Kenya // Western Kenya //

Kisumu Museum

Foremost among the town’s sights is the engaging and ambitious Kisumu Museum. Set in a large garden with carefully labelled trees, the main gallery happily mingles zoological exhibits with ethnographic displays. Apart from the rows of trophy-style game heads around the walls, the stuffed animals and preserved insects and crustaceans are displayed with considerable flair and imagination. Particularly good use has been made of old exhibits from Nairobi’s National Museum. A free-swinging vulture, for example, spins like a model aircraft overhead while, centre stage, a lion is caught in full, savage pounce, leaping onto the back of a hysterical wildebeest in the most action-packed piece of taxidermy you’re ever likely to see.

The ethnographic exhibits are illuminating, too. The Maasai aren’t the only people who take blood from their cattle for food: Kalenjin peoples like the Nandi and the Kipsigis once did the same, and even the Luo lived mostly on cow’s blood mixed with milk before they arrived at Lake Victoria and began to cultivate and fish. In separate halls from the main gallery are a small, but worthwhile aquarium, illustrating the problem of fish depletion in the lake (see what your tilapia looked like before it became a curry), and a snake house with a fairly comprehensive collection of Kenyan species. Outside, the tortoise pen and croc pond seem rather pointless extras. The crocodiles, getting extremely large, are fed on Monday afternoons at around 4pm.

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