“Ode to the Ancestors”, a new exhibition at two museums in England and Kenya, tells stories of the Kenyans who were left out of the story of early archeology on the African continent. It began with musician and filmmaker Sherry Davis’ search for the story of her grandfather, Karisa Ndurya, a foreman at some of the first excavations in East Africa, who died in 1988 aged 80. Under Scottish archaeologist James Kirkman, he supervised teams of Kenyans who excavated the ruins of Gedi, one of the first medieval Swahili settlements on what is now the Kenyan coast, and Fort Jesus on Mombasa Island, the only fort maintained by the Portuguese. But there aren’t Kenyan names in Kirkman’s records, and not much information in Kenyan or English museums. Then she found roughly 500 images taken in the 1940s and 1950s of excavation expeditions at Fort Jesus and Gedi, including three of Davis’ grandfather overseeing excavations in 1959. As word spread, people started coming forward with their own stories.

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