Lusaka National Museum unmasked

BROKEN Hill man skull.

WHAT has the Lusaka National Museum got in stock for tourists, both local and foreign, as well as researchers?
This is the question posed to the museum’s management on their contribution to the country’s tourism.
Museums worldwide have been tagged by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as city symbols of tourism, local history and culture.
Lusaka National Museum director Victoria Chitungu says the museum is embodied with a triple package of being a city symbol of tourism, local history and culture.
The museum, which was opened on October 25, 1996, a day after Zambia’s 32nd independence anniversary, swanks of an array of collections from all historical and art-related angles.
Tourists and researchers alike would find amazing prized collections of artefacts and rich Zambian history.
The place is a one-stop shop with sculpture, paintings and articles from times of antiquity assembled under one roof.
The museum’s collection
The museum’s most prized collection is the National Art collection of Zambia, according to Ms Chitungu.
“Although not a very big collection, it has works from most of Zambia’s prominent artists such as Gabriel Elison, the woman who designed the national flag of Zambia, Henry Tayali, one of Zambia’s renowned artists, whose art [works] graces the walls of State House,” she said.
Cynthia Zukas, a household name in the Zambian art community, and many other artists, known and unknown, have their works displayed in the Lusaka National Museum.
The Lusaka National Museum’s display starts with the archaeological background of Zambia, Ms Chitungu explains, tracing the presence of man in Zambia from way back.
“Most interesting is the replica of the skull of the Broken Hill man which was discovered in Kabwe in 1921. The skull places Zambia on the world map as it fits in the evolution theory of man, showing how man developed to modern man,” she said.
The National History Museum in the United Kingdom contains the original skull which was discovered in Broken Hill, present-day Kabwe, on June 27, 1921 when Northern Rhodesia was under the British protectorate.
However, Government is optimistic over the possible return of the Broken Hill man skull to Zambia as the matter came up for hearing before UNESCO in Paris in May this year.
As that is being awaited, Ms Chitungu said the replica Broken Hill man skull at the Lusaka National Museum represented homo erectus, which is the third stage before modern man, a feat that gives Zambia a share of the claim that Africa is the cradle of mankind.
Tourists and researchers can never be disappointed at the archaeology section of the museum that has on display stone age man technology from famous sites such as the Kalambo Falls, Victoria Falls, Mumbwa Caves and Broken Hill.
“The importance of these stone age technologies is that they demonstrate how man’s brain developed over time by the way his tools developed from crude tools to specialised tools that he used for survival,” the Lusaka National Museum director said.
Additionally, the archaeology section exhibits man’s discovery of the use of fire which he used to safeguard himself as well as becoming industrious, leading to the Iron Age, Ms Chitungu said.
“The discovery of fire is so important in the Zambian history because the first evidence in the world to show that early man used fire was discovered in Zambia at Kalombo Falls,” she said.
Political history
This forms the largest part of the museum collection and displays. The early colonisation period of Zambia is featured in this section, showing the British South Africa (BSA) Company rule on behalf of the British government.
Ms Chitungu said this section also thoroughly documents Zambia’s [Northern Rhodesia then] participation in both the First World War from 1914-1918 and the Second World War that raged from 1939 to 1945.
Here again, tourists and political researchers in particular find well-documented history of the early political resistant groups such as the Social Welfare Societies led by Dauti Yamba and Donald Siwale, whose picture features prominently.
“Another prominent feature in this section is the colonial symbols of oppression which were the hut tax, the Chitupa or Pass book, the Pelete or bicycle tax and dog tax,” she said.
Other things on display include the symbols of authority of the colonial government such as the BSA Company flag, the Union Jack (British flag), the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland flag, District Commissioner’s baton, the messenger’s uniform and whistle.
Tourists and researchers can also appreciate seeing the telephone that was used by the last Speaker of the Legislative Council under the British federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland from 1956 to 1964 and also by the first Speaker of the Zambian National Assembly, Wesley Nyirenda in 1964.
The National Assembly in the colonial government was also used by the First Speaker of the National Assembly of Zambia at Independence in 1964.
“The museum has on display the torch that was lit at Zambia’s independence, the coat that Mama Julia Chikamoneka wore at Independence, the skull of the buffalo that was killed for the independence feast. There are also medals given out to honour different people at Independence Day in 1964 for their different roles in the shaping of the new nation’s history,” she said, adding that even the history of each of the five republican presidents is well placed.
Ethnography and art
“This part depicts the cultural history of Zambia, starting with real-life size-villages showing the Zambian village architecture and the day-to-day village activities complete with sleeping dogs and chickens scratching for food,” Ms Chitungu explained.
The gallery also displays Zambian traditional food and traditional agriculture and farming methods and implements, she said, adding that interesting also in this section are the traditional utensils used for different purposes by different ethnic groups.
“There is also a part on leisure, dress and body decorations. This part showcases Zambia’s traditional beadworks, body marks and hairstyles,” she said.
The Lusaka National Museum also has archived the post-independence era, which features Zambia’s immediate achievements at independence, education being prominent with the gown worn by First republican president Dr Kenneth Kaunda as the first chancellor of the University of Zambia on display.

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