|The First Art Newspaper on the Net
||Established in 1996
|| Tuesday, January 24, 2017
|National Museums of Kenya: Ancient past challenges modern teaching in 'cradle of mankind' |
School children look at early-man skeleton fossils on display at the national museum in the capital, Nairobi, on October 18, 2013. In Kenya, dubbed the Cradle of Humankind for its collection of early human fossils, teachers have to juggle between established religions, local beliefs and the theory of evolution. "There have been challenges in teaching evolution ... largely because of the religious teachings on creation, which are deeply entrenched," said Fredrick Kyalo Manthi, head of the paleontology section at National Museums of Kenya. AFP PHOTO/Tony KARUMBA.
By: Helen Vesperini
NAIROBI (AFP).- In Kenya's national museum, wide-eyed school children gaze at blackened skeletons of long gone ancestors, 1.5 million-year-old remains that provide key lessons today for modern teachers of mankind's origin.
For deeply religious Kenya -- dubbed the 'cradle of mankind' for the wealth of early hominid fossils dug up from its soil showing man's evolution -- the famous remains challenge literal teachings of Christianity, Islam and traditional beliefs.
While across the world teachers must juggle science and religion, the fossils of Kenya provide stark examples found in few nations elsewhere.
"There have been challenges in teaching evolution... largely because of the religious teachings on creation, which are deeply entrenched," said Fredrick Kyalo Manthi, head of the paleontology section at National Museums of Kenya.
Such teachings "tend to disregard the scientific explanation that all biological species, including humans, have generally evolved from simple forms to complex forms," he added.
In the museum in the capital Nairobi, school children troop past world famous early human or hominid remains, the oldest of which goes back 18 million years.
"It's a challenge," admitted primary school teacher Manasseh Maina, leading a cheerful class of children through the museum, stopping to stare at the fragile ribcage of "Turkana Boy", one of only two nearly complete skeletons of hominids in the world.
A plaque proudly calls the fossils "the single most important collection" in the world, noting patriotically that all were discovered in Kenya.
Eastern Africa's great Rift Valley, that comes from Tanzania to the south through the heart of Kenya and on northwards into Ethiopia, has provided key fossils that revolutionised scientific understanding of mankind's evolution.
"When you start explaining evolution to children, if you don't have concrete things it can seem very unreal," Maina added. "But it also contradicts what the Bible says on how God created the world."
In Kenyan schools, God's creation of Adam from dust and Eve from his rib -- as described in the Bible's Book of Genesis -- is taught in religious studies.
But in science and history classes, children learn of Darwinism and evolution, the evidence of which they see as they stare at the fragile bones.
"It's like there is a contradiction somewhere, but we like learning about both evolution and the Bible," said Joy, a 14-year-old pupil, as she and her classmates dressed neat green uniforms crowded around one of the many skulls on display.
The fossils have proved controversial.
Tempers flared in 2006 and 2007 when Bonifes Adoyo, a bishop at the head of a several-thousand strong evangelical congregation, led a campaign to restrict access to some of the most impressive examples.
His move prompted an angry reaction from leading paleontologist Richard Leakey, a long-time director of Kenya's museums, who called the proposal "outrageous".
He argued the museums' authority should present "a very forceful case for the evolutionary theory of the origins of mankind" as its early fossil collection is "one of Kenya's very few global claims to fame".
Today, education ministry spokesman Kennedy Buhere said the conflict was easing.
He argued that traditional tribal beliefs, often blended with Christian or Islamic traditions, create a complex picture that temper literal creationist interpretations which hold that God created the world in a few thousand years.
Evangelical churches in Kenya are powerful -- similar in the US, where creationism is gaining ground -- but their leaders are still keen to downplay major divisions.
"I don't think there's ever been a serious conflict to the point where anyone has challenged the curriculum," said Ann Mwalili, who founded Green Pastures Tabernacle Church in Nairobi, told AFP.
Kenyan children also learn local versions of creation, including beliefs that mankind rose up out of an anthill.
The Kikuyu people believe that the creator -- sitting on snowcapped Mount Kenya -- made man and gave him nine wives, while the cattle-herding Maasai say their cows were lowered from the sky on a rope when heaven and earth split.
Today, teachers like Maina said he and his colleagues simply present all the possible versions to their pupils.
"We tell them that according to science this is how man came to be, and then according to social studies -- which covers what different ethnic communities believe about creation -- this is what happened, and then according to the Bible, it happened this way," he explained.
Some schools spend as many as 10 hours on the road for a one-day visit to the national museum, with children rising hours before dawn. Roads around the museum are often crowded with buses.
"It's so useful for them to see these Stone Age men," beamed Albert Mwanthi, an elderly teacher from Makueni, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) away, waving at a reconstructions of early man hunting and then killing animals with stones.
"If only this sort of exhibit could be extended across the country."
© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse
October 30, 2013
Centre Pompidou takes a new look at a major avant-garde movement of the 20th century
Dutch museum artworks may be Nazi loot, probe by Netherlands Museum Association reveals
Pristine Roman sculpture discovered by archaeologists goes on display at the Museum of London
A rare painting by Johannes Vermeer is placed on view at Philadelphia Museum of Art
Prestel book accompanies major David Hockney exhibition on view in San Francisco
National Museums of Kenya: Ancient past challenges modern teaching in 'cradle of mankind'
Visions of Paris: Royal Academy of Arts in London opens Honoré Daumier exhibition
The Courts of Europe: From the Renaissance to the Rococo at Sotheby's New York
Exhibition at Museo Fondazione Roma presents riches from a Neapolitan treasure trove
Dallas Museum of Art promotes Kevin W. Tucker to Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design
Doyle New York to auction European, American, Modern & Contemporary art on November 5
Hi-tech aqueduct explorers using GPS technology and remote control robots, map ancient Rome's 'final frontier'
Sotheby's London to offer Sir William Orpen's Portrait of Lady Idina Wallace
New leadership team to reshape Powerhouse Museum announced
Jewel casket from Medici Grand Ducal Ateliers in Florence brings $617,000 at fall Bonhams auction
Städelschule Frankfurt announces Philippe Pirotte as new Director
Worcester Art Museum appoints new Director of Curatorial Affairs
Signs on the Road: CAC Malaga celebrates its tenth anniversary with exhibition
Sioux boy's beaded hide shirt from the Pasvolsky Collection highlights American Indian Art Sale
Pair of Paul Storr entree dishes expected to bring $20,000+ to highlight Silver & Vertu at Heritage Auctions
Stair Galleries sets world record for Fabergé hardstone figure, selling for $5,980,000
Most Popular Last Seven Days
1.- After decades of slights, Cuban-American artist Carmen Herrera tastes fame at 101
2.- Gallery 19C rediscovers a lost Realist treasure by Alphonse Legros
3.- France blocks sale of rare Leonardo Da Vinci painting 'Saint Sebastian'
4.- New exhibition at the National Museum puts select works of art under a microscope
5.- Getty Museum presents first major exhibition on 18th century artist Edme Bouchardon
6.- Rarely seen silkscreen prints by Jacob Lawrence on view at the Phillips Collection
7.- Fraenkel Gallery debuts of new, large-scale photographs by British artist Richard Learoyd
8.- Kurdish-Arab forces seize strategic Syria citadel from IS
9.- Paris show of masterpieces unseen in West is smash hit
10.- Award-winning Indian actor Om Puri dies of heart attack
Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .
|Royalville Communications, Inc|
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.