As Gourd As It Gets: 5 Facts About the Most Extraordinary Everyday Object

By National Museums of Kenya

Hall of Kenya, Nairobi National MuseumNational Museums of Kenya

1: Gourd centrepiece at Nairobi National Museum


This spectacular centerpiece at Nairobi National Museum consists of hundreds of gourds collected from different communities all over Kenya. Made from fruits of plants, the gourds vary in size, shape and color. The gourds are used for storage, measuring and fermentation. The sculpture symbolizes the unity of Kenya and can be seen in the Hall of Kenya.


Can you guess how many gourds and calabashes make up the sculpture?

Porridge gourdNational Museums of Kenya

2: What is a gourd?


Gourds can be found in many parts of Kenya. A gourd is a fleshy large fruit, with a hard skin, belonging to the cucurbitaceae plant species. It is cut when ripe or ready to be plucked off, then dried in the sun. The seeds are removed and the gourd cleaned before use.

GourdNational Museums of Kenya

3: The gourd life - all shapes and sizes


Gourds grow in three different shapes. One is long and narrow, popular with the Maasai and Pokot, who used it to keep milk. Another is the double bellied gourd, which the Marakwet used to carry beer and the Bajun used to carry water while on a journey. The third one has a large belly and a narrow neck, used by most communities to store water and porridge. Other communities used the gourd to keep milk, make beer, make butter, and feed children.

Milk GourdNational Museums of Kenya

4: As gourd as it gets - beautiful and functional


Handles and covers are weaved, fixed or tied around the gourd's mouth and side. Plant materials, leather, maize cobs, wood and other part of other gourds are used to create the covers and handles.

Half gourdNational Museums of Kenya

5: Oh my gourd - the magic of splitting into two


When the gourd is split into two, the halves are called calabash. The calabash can be used as a scoop or as a drinking cup.

Credits: Story

Learn more about the National Museums of Kenya by visiting our website.

Exhibit Curators: Philemon Nyamanga, Cultural Heritage Department. philenyamanga@gmail.com

Photography and Creative Direction: Gibson Maina and Muturi Kanini. Gibs Photography

Exhibit Layout: Agnes Mbaika Kisyanga, Barnabas Ngei and Hazel Sanaipei.

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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