it is not, but it has some finely crafted pieces for sale.

Other Attractions in Nairobi

Kenya Nairobi Shopping Venues › | Nairobi Central Park › |

Kenya National Archives › | Kenya Jamia Mosque › | Kenya Railway Museum › | Nairobi Snake Park › | Ngongo Hills › | Kenyatta International Conference Centre › | Uhuru Gardens Memorial Park › | Brown Cheese Factory Nairobi › | Nairobi Arboretum › | Sadili Oval Sports Academy › | Bomas of Kenya › | Wild Earth Day Spar › | Nairobi Kibera Slum › | Karura Forest Nairobi › |

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