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Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Please mend KK’s car

By Andrew Mulenga
As Zambia’s Golden jubilee draws near, Dr Kenneth Kaunda still remains the nation’s most famous and dearly loved son.
Front view of the Landrover that was donated
to KK by a missionary to used be
during the liberation struggle
Any Zambian who has been abroad will attest that oddly, his successors, all great men in their own right are hardly recognised beyond these borders and the first question you are asked upon revealing your nationality is: “How is Kaunda?” or KK as we so fondly call him. It is not uncommon that if it is an international conference you are attending, you are quickly nicknamed after him.
To many South Africans, including the ‘born frees’ (those born after the apartheid) KK is second to Mandela, and we all know how beloved Mandela is to his people and the world, why half of South Africa’s streets and city squares are named after Tata Madiba, as he is called nowadays.
In fact the liberation of the entire Southern Africa is attributed by many to our own KK. A detail that Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe re-emphasised while visiting KK at his home in Lusaka last week when he came to launch this year’s Agriculture and Commercial Show.
KK is up there with Africa’s liberation greats, Nkrumah, Mwalimu Nyerere, Lumumba, Nasser and His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie among others. KK is a superstar.
But one can only wish as much could be said of his former residence, Chilenje House 394, a national monument and one of Lusaka’s few tourist attractions.
The side view of KK's car speaks for itself, the doors
are riddled with holes and the roof has fallen in
Being a Zambian in a group of about 50 foreign visitors to the site recently, this writer could not help but look the other way in disgrace and hope that the others on the tour bus have not noticed the sign post on Burma Road that points to it. The sign post looks as if it was recently shelled by heavy mortar fire.
It gets worse. One of Chilenje House 394’s main attractions, and without doubt the most visible, an early model Land Rover given to KK by a European friend of the fight for equality Marvin Temple, a missionary is in a sorry state.
The rusty vehicle is nicely placed under a shed on a short pair of stilts with a plaque that reads: “This Land Rover was donated by a Missionary, Mr. Marvin Temple to Dr Kaunda for use during the liberation struggle. It was burnt during the food riots on 30th June 1990”.
The food riots of course would be a precursor to the moment when KK would finally allow democratic advancement allowing the ushering in of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) by popular vote.
The sign post that points to KKs former home,
a tourist attraction, is falling apart, meanwhile Zambia
will be hosting the UNTWO months from now
Nevertheless, there is no need to keep KKs car in its current state in memory of the food riots. After all, not even a single char shows from the said fires that scorched it. If the plaque did not say so, one cannot even tell that it had been burned by irate citizens.
Retired museum director Sibanyama Mudenda concurs that there is no need to keep the car in its current state.
“The car is a historical artefact they have to restore it. It’s like the Chilenje house itself, you cannot leave it to deteriorate in the name of keeping the house the way it was when KK and family used to occupy it” he says. “Even in museums abroad, they mend broken artefacts for the conservation of national heritage. For instance, things such as the small cups that Abraham Lincoln used to drink from are restored if broken, and they are kept for display. Similarly we have to preserve our heritage too, and I am sure we have experts that can do it.”
Mudenda, who is also a consultant in cultural ecology, archaeology and culture tourism says we risk losing the car to the elements if something is not done as soon as possible. He says museums and their artefacts play a very important role, even in tourism and that it is a pity the authorities do not see this.
Retired museum director Sibanyama Mudenda
says there is no reason to keep KKs car
in its current state
According to Mudenda’s research in a 32 page document entitled “Transforming cultural heritage management in Zambia under Patriotic Front Government: A Proposal”, he argues that: “In Zambia, cultural attractions, past and present life experiences, do not loom large in the visitors travel itinerary or national tourist marketing packages. This is because the past governments and their tourism marketing agency verily prioritized and heavily supported nature and hospitality tourism.  This is unfortunate, as the success stories of such African countries as South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Egypt and Mali demonstrated how culture tourism can become a significant contributor to socio-economic growth, job and wealth creation, and poverty reduction.”
He believes the successful co-hosting of the World Tourism Organization UNWTO 2013 General Assembly by Zambia and Zimbabwe will render international visibility to Zambia as a tourist destination of choice and will raise the country’s profile and stimulate interest in Zambia and subsequently lead to an increase in tourist arrivals.
“It is unfortunate; therefore, that for the past 47 years, the state had continued to ‘put all their eggs in one basket’ Why protect wildlife resources and develop nature and hospitality tourism almost exclusively at the expense of cultural heritage and cultural tourism?” he continues.
Of course by “eggs in one basket”, Mudenda cites the Mosi oa Tunya (Victoria Falls) and wildlife as Zambia’s only tourist attractions and by cultural heritage tourism he includes museums.
Mudenda in any case is right. Museums can be part of a country’s tourist attractions and the authorities are not doing enough to market what we have. This author was privileged to be among a group of 50 foreign visitors to KKs former house as earlier mentioned and just the sheer excitement on the faces of these guests at having a chance to visit the site spoke volumes. They all took out their camera phones to have their photos taken against the corroded Land Rover and quickly posted the photos on Facebook and Twitter.
It is indeed a pity that our new tourism minister like all before her cannot see beyond the enchanting smoke that thunders, the Mosi oa Tunya, when there is a Land Rover among other things that needs to be restored right at her doorstep. One can even bet that she has no clue that in the vaults of Livingstone Museum lie paintings that predate David Livingstone, as Mudenda reveals.
“In museums like Livingstone, artworks go back to 1750; they are locked away but are very well preserved paintings by some big names. Some of them were done by the painters who used to travel with David Livingstone and other explorers before him. Even if they were done by colonialists they are part of Zambia’s art history. There are paintings of huge baobab trees, the falls, the landscapes all these are part of our history,” discloses Mudenda who worked at the museum for ten years before he moved to Copperbelt Museum where he served another six years, subsequently heading the Lusaka National Museum until his retirement in 2004.
If Mudenda's revelations are anything to go by, it is now time for such paintings to be displayed for public consumption. They cannot be locked away forever. If the museum does not have the technology to have them displayed in fear of deterioration, the powers that be must start working towards correcting the problem. We need those paintings to be displayed in their own gallery space at the museum as soon as possible. In fact now is the best time, as we prepare to host the UNWTO general assembly next year. To have paintings that old will bring a whole new dimension and credibility to Livingstone museum. We cannot continue to sit on such treasures. In the tourism world it is a known fact that some tourists travel half way around the world just to have a glimpse of an old painting. Who knows what we are sitting on? If handled well, and Zambia announces to the world that she will be revealing 200 year old paintings that have never been seen before, Livingstone will be swarmed by art historians from all over the world.
Nonetheless, back to the Land Rover. Whoever is in charge of these things, please restore KKs car. If it cannot be done locally, put it on the back of a truck and send it to Zimbabwe or South Africa if need be.

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