Koobi Fora Museum Exhibit
Above: Fossil reconstructions of the hominids at two million years ago. In this period there were several hominid species living simultaneously
The Koobi Fora Exhibit
Several years ago I had the honor and good fortune to work with Richard and Meave Leakey, the world famous Paleo-anthropologists, on an exhibit and guide book based on the Koobi Fora fossil sites in Northern Kenya. The Leakeys have conducted research in this part of northern Kenya around Lake Turkana since 1968.
I was living in Kenya and working with the United Nations Development Program in Nairobi when I was given this project for a two year period. I worked very closely with Richard and Meave Leakey and the wildlife photographer Bob Campbell on research and design of the project.
Richard Leakey asked me to design the exhibition and the guidebook, and because I am a painter I incorporated a life- size painting of Koobi Fora of two million years ago with its diverse flora and fauna, as the main element in the design of the exhibit which I also painted as a mural.
The challenge was to reconstruct painting elements using fossils and stone tools and geological research for the life-size mural. The exhibit has been at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi and showcases the research and paeleo-archeological work of the Leakey family.
It took several months of research and study prior to the design and painting of the mural, and I made a trip to the Unites States to look at exhibit design at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC for a month. I also made a trip to the Turkana sites and stayed with the Leakeys at their campsite near the fossil sites.
Koobi Fora Fossil Sites
The Koobi Fora fossil sites are among the world's most recognized and internationally known fossil sites. Since 1968 dedicated field workers and scientists have pieced together the fossil record from some 200 sites along the eastern side of Lake Turkana. Koobi Fora tells the story of our past from between two and one million years ago.
The prehistoric potential of Koobi Fora site was first realized by Richard Leakey in 1967 when he was participating in th International Omo Research Expedition. A thunderstorm necessitated a diversion of his flight to Ethiopia taking him over the east side of Lake Turkana where he noticed extensive sedimentary deposits and numerous fossils and stone tools eroding out of the sediments.
The following year the National Geographic Society sponsored a small exploratory expedition from the National Museums of Kenya led by Richard Leakey, confirming the area was rich in fossils.
The entrance to the Koobi Fora exhibit at the
National Museums of Kenya
Richard E. Leakey, palaeoanthropologist
Kenyan palaeoanthropologist, conservationist and politician. Richard Leakey has held a number of official positions in Kenya, mostly in institutions of archaeology and wildlife conservation. He has been Director of the National Museum of Kenya, founded the NGO WildlifeDirect and is the chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Meave G. Leakey, palaeoanthropologist
is a British palaeoanthropologist. She works at Stony Brook University and is co-ordinator of Plio-Pleistocene research at the Turkana Basin Institute. She studies early hominid evolution and has done extensive field research in the Turkana Basin. She has Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Science degrees.
Richard and Meave Leakey working in the field
Bob Campbell, photographer
Among the people with whom I worked closely was Bob Campbell who was a wildlife photographer and he often worked with the Leakeys while working in the field in the fossil sites.
He was an English wildlife photographer and filmmaker known for his footage and photographs of Dian Fossey and mountain gorillas* published in the January 1970 issue of National Geographic. He was raised in Nairobi, Kenya by his English parents who had fled from the aftermath of the First World War.
* The movie, Gorillas in The Mist was loosely based on this
Above: A landscape reconstruction of Koobi Fora at two million years ago. This life size mural shows the diversity of the flora and fauna of the period.
Koobi Fora Guidebook
The guide book for Koobi Fora is a generalized narrative of the fossil record at Lake Turkana of two million years ago.
I illustrated it with the help of the Leakeys and it closely correlates with an exhibit of the same name at the Nairobi museum.