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Visit of Prof.Dr. Richard Leakey from Kenya to the LEAD PhD Workshop

On Wednesday the 23rd of March 2016, Prof. Richard Leakey, the world renowned palaeoanthropologist and conservationist from Kenya and Honorary Member of the LEAD Programme, visited the LEAD Office to contribute to a PhD Workshop.

As Supervisor together with Prof. Slikkerveer of three PhD students from Universitas Padjadjaran in Bandung, Indonesia, Ms. Weny Asmadi MSc, Mr. Kusnandar MSc and Mr. Nurmaya Prahatmaja MSc, who are currently working on the documentation, digitization and dissemination of the historical data collection on Human Evolution and Development (HEAD), Prof. Leakey underscored the importance of the communication and library sciences for our understanding of the history of humankind for the future, noting that: “nobody knows where we are going, but everyone should be aware of where we came from”.

As Prof. Leakey symbolically cut the ribbon to open up the HEAD Archive in its new set-up in the Library of the LEAD Programme for renewed research and documentation, he expressed his view that the scientific description and analysis of the collection of historical documents is most important as it will not only contribute to its universal access, but also settle the record of the archive as a scientific monument against some misinterpretations of the field of physical anthropology for the pestiferous ideology of race, as has been attempted in the past. Considering the challenge of the translation of those documents in different languages into English for worldwide access to this knowledge on the internet, Prof. Leakey said: “knowledge is only valuable if it is shared”.

In addition, Prof. Leakey showed his appreciation for the PhD research of Mr. Patrick Maundu MSc from Kenya on the indigenous knowledge and use of traditional food plant products, who has recently completed his pioneering fieldwork in Kitui, Kenya. Stressing the significance of the study and analysis of various knowledge systems, Prof. Leakey noted that there is much yet undisclosed local knowledge and wisdom which can be used to provide people with better nutrition, health and well-being in Kenya and elsewhere on the planet.

During his visit, Prof. Leakey also shared his recent plans for the building of ‘The Cradle’, a large modern-science park in Turkana, Kenya, establishing a Universal Landmark to the discovery of all major human fossils in the region and the reconstruction of human ancestry in Africa. The high-level concept was commissioned by the Turkana Basin Institute (TBI) and produced by the famed Studio Libeskind.  The conceptual components of ‘The Cradle’ incorporate the main pavilions, i.e. Hall of Humanity, Planetarium’, Dinosaur Hall and Multimedia Hall, where the main Halls are inspired by the shape of the early stone tools found in Turkana. Prof. Leakey contended that: “the project will demonstrate that science and technology can make the future more positive”.
Prof. Leakey also told about the latest plans to burn 120.000 tonnes of ivory Kenya, the largest stockpile of conviscated ivory ever destroyed by any country at a high-profile summit against poaching and illegal trade in ivory, scheduled for 29-30 April forthcoming. As Chairman of the Government’s Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Prof. Leakey will champion this burning of seized ivory, which will be attended by several Heads of State, along with Hollywood actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman, veteran conservationist David Attenborough, British musician Elton John and various business representatives.