Sam Njunuri and Fight over African Art in the U.S

Chido Nwangwu writes about Houston-based Kenyan businesman, Sam Njunuri’s passion for African art and steps taken against public auction of his massive African art collection in the United States.

Only one week ago, on Thursday, April 4, 2024, Sam Njunuri, Houston-based Kenya-born businessman, African art collector, cultural educator and realtor secured a last-minute cancellation of a court-ordered auction of his impressive and massive African art collection.

The day before the scheduled auction, he filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Technically, it gave him a reprieve for about one month.

On April 7, 2024, I had the first, exclusive interview with Mr. Njunuri on the issues and more.

For some context and relevant background, who’s Sam Njunuri and how did he become the most-talked about collector of African cultural art works in Texas and possibly in the United States?

 He told me that “1n 1974, I was in Chicago when I envisioned establishing a traveling museum of African arts and artifacts in the windy city.”

In that period, he was able to support himself through university, in part, by teaching batik Africa art in some of the city’s elementary schools, the Art Institute of Chicago and other places.

Almost eight years after residing in Chicago, he came to Houston, Texas in 1982. He recalls his surprise and fascination by the far much larger population of African Americans, Africans from the continent, Afro-Caribbeans and other persons from other places of African heritage who live in the greater Houston area. “I decided to relocate to Houston. I continued to follow the goal of establishing a physical museum. We focused on building a museum with value for our children. The goal for me has always been the community interests and education of the younger generation.”

Some donations of art to the collection are only for display in an African museum open to the public.”

Hence, he underlines what he characterizes as “the important point that some of our art collection came from missionaries, peace corps volunteers, expatriates and international staff of companies who worked/work in Africa. They would love to see those in our museum.”

Njunuri informed that “All the African art and pieces do not belong to me, as an individual; they belong to the community.”

He recalls there are public museums in Detroit, New York, Dallas, and Washington DC.

He attended Roosevelt University in Chicago where he earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in finance and accounting.

The first problem, he points to as an obstacle, is from the prejudices of some people.

The African artists know and produce arts and cultural expressions.”

Ironically, the value of most African cultural art and artifacts are determined in Europe, the United States and Asia. The fact is that Africans don’t determine price and value of African artifacts and art.

Sam Njunuri was born in in 1951 in Muranga, central Kenya.

Finally, he calls on African people and governments to support his efforts.

“We have to unite in our Harambee way, as a community to protect for our heritage and prevent our cultural art to be used for the private gain of a few persons.”

-Dr Nwangwu is Founder of the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper on the internet,, and established USAfrica in 1992 in Houston.

Follow him on X (Twitter) @Chido247

Related Articles