- He revealed that Lamu currently has less than 50 ancient crafters with the mastery and skills to construct or restore historical buildings.
- The art of designing and constructing or restoring old historical buildings is unique, complicated and time-consuming.
The National Museums of Kenya has raised concern over the threat of extinction of historical architectural art of buildings in Lamu old town.
Most of the ancient traditional designs have since died without passing on the art to the youth, who seem uninterested in acquiring such knowledge.
The situation according to the NMK has a direct effect on the Lamu old town as a heritage site considering the few existing historical buildings are in dire need of restoration.
However, NMK curator in charge of Lamu Museums and World Heritage Site Mohammed Mwenje, says the restoration cannot happen due to lack of experts as most of them are elderly and unable to salvage the situation.
He revealed that Lamu currently has less than 50 ancient crafters with the mastery and skills to construct or restore historical buildings.
“Our fear as NMK is that the historic buildings and this unique art will completely disappear in the future unless the young generations show interest in acquiring such skills to keep it on. Our problem is they don’t want to and we are watching the ancient crafters die with these skills,” Mwenje said.
Mwenje urged the youth to embrace the unique craftsmanship of historical building designs, construction and restoration as a source of livelihood.
He said one of the few remaining craftsmen was buried recently and urged stakeholders to sensitise the youth on the need to learn, protect and pass on their culture and heritage.
“Majority of historical buildings here are abandoned and on the verge of collapse thus risking extinction. It’s also important to remember that the process of restoring historical buildings is costly. We need these arts and skills passed on to generations to come,” he said.
Mwenje said NMK is working on an initiative that will see youth in the region recruited and trained by skilled craftsmen and incorporated into the dying profession.
“We want to harness this craft and pass it on to the future. These craftsmen might not have sat in a literacy class to learn but their grasp of these traditional architecture beats any education levels,” Mwenje said.
While the normal building style uses cement and other common materials, the historical buildings of Lamu are built using coral limestone.
The art of designing and constructing or restoring old historical buildings is unique, complicated and time-consuming.
Lamu’s historic stone houses are often built on top of the ruins of older houses of similar construction designs.
Many elements of their design are recognisable in ruins dating from the 13th century and before.
Large chunks of coral stone, also known as a coral rag, are set in a thick mortar of coral lime and sand to build both external and internal walls of at least half a metre thick.
Lamu Old Town, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001 has more than 1,000 traditional and old buildings and monuments which are key to the archipelago’s history.
(Edited by Tabnacha O)