ITP Futures day one: Eileen Musundi (Kenya, ITP Senior Fellow 2013)

London greeted us with warm sunny skies and long drawn out evenings. For us fellows, Hayk, Bilwa, Njeri, Mohammed and Heba, it was a cheery Saturday evenings of hearty greetings and conversations after a long year of Zoom meetings. It seemed like we had only left last month !

Sunday was a free day to catch up on friends, shopping and of course, museum visits. I spent the better part of my day at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth Road. Right outside the building are a pair of enormous Royal Navy 15 inch guns.

The exhibitions inside are thought provoking on the personal experiences of the soldiers and the families left behind during the World Wars. I took note of the style of exhibition display that involved a lot of two dimensional material: photographs, letters, newspaper clippings and postcards, as well as a wide variety of army uniform and weapons. The exhibition on the Holocaust – the Nazi’s programme of racial annihilation of the Jews – was deeply emotional.

On Monday morning, we met up with our dear friends Claire Messenger, the ITP Manager, Anna and George at the hotel reception and walked, whilst chatting animatedly, to the British Museum. Though we had only met George and Anna online, they felt like old friends. The power of online meetings!

ITP Futures at the British Museum

After observing the relevant protocols, we adjourned to the familiar Boardroom for the ITP Futures Introductory session. Each Senior Fellow talked about their expectations of the programme, what they would like to get out of the programme and what they wished to add to it. There was a lot of bringing up of past experiences that may prove valuable to the programme.

Claire then took us through an interesting session on Strategic Planning, which we put into practice right away, scanning the internet for information that may a have a big impact on our professional future. Top of the list was climate change and its impact, more so on the revelation of a submerged city, Zakhiku, in Iraq.

We then rounded off the day’s sessions with a curator’s tour of coffee culture in the Islamic World by Zeina Klink-Hoppe, Phyllis Bishop Curator for the Modern Middle East.  This took place in the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World.  The exhibition traced the roots of coffee culture from the plant’s origins in East Africa to the beverage in Yemen and its subsequent spread across the Arabian peninsula to Egypt and the Levant.

Display at the coffee exhibition at the British Museum

Objects on display consisted of coffee brewing and serving pots, highly decorated ceramic coffee cups, images of social scenes surrounding the partaking of coffee, coffee making ceremonies, the roasting and grinding of the coffee bean, coffee “currencies” and the transition of coffee from the home and beyond. We delighted in the clever mounting and display of highly decorated ceramic coffee cups, and a surprising display of burlap bags that transport coffee beans around the world. I was happy to draw parallels with a recent exhibition we have done back home on the growth of the economic scale in colonial Kenya that witnessed the introduction of coffee as a cash crop.

I was also fortunate to meet a former BM acquaintance, Hellen Wolfe who has retired from the BM and was visiting that day!

We rounded off an eventful first day with a hearty welcome dinner at the restaurant Dishoom in beautiful Covent Garden and a blissful walk back to the hotel in the evening.