Website Category: Ancient sub-Saharan Civilisations
Area: 0.3 km2
Criteria: (i) a creative masterpiece (iii) cultural tradition (iv) icon of an era
(vi) association with belief system
Location and Values: The Tombs of the Buganda Kings at Kasubi are located on a hill in Kampala, the Ugandan capital. They occupy a 27 hectare site that has been used by the Baganda for its Royal Tombs since the 13th century, and represents the spiritual heart of the Baganda people. Sadly, the tombs were completely destroyed by fire in March 2010, just eight years after the site was inscribed on the world heritage list. Fortunately, the original burial system of the Kabakas (kings) of Buganda is being maintained and the building's traditional architectural craftsmanship and the required skills are still available to allow it to be recreated.
Slideshow of the Tombs Of Buganda Kings At Kasubi: The slideshow features a collection of photos kindly provided by Sebastien Moriset, Hitesh Mehta and Andrew Plumptre, showing aspects of the site before and after the fire. The cover photo shows the main thatched structure in which the mausoleums of the four kabakas were housed, known as Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga. The remaining photos illustrate a walking tour of the site – in space and time – starting with the main features existing before the fire. The tour starts outside the compound with views of the thickly-thatched gate house, Bujja Bukala, before proceeding into the main enclosure with views of the main structure surrounded by its reed fence. Inside the main structure can be seen photos of the kabakas, various royal spears and other regalia, and a board game (one of many important items that were lost in the fire). Thatching grass is shown as it grows, and laid out to dry in the sun. A unique thatching technique is used which enables clumps of grass to be replaced as necessary, without replacing the entire roof at once. The resulting ‘patchwork’ effect can be seen in some of the 2007 photos. Traditional red-brown bark-cloth – made from the bark of a tree, Ficus natalensis – is used to screen off part of the building, and can also be seen worn in the traditional dress of a woman outside. Next to the main structure is the house of the royal drums, Ndoga-obukaba and nearby are the houses of the kabaka’s widows and custodians of the site (some of which are made of cement and iron sheets). The site is quite extensive, and includes the graves of other members of the royal entourage.
The main building was completely destroyed by the 2010 fire, and the site is shown covered in yellow tarpaulin behind a reed fence. Fortunately, meticulous detailed records of the structure before the fire exist, together with the skills necessary to rebuilt it. Following the fire a period of careful planning has been embarked upon, and 3 thatched roofs constructed on an experimental basis to test the application of the traditional techniques while training a group of artisans who will undertake the restoration work in due course. Work on these experimental structures is shown.
Slideshow of the Tombs Of Buganda Kings At Kasubi:
Google Earth View: To view satellite imagery of the site of the Tombs of the Buganda Kings at Kasubi on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing.
Free Download: There's a beautiful 44-page colour brochure on the Kasubi Tombs available from the Craterre website, click here to download.