Spiralling Through African Heritage
Mats Fredrix is the Content Creator on the 2023 Tour d’Afrique from Nairobi to Cape Town. He sends his first report from Arusha, Tanzania.
Arusha is a pretty famous place. For one thing, it sits at the base of Mount Meru, Tanzania’s second highest mountain. It also serves as a gateway for some of the country’s most popular safaris. To the west, lies Serengeti National Park, with its famous annual migration of wildebeest. Next to it is the equally renown Ngorongoro Crater. If all that isn’t quite enough, Mount Kilimanjaro, the continent’s highest peak, lies just 100 km north east. Fair to say, Arusha is used to getting a lot of attention.
The Tour d’Afrique takes a break for a triple rest day in Arusha, plenty time for something other than washing, drying and charging phones. Having had the pleasure of riding in Kilimanjaro’s shadow for almost two days, Africa’s highest peak was already a big check mark on everyone’s list. With only four days in the saddle after our lengthy break in Nairobi, most riders had plenty of energy and immediately headed out to check off more of Arusha’s big sights.
With all the natural highlights, the African Cultural Heritage Centre can feel like a supporting actor in the larger play that is Arusha. Unjustly so, however. Established in 1994, it was the first of its kind in Africa dedicated to exploring the rich treasures of Africa’s rich cultures. It is the largest privately owned collection of African Art on the continent and has acquired iconic status due, in part, to the unique structure of the buildings and the incredible treasure chest of African art it holds. At its helm is Managing Director, Saifuddin Khanbhai.
The Uhuru Peak of Mt Kilimanjaro serves as the inspiration for the design of the main building. The gallery space promoting local African artists was opened in 2010 and it is now the most extensive gallery of its kind in Africa. Its exterior resembles a drum, shield and spear: important symbols in traditional African culture. A spiral ramp at its heart flows through the interior, and encourages you to spin in and out of the staggering amount of masks, shields, spears and paintings.
With collections arranged into three areas – Wildlife, History and Soul – the space really encapsulates the true heart of Africa. The building celebrates the wonderful variety of wild animals in the country, focusing on the ones in the Serengeti, with much of artwork dedicated to the great migration of the wildebeest. It also features the largest piece of ebony in the world which took 14 years to carve out of a single piece of wood. As with so many of the artifacts, it depicts a scene drawn from Masai tradition.
If one needed another reason to visit, it is well-known for its unrivalled collection of the world’s finest Tanzanite stones, a gem which is only found in the Simanjiro District of the Manyara Region in Tanzania. As a result, it is approximately 1000 times more valuable than diamonds. The Centre promises to grow even more attractive in the future, planning to open a museum together with the famous primatologist and anthropologist, Jane Goodall, to showcase her life’s work.
Our original trans-continental journey and flagship expedition crosses Africa from north to south, covering 10 countries in all. Beginning at the...