A TALE OF TWO MUSEUMS

On the 13th anniversary of Mwalimu Nyerere’s death on October 13, the Citizen published an article by Saumo Mwalimu commemorating the first President’s time living in Magomeni Usalama in Dar es Salaam and later in Butiama, Mara region.

Extracts from the article:
‘In a not-so-secluded alcove right in the middle of the city is a building whose walls could speak volumes about the founding of this nation. Located a mere four kilometres from the heartland of Dar es Salaam, an ancient structure stands tall, its national flag pulsating to the beat of a gentle city breeze. When visitors descend on this whitewashed building they are left without any doubt that it is an important landmark. The national livery, in splendid yellows and greens and blues and blacks stands ready to welcome guests. There is also the giant placard outside the property which reads in Kiswahili: “Makumbusho ya Kumbukizi ya Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere”… This rather verbose description lets visitors know the site is a tribute to the life of the founding father of Tanzania.

As monuments go, it is a rather humble abode. It is however perhaps a fitting memorial to the legendary statesman, who is remembered for championing egalitarian causes that saw the promotion of Ujamaa, a mode of African socialism that sought to put economic and social power in the hands of the masses…. However, the building has never been good at attracting guests despite its ties to a man whose life is intrinsically linked to the history of the nation. Passersby often cast sidelong glances over the gate as they go on their way; as if to try and sneak a peek inside without having to actually go in.

Mwalimu Nyerere lived in this house after he quit his teaching post at St Francis College (what is now known as Pugu Secondary) to take up full time the cause of Tanganyika’s independence, according to curator Ms Victoria Bache. “In this house Mwl Nyerere hosted meetings of the Tanganyika African Association and (its successor) the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU),” she said, pointing out that the build­ing is testament to the history of the struggle for independence in Tanganyika.

After he had left his job at St Francis, Mwl Nyerere moved in with other political activists but these new dwellings were deemed perilous for a man of his stature. He subsequently moved to Maduka Sita in Magomeni, where he resided in “Shop Number Four” according to Ms Bache. He was given the Usalama plot by one Sheikh Abeid Karuta, where he built from scratch and moved into his new home in January 1959, two years before independence in 1961. Mwalimu stayed at the complex for only eight months. He was moved to Sea View after he became the chairman of TANU.
Despite its rich history, the Usalama museum has had a tough time drawing in foot traffic since it officially began operations early in 2012. according to its curator. “It’s hard to blame anyone for this,” she said, adding that very little had been done to promote the site. From March to November 2012 the monument and museum brought in a total of TShs 93,700 from just 163 visitors. Entry costs TShs500 per person. The curator admits that there is not much to see in the museum. The few items on display include several family beds that Mwl Nyerere owned at some point, cookers, a radio, some medals, sofa sets and bathroom fixtures.
Very few of the original fixtures have survived the years of neglect. Most have been sold off and some are in the hands of Mwalimu Nyerere’s family. “I’m doing my bit to keep this place going but I can not do it alone” she said.

In Butiama
As the Dar museum struggles, business is brisk at its twin in Butiama, Mara region. The number of visitors there is picking up according to Curator Emmanuel Kyondo. Established in 1999, the centre receives around 9,000 visitors every year, all this despite the fact that it is located 48 kms from Musoma and a full 180 kms from the city of Mwanza. Visitor numbers might be on the rise but many more potential tourists are put off by the lack of suitable lodging facilities in Butiama, Kyondo said. “That’s a big hassle; the lack of proper hotels and lodges. Many visitors would have to drive in, then drive back out to Musoma where there are nicer and more reliable hotels and guesthouses” Kyondo added.

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