New museum to showcase Rwanda's colonial history launched in Kigali

A new museum showcasing Rwanda’s colonial era under Germany and the cooperation between the two countries was launched yesterday.
Officials at the launch of the new Kandt House Museum in Kigali. Jean d'Amour Mbonyinshuti.
Officials at the launch of the new Kandt House Museum in Kigali. Jean d'Amour Mbonyinshuti.

A new museum showcasing Rwanda’s colonial era under Germany and the cooperation between the two countries was launched yesterday.

The museum, inside the Kandt House in Kigali, represents the transformation of former natural history museum, which hosted fauna and flora products, before it was moved to the environmental museum in Karongi in August.

Rwanda became a German colony in 1985 until 1918 when the latter lost the First World War and its colonial influence in East Africa. The ouster of the Germans saw Rwanda become a UN trust territory under Belgian authority.

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Some of guests who attended the launch of the new Kandt house museum. Jean d'Amour Mbonyinshuti 

Kandt House Museum derives its name from Richard Kandt, the German physician and explorer who constructed and resided in the house in 1908, marking the birth of the capital of Kigali.

Located near the old Gakinjiro area and the former Nyarugenge Prison (‘1930’) in Kigali’s Central Business District, Kandt House is believed to have been the first modern building in Kigali.

The Kandt House hosts historical products that were seen or used in Rwanda under German rule, such as pictures, songs and texts, which were imported from Germany, where they had been taken after Germany’s colonial era ended in Rwanda.

Officials said that the new exhibition is of great importance as it would help Rwandans, especially the youth, learn their history and how cooperation between both countries has evolved.

“Now many of people who used to know the museum will be surprised because the old exhibition has changed significantly in format and content. We have now a new exhibition on our shared history between Rwanda and Germany, this is the exhibition set up and it has replaced the one which was natural science history,” said Robert Masozera, the director general of Institute of National Museums of Rwanda.

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A potrait of Richard Kandt inside the new museum.Jean d'Amour Mbonyinshuti

“We have a complete new one in pictures, texts, we have old songs which were captured in 1907 when Germans were here, it is very exciting exhibition attraction and we need people to exploit this exhibition,” he added.

About 12,000 people visited the former museum annually generating over Rwf18 million, according to officials.

Officials said the artifacts which used to be in the museum were moved to the environmental museum in Karongi to match products with the museum.

Dr Peter Woeste, the German ambassador to Rwanda, said the new exhibition showcases the history between both countries from the colonial era to date.

He said he was proud to launch the Kandt house museum based at the first building in the City of Kigali.

“We managed to get a lot of pictures in Germany that show how the life in Rwanda was between around 1898 and 1900. These are pictures which no body has seen before and which are still really amazing, it is not about the colonial history, it should give Rwandans, including school children, the opportunity to learn more about their country’s history,” he said.

He said the museum would also serve as a workshop because it should not be descriptive of Rwanda history in hundred years ago but also give the answers on how Rwandans lived then as well as show how cooperation between the two countries grew over the years.

“It shows how long Rwandans and Germans are in some kind of cooperation together and what is really important to me is how we can develop, strengthen and enforce it further in the future,” he said.

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A Potrait inside the museum showing Rwanda's history. Jean d'Amour Mbonyinshuti 

He pledged cooperation in developing the museum, ensuring that it is well equipped, adding that the fact that many materials were brought from Germany was an indication of strong cooperation.

“Many of these pictures were found in Germany and some dedicated time to search for them and clean them and put them in modern display. We even found some tapes, materials such as voices of traditions, of dances and music and of people who lived hundreds of years ago, and I think it great to bring school children here to study,” he noted.

The new museum was set up thanks to a partnership between National Institute of Museums in Rwanda and Rhineland-Palatinate, one of states making the Federal Republic of Germany.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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