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Historical religious edifice in Kilifi gets a major facelift

The National Museum of Kenya Director General, Dr. Mzalendo Kibunjia briefing Kenya News Agency on the refurbished Cultural Centre at The Krapf Memorial Rabai Museum on Monday June 29, 2020. Photo by Mohamed Hassan/KNA.

A  historic religious edifice in Rabai sub county of Kilifi that faced serious deterioration has received a major facelift to the tune of Sh. 9 million.

The  Krapf Memorial Rabai Museum, a rustic setting of the 19th century church structure built in 1846 has been facing serious deterioration as a result of the ravages of the unforgiving elements.

The medieval religious architecture was built by Johann Ludwig Krapf, a pioneer German missionary and explorer in East Africa.

The  museum depicts the long campaign to spread Christianity despite local resentment and hostility and inside it is kept religious and cultural artifacts and records.

Much of the museum focuses on the work of Johann Ludwig Krapf, who built the church with compatriot Johannes Rebmann.

The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) Director General (DG), Dr. Mzalendo Kibunjia said the restoration job cost about Sh. 9 million.

Dr. Kibunjia while on a tour of Rabai heritage sites on Monday  said the German Embassy in Nairobi  and the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) have provided the bulk of the funding while the NMK which oversaw the restoration works provided Sh. 2 million.

He said the construction of the memorial with a religious and cultural background is being undertaken by the National Museums of Kenya, the Anglican Church of Kenya and the German Embassy.

The Federal Foreign Office of Germany has over the years contributed funds from the Cultural Preservation Programme to support the restoration and expansion of the Rabai cultural centre.

Part of the renovation works included converting the Krapf and Rebmann cottages into a resource centre for use by the communities around and visiting heritage enthusiasts, students and researchers.

Dr. Kibunjia  said the restoration of the museum started last year and so far the contractor JW Archiplans has successfully renovated the ceiling of the building and dilapidated front edifice.

He said Kenya has a wealth of historical heritage sites and monuments such as the one in Rabai that should not be neglected and allowed to fall into ruin.

The DG said the NMK, the state corporation that manages museums, sites and monuments is determined to save the country’s historical sites and monuments from permanent ruin.

“NMK is cognizant of the fact that our heritage needs to be protected, maintained and marketed to the world for posterity,” he observed.

He  said the Krapf Memorial Rabai Museum is a monumental landmark in the country and is the birthplace of secular education and Christianity in the East and Central Africa region.

“The  Rabai architecture presents the earliest period of involvement of European missionaries in Kenya and the larger East Africa region,” he said.

He appealed to Kenyans of the Christian faith to start visiting the Rabai museums just as they do visit holy lands in Israel.

“Rabai should be an important place for pilgrims just as Jerusalem is an important place of pilgrimage for Christians since it is the cradle of Christianity in East  Africa,” he said.

Dr. Kibunjia was on a tour to follow up on the restoration work and was accompanied by Dr. Purity Kiura who is in charge of the directorate of antiquities, sites and monuments, Athman Hussein, assistant director of museums and monuments for the coastal region, Curator of Fort Jesus Museum, Fatma Twahir and other senior officials.

Dr. Kibunjia said NMK is working with county governments in the preservation of cultural and historical sites and monuments domiciled in their localities.

He said they will work with the devolved units to link tourism and culture so that tourists can appreciate and experience the ‘richness of our country’s diverse culture’.

The  NMK DG challenged the Kilifi county government to build access roads to the Rabai historical sites to make the cultural, historical and religious significance of the Rabai site accessible to a wide public.

The Chairman of the CXhurch’s Development committee, James Mwatsama lauded the NMK, ACK and the German Embassy for coming to the rescue noting that the fate of one of the country’s oldest churches remained uncertain.

He said the Krapf Memorial Rabai Museum that has defied time is used as a cultural and religious museum that displays antiquities.

“This is a religious monument worthy of preservation and the local community is happy for the restoration efforts”, he said.

Mwatsama said the renovations will allow the old religious structure to maintain its historical integrity while greatly enhancing a key piece of tourism infrastructure and cultural heritage.

He said the restoration of the structure will enable the museum to be used as a meeting centre for the residents, visitors and the church community.

By  Mohamed Hassan 

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