‘An architecture rising from the serene Kenyan plain like an outcropping of earth, a vision of usefulness informed by the African genius for decoration.’ Architectural Digest
The African Heritage House, Nairobi
The African Heritage House overlooks the Nairobi National Park. Designed by American Alan Donovan – who still spends much of his time here – the house is a combination of the mud architectures from across Africa. Luxurious rooms, filled with African art and furnishings with modern appointments.
Co-founder Joseph Murumbi, Kenya’s first Foreign Minister and second Vice President, it became the largest Pan-African art gallery on the continent. Model Iman is a frequent visitor; Wangari Muta Maathai’s daughter held her wedding here and much of the Out of Africa costumes were created here.
Indigo Yoruba cloth, The African Heritage House, Nairobi
Both men were avid collectors, promoted Africa’s pioneering artists and loved to travel, Alan first living in Nigeria, before driving across the African continent. Murumbi – resigning from politics in 1966 – on his death he left behind over 50,000 books and sheaves of official correspondence.
Kente vintage cloth, The African Heritage House, Nairobi
The house holds a unique a valuable part of the continent’s political, cultural and social history. Much of the continent’s art and culture no longer exists, ransacked or decayed through lack of care, or can only be found in European museums. Alan is currently working with the Prince of Kuba to make their traditional cloth, which influenced Matisse and Picasso into a UNESCO heritage cloth.
The Africa Heritage House, Nairobi
A Tinga Tinga piece originally painted on boards, his students now use canvas; Carol Beckwith the great wildlife photographer; Kenyan/British potter Magdalene Odundo, OBE (the only Kenyan to receive the honour); Benin artwork; intricately beaded head-masks from the Kenyan Karimojong and Turkana tribes; Malian gold and Yoruba dolls.
The Africa Heritage House, Nairobi
The stone pool house’s – covered in bourganevilla – elegant wooden doors are from the island of Lamu. These were originally brought over from India 200 years ago. A Masai shield made from buffalo skin, the design representing the age of the maker. A Kirsi soapstone sculpture by a Nigerian artist stands below a colourful painting by Haitian Fritz Saint John, 1970s.
Kente bed cloth with Clinton! The African Heritage House, Nairobi
Walking up to the main house, the twisted decorations on the chimneys rise out of the warm yellow exterior. Visitors are met by a traditional iron sculpture of two spear carrying warriors greet visitors before entering through imposing dark wooden doors from Kashmir. The only doors not from Africa, lead onto an internal Islamic style courtyard
Ceiling poles are made from mangrove wood, Moroccan windows for purdah, Luoa chairs from western Kenya, a Uganda seating stool and South Sudanese corset.
It was the first African house to be featured in the international magazine Architectural Digest. The bathrooms are places you just never want to leave! Flint stone floors, step up to the baths with panoramic views of the savannah. Recycled silk batiks by Kenyan artist Michael Soi. An imposing Kamba piece with unusual white beading because that is what the Buganda King demanded.
If you are in Nairobi you really must try to visit The African Heritage House – email ahead to book.