The museum covers everything from the animals of Rwanda, its geography, minerals and the first resident of the building, Herr Kandt, who founded Kigali around 1908 as a centre of administration for German East Africa.
The Institute of National Museums of Rwanda converted the historic residence into a museum in 2008 in order to increase Rwandans’ exposure to the natural sciences as well as to educate visitors from around the world about Rwanda’s biological and geological diversity.
To get there, I took a bus to Mumuji (City Centre) from Nyanza-Kicukiro Taxi Park where I had been to visit Rebero and Nyanza Memorials. From the Mumuji taxi park, I’d taken a 300 RWF moto-taxi to Kandt; a distance I realized could have been walked in about 9-12 minutes, which is what I did on my way back.
One of the first things I saw when I descended into the compound was the life-size bronze statue of Richard Kandt, clad in military fatigue with a walking stick in his left hand and a military cap in his right.
It’s hard to tell whether the visitors targeted were specific world citizens or a diverse range. This is in light of almost everything being in either French or German, sometimes both, and Kinyarwanda, with a clear brushing away of English translations. I mourn, wondering why a museum in the heart of Kigali would structure itself like that. A hold of German supremacy still, maybe.
I read that funding for the restoration of the Kandt Residence was majorly provided by Germany. Their man’s house, where Kigali (Nyarugenge) sprouted forth from; I guess they must have included Dutch due to the Belgian presence after World War I… and the rest? Secondary causes.
Santi, my guide (not her real name), tells me only one Dutchman has come in a long time. He came on a weekend.
The north wing of the museum features Rwanda’s biology exhibits. Here you will find specimens of indigenous species ranging from beautifully coloured birds to strange and exotic reptiles. A male and female Gorilla skull shedding light on the contrast of the sexes, small rodents which look familiar but their names are sure to be new to your ears.
The rear of the museum is dedicated to volcanism, about the Great Rift Valley and all its tectonic and volcanic might. You’ll learn how the great mountains in Rwanda’s northwest were created, what makes them pop and how people have learned to survive and thrive in their imposing shadows for countless generations.
This is all in German and Kinyarwanda, therefore Bella had to gloss over the gist of it for my understanding.
The south wing of the museum is mostly dedicated to Rwanda’s natural resources and the history of how those resources were mined from the countless hills. On display are numerous gems and minerals along with maps showing where they are distributed around the country.
Here, Santi says she’s hungry and would be unable to read out the particulars for me. And she actually is really hungry because her sentences peter out, kinda drags her feet lethargically. So I decide to prod her on her life, and things she likes. Maybe the break from convention would push her out of this funk.
I like her English. Broken, but still understandable. Her tone is slight and calming like she’s inwardly a really peaceful person. Her Kinyarwanda is musical; this I hear as she calls out for the 7-month old crocodile at the backyard pond, almost like a girl playing with a doll. Sadly, it doesn’t even peep out one bit.
She shows me a collection of snakes housed in wooden glass boxes, most of them asleep or just still, or maybe playing dead due to my presence. She doesn’t like snakes; her whole body is showing.
The highlight of my trip turns out to be one of the newest exhibits; a massive crocodile that was recently killed at Lake Muhaze – by a man with a hammer, no less – that was stuffed and put on display. It’s a welcomed highlight to a museum that was not as impressionable as your average natural history museum, but visitors can still learn a lot about the country’s flora and fauna, geology and biological history.