Behind-the-scenes: The Superheroes of Kenya

Explore the research and creative process through quotes from the team behind it...

By National Museums of Kenya

The Superheroes of Kenya (2020) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya

"‘Shujaa’ is a Swahili word that means brave or courageous. It also refers to someone who is a hero. 

Shujaa Stories made its public debut with an exhibition at the Nairobi National Museum in 2018. It shined light on Kenya’s greatest heroes and heroines. Each story was coupled with an illustration and a bonus text on conservation related to the heritage sites surrounding where these legends once lived. On Mashujaa Day in 2020, Shujaa Stories and the National Museums of Kenya launched a collection of 61 animations and exhibits representing all 44 officially registered communities in Kenya. 

"The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) is a government agency charged with managing and presenting Kenya’s Heritage to the world, therefore, NMK's role was to assist in curating (research, document and present through online exhibition) the exhibition. History is the stories of our past and near present that informs our future. The Shujaa stories project has encapsulated this
Mzalendo Kibunjia, Director General, National Museums of Kenya

Dr. Kuira, Director of Antiquities, Sites and Monuments (2018)National Museums of Kenya

"Who is a Hero? A Hero is a person who defines the limits or our aspirations. This is the message that this project brings out to each and everyone of us. Therefore, let us all aspire to be Heroes"
Dr. Kiura, Director Antiquities, Sites and Monuments, National Museums of Kenya

Masidza Sande Galavu (2018)National Museums of Kenya

Shujaa Stories is the brain child of Masidza Sande Galavu (January 6, 1993 - February 11, 2020). The project had a special meaning to Masidza who was himself a lupus warrior.

“It all began when I and Jeff Muchina (friend and colleague) visited Kenya's incredible historical sites. We were blown away. There's so much history that Kenyans don’t know and is not being taught in schools. In 2017 Shujaa Stories was born with a goal to unmask the history of the told and untold Shujaas of pre-independence time. The illustrations are done in a superhero and fantasy way so as to attract the younger generation."
Masidza Galavu, Creative Director, Shujaa Stories and Tatu Creatives

Jeff Muchina (2018)National Museums of Kenya

"We should re-brand the way people perceive Africa especially targeting the younger generation, from our books, to the music and anything to do with Africa, with emphasis on learning, celebrating and embracing our traditions.

We have so many creatives within Africa; artists, designers, photographers and writers who produce African content. Let’s put this works out there because there is somebody who is ready to relate and get inspired."
Jeff Muchina, Director, Shujaa Stories and Tatu Creatives

Shujaa Stories exhibition (2018)National Museums of Kenya

"Seeing the Shujaa Stories Exhibition open at the Nairobi National Museum in November 2018 after almost one year of intensive planning was sensational. The curatorial process was an extremely involving but exciting experience with the different collaborating teams injecting their expertise.

It was exhilarating to finally be able to share the results of these efforts with the public. The exhibition attracted over 60,000 visitors within the first three months. On October 20th, Mashujaa Day 2019, Shujaa Stories was launched on Google Arts and Culture under Superheroes Part I project. With an animation and accompanying story for each, 21 superheroes were covered representing 14 communities in Kenya."
Lydia Gatundu Galavu, Curator of Art, The National Museums of Kenya

Martha Shavuya Galavu (2020)National Museums of Kenya

"In June 2020, work on Superheroes Part II began, with the support of Google Arts and Culture and the National Museums of Kenya, eventually covering a total of 61 superheroes. Having worked with my brother Masidza and understood the project, it was necessary for me to step into his shoes, following his sudden demise. It was challenging but also the most passionate project I have ever done.

This project is important to me because firstly, I have been able to see my brother’s dream realized and secondly as a young Kenyan I have learnt a lot and would love to share this knowledge with the younger generation as well as the older."
Martha Shavuya Galavu, Director, Shujaa Stories

Martha Shavuya Galavu (2020)National Museums of Kenya

"We collaborated with The National Museums of Kenya to ensure the research was correct. Special respect to Julias Ogega and Innocent Nyaga who lead the team in making it a success.

The NMK team mapped out the best route to locate the various communities as well as sourcing the best contact person(s) to interview. Grateful to Julias and his field team who made it possible to reach the minority communities. Julias would give us a call as soon as he acquired a story to pass on the vital bits to us so that we could get on with the illustrations."
Martha Shavuya Galavu, Director, Shujaa Stories

Winston Mwandoe and Senior curator Julius Ogega (2020)National Museums of Kenya

"One of the main objective of the Shujaa stories project is to present Kenya’s legendary superheroes and heroines to the world.

It is very important because for the first time these stories from minority and marginalised ethnic groups and communities were being curated and presented to the world."
Julias Juma Ogega, Senior Curator, National Museums of Kenya

Kibuka waterfall (2020)National Museums of Kenya

"My involvement with Kenya Super Heroes Part II Project was in the area of research, particularly collecting information about heroes from the 30 selected ethnic groups and communities by the museum team, and also from the written materials. Then, from the information I collected, I drafted a story for each superhero and heroine for the museum editorial team to review."
Julias Juma Ogega, Senior Curator, National Museums of Kenya

The Superheroes of Kenya (2020) by Shujaa StoriesNational Museums of Kenya

"The result is the collection of 61 superheroes. Step back in time with the National Museums of Kenya and get to know 61 pre-independence heroes who fought for their communities’ land, freedom and spiritual well-being."
Mzalendo Kibunjia, Director General, National Museums of Kenya

Amb. (Dr.) Amina C. MohamedNational Museums of Kenya

"As we celebrate Mashujaa Day, I am delighted to announce that we now have at least one superhero for each one of the 44 communities and I invite you to explore these on Google Arts & Culture. I encourage you to read each of the stories, and be inspired by the achievements and bravery of each superhero".
Amb. (Dr.) Amina C. Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Heritage, Republic of Kenya

The R.H. Raila A. Odinga, High Representative for Infrastructure Development, African Union (2020-10-19)National Museums of Kenya

"Through the heroes you actually get to know the history of a people. And that is very important in preserving the prestige, and the pride and honor of a people. That is why we talk of Unity in Diversity."
The R.H. Raila A. Odinga, High Representative for Infrastructure Development, African Union

H.E. Uhuru M. Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya (2020-10-19)National Museums of Kenya

"We must look for our common vision in the dreams of our ancestors. We must seek out their wisdom and preserve their memory. We must bring them to life in a way that present generations can relate. Through technology."
H.E. Uhuru M. Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya

Credits: Story

Story Credits:
National Museums of Kenya view website https://www.museums.or.ke/

Shujaa Stories view website http://shujaastories.com/

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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