Bujumbura’s Musee Vivant or Living Museum has so much life including undesired weeds which are signs of neglect for such an important national attraction.
Located right in the capital the museum has a collection of living animals from the Burundi wild plus a preservation of historical art and craft items.
The Musée Vivant is a reconstructed traditional Burundian village with some exhibits of baskets, pottery and drums, but it’s also a part-time zoo and the animals aren’t kept in very impressive conditions.
Musée Vivant near Lake Tanganyika presents a great part of the treasures in a wider place surrounded by magnificent gardens. Old and modern crafts are presented in small beautiful cabins.
However the masterpiece of this museum is the reconstruction in real dimensions of a royal habitation. The entire surrounding courtyard can be visited and the main hut topped by an interlaced dome covered by a think thatched roof.
The Musée Vivant also keeps up a bird house where a few of the local species can be seen and a Herpetologic Centre where there are displays of snakes and Nile crocodiles.
This living museum was regarded as one of the most renowned centres in Africa since its collection was opened to the public in 1988.
The one hundred and four year old umusufe tree is the gem of the plants’ section just before the replica royal palace which is like many other items in the museum now under major restoration due to damage inflicted on it during years of civil war.
The civil war in Burundi made a lasting mark on the Musee Vivant and unconsciously altered the distant history that Burundi sought to conserve in the museum.
Protected animals and plants were cut down by people waging war and in need of wood to cook food. Children and vulnerable persons moved into the restored traditional royal palace and other straw huts in the exhibition.
The reed hedge with dried branches surrounding the traditional royal palace was completely destroyed as wood was taken to cook the food provided by humanitarian organizations; the straw which covered the traditional royal palace was used to make fire to keep warm at night; all the traditional furniture, kitchen utensils and household cleaning tools were used in this emergency situation.
To complete the cultural disaster the refugees took all these cultural properties with them and left the lawn trampled when they returned to their domiciles.
The pride of the living museum however remains the craft items which display an enterprising culture of hand weaving to produce items which are both decorative and useful and hence can be good souvenirs for guests.