Lamu mourns passing of heritage champion Kristian Thune

Photo of the late Jens Thune at a past event in Lamu. PHOTO: NATASHA NEMA.

Lamu, KENYA: Lamu is mourning the demise of heritage champion and philanthropist Jens Kristian Thune who passed on aged 83.

Thune, a Norwegian born lawyer came to Kenya in the 90s with the intention to practice commercial law and particularly lived in Lamu’s Shella island for the past 20 years only for him to fall in love with Lamu’s rich heritage and thereby devoted himself to community service in the region in respect to the same.

Thune is widely known for being a champion for the conservation of the cultural and natural heritage of Lamu.

In his passion for humanity, heritage and cultural diversity, Thune worked closely with the National Museums of Kenya-NMK in Lamu to ensure the heritage of the region was well guarded.

He formed the Thune foundation with the key objective of improving the knowledge base, management and conservation of the Cultural heritage of Lamu and together with his wife Marit Sorvald,Thune became part of a group of conservationists who had Lamu island declared and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001 due to its unique architecture and Swahili culture.

Former Lamu Museums Principal Curator Galgalo Rashid eulogized Thune as the father of the Lamu’s heritage owing to the spirited efforts he put up to ensure the region’s heritage was guarded against external destructions.

“His connection with Kenyan cultural authorities and all dedicated staff made his life complete. Due to his great attachment to Lamu’s heritage and conservation, Thune and his family used to spend up to five months in Kenya every year working with locals. His love for Lamu was unparalleled,” said Rashid.

The Thune Foundation, a charity organization, ran projects that supported heritage conservation and community welfare.

The Thune family has promoted the preservation of heritage, historical sites and monuments within the Lamu archipelago including research and excavation in Pate, funding paving of Pate town pedestrian walkways, Takwa footbridge to make Takwa heritage site more accessible.

His philanthropic spirit saw him fund the famous annual Maulid and other cultural festivals in the county.

The foundation has also supported the Shella Primary School’s playground, the Hudaa Muslim School, Shella bursary fund, the Brighter Stars Football ground, Shella Environment Residents Group, beach clean-up, Shella Beach Management Unit, renovating Shella Jamia mosque minaret among others.

Lamu being a Muslim hub meant that women were not allowed to swim and as such there were no amenities in place to guarantee them such comfort as swimming pools.

However, the Thune Foundation put up the first ever women swimming pool at Shella island where women from the conservative Muslim community would freely interact and swim without reservations.