The artefacts in the museum’s East Africa collection come from countries such as Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan, and are attributed to over twenty community groups, including Kikuyu, Maasai and Turkana. The interpretation for these objects has changed very little since the 1920s when it was first produced. Notably absent are the stories and voices of the African communities from which the objects were acquired.

Funded by Arts Council England, this project seeks to work as part of the museum’s ‘Reimagining’. We have partnered with local writer and consultant Lucy Edematie, who is of Nigerian parentage, and invited a team of community participants of African descent to work with us. Together, we will explore the stories surrounding the objects and create interpretation that acknowledges and gives voice to the East African communities of origin.

Project Goals

  • Reinterpret and redisplay the East Africa collection.
  • Interrogate and reframe Percy Powell Cotton’s narrative of the ‘Didinga skirmish’, an incident which led to the deaths of local people in an area of South Sudan.
  • Consult, acknowledge and give voice to those who have previously been silenced.
  • Build lasting relationships with communities of descent and local partners, ensuring that they are involved in shaping how Black histories and people are represented within the museum.
  • Give our audiences a greater insight into the communities of origin of our artefacts and involve them in discussions about how narratives are presented in the museum space.
  • Provide a case study that will evaluate the process for best practice and be available to other institutions.

Lucy and the community participants will be contributing to our museum blog with updates on Decolonisation and Practice as the project progresses.

Community Participants

Donna Carr

Of Jamaican and Nigerian heritage, Donna has lived in Kent since 2016. She has worked in the fields of housing, education and public health. Donna is keen to place the art, culture and lives of the communities of origin at the centre of this collection. She believes this approach will create a more engaging and honest interpretation with the potential to draw in new visitors.

Lorna Cole

Lorna divides her time between managing partnerships at a TV channel and working as a Psychotherapist in private practice. Issues of race and intergenerational trauma surface frequently for Lorna’s therapy clients. She sees this project as an opportunity to address one of the ways the legacy of colonialism pervades.

Jane Henya

Jane is the founder and director of charity Jambo Africa. A qualified counsellor, she teaches African drumming workshops across Kent. Jane was born and raised in Kenya and has lived in Thanet for over twenty years. It is important to Jane that her ancestors and their history are represented accurately and respectfully within the museum.

Alice Mulinya

Alice is the founder of an online retailer. Of Ugandan heritage, she was born in Uganda and raised in Kent. Alice views this project as an opportunity to effect positive change. Her aim is to remodel the East African collection in a manner that is respectful of her ancestors and showcases many fascinating aspects of their culture not previously revealed.

Alexandra Wright

Alexandra graduated with a BA in History from Aberystwyth University. During this project her particular focus will be women’s stories, how women are represented within the collection, and how we can make their voices heard. She hopes future generations of museum users benefit from this fresh and authentic re-interpretation of the East African collection.

Project Team

Lucy Edematie

Freelance Curator, Writer, Editor and Consultant

Lyndsay Ridley

Head of Operations

Powell-Cotton Museum, Quex House and Gardens

Rachel Jennings

Curator of Natural History

Powell-Cotton Museum Quex House and Gardens

Hazel Basford


Powell-Cotton Museum, Quex House and Gardens