Too often museums and heritage are used as instruments to divide people. Heritage, history and identity are manipulated by those who seek to undermine democracy and erode conditions for peaceful coexistence based on respect and acceptance of others. This is especially true in countries where conflict has recently taken place, such as Kenya. The image that is built is of a country that is divided and unsettled. Yet there is another history that is largely unknown – and that is the long tradition of peace-building between peoples and respectful sharing of diverse heritage, landscape, artefacts and values. Journeys of Peace is a project that reclaims this hidden history and empowers individuals and communities to rediscover old and build new ways of creating better lives.
Journeys of Peace had a strong bottom-up approach to conflict resolution and peace-building, with a focus on family and community. Networking, workshops and the production of a traveling exhibition contributed to providing a safe forum for dialogue between women and men, coming from different generations and communities, to promote understanding, appreciation and use of cultural heritage. This successful project has continued in the project Youth for Peace. Both projects have been in collaboration with the Kenyan Community Peace Museums Heritage Foundation.
It is a challenge to create conditions for dialogue between conflicting communities. For many in the project Journeys for Peace it was the first time they had worked together in a structured way; for others it was the first time they had met their colleagues from other community peace museums. The workshops also resulted in curators collaborating to take the exhibition to more remote and troubled communities. The workshops were opportunities for training and capacity building in the use of IT and social media, thereby strengthening the channels of communication within the network and creating a platform for sustainable cooperation. Women were empowered and the dialogue between the elders in a community and its young people was facilitated. Peace Clubs have been revitalised at several schools and colleges. More than 4,000 people visited the exhibition at 8 venues – exceeding the original target of 3,000 visitors at 5 venues. Over 50 volunteers participated and in excess of?80 artefacts were donated to the museums. Networking increased within and between communities and people are beginning to take an active role in resolving conflict using traditional values and practices.
”If you don’t share your values you can’t share your future”