Royal Tombs at Kasubi
Ritual Burial Site of the Buganda Kings

Ritual Burial Grounds of the Buganda Kings

The Bantu-speaking people known as Baganda (or just Ganda) have been a powerful political force in the Uganda region since the 13th century CE. According to oral traditions, the first Kabaka (king) of the Baganda was Kintu Kato, who conquered the five main tribes in the area and united the Ganda people; this began a political legacy that has continued to last for over 700 years. Since 1884, the palace at Kasubi has been repurposed as a royal tomb, interring a large number of Kabakas and their modern-day descendants. With more than one Kabaka buried in the same place, the concentration of ancestral heritage at Kasubi has made the site an incredibly important Kabaka burial site in Buganda.

The Royal Tombs at Kasubi are defined by three core areas: Bujjabukula, the historic gatehouse at the entrance to the site; Olugya, the main courtyard; and Muzibu Azaala Mpanga, the former palace and current royal tomb which enshrines the last four Buganda kings.

Muzibu Azaala Mpanga

Muzibu Azaala Mpanga, the primary building of the complex, is circular in plan with a domelike overall shape. Massive in size, its interior extends to a height of 7.5 meters, while the external diameter is 31 meters. Architecturally, the tomb is a powerful manifestation of Ganda cultural identity and spiritual belief systems, with a low, wide arch entranceway, regionally-unique and durable thatch work on the massive roofs (extending all the way to the ground), and interior funereal chambers separated by partitions of bark cloth. These features were designed to create a strong impression of power and harmoniousness. Four of the Kabakas are interred in these limited-access funereal chambers, designed to symbolize a sacred forest (the Kibira). Lemon grass and palm leaf mats cover the floor, while spears, drums, shields, medals, and photos of the Kabakas cover the walls and other surfaces. Muzibu Azaala Mpanga, as with all of the buildings onsite, is constructed of entirely organic materials such as wood, thatch, reed, wattle and daub; this is firmly in keeping with Ganda tradition and sacred architecture.

Site Stewardship

Though the Kasubi Tombs are of all-organic construction and thus theoretically more vulnerable to the elements than inorganic buildings, their continued use as an active religious and World Heritage site has contributed to their good state of preservation. A high level of maintenance has been bestowed upon them by two different tribes charged with the architectural ensemble's upkeep. The Ngeye (Colobus Monkey) clan, for example, are the only people allowed to work on the intricate thatching work on-site. Knowledge of this thatching process is passed down from generation to generation, and is of a distinct character.

Need for Digital Preservation

Despite the active site stewardship at the Kasubi Tombs, their vulnerability to fire is immense. The Tombs are made of primarily wood and thatch combined with wattle and daub mortaring. The dramatic need for digital documentation was demonstrated in 2010, when a fire destroyed many structures at the Royal Kasubi Tombs. Fortunately, the tombs were digitally documented one year prior by a volunteer partner with donated equipment from Plowman Craven (PCA). This future-oriented documentation ensures that these cultural treasures of the Buganda people are preserved for future generations. The resulting HD data, generously donated and stored in CyArk’s digital archive, allows for a highly accurate model of the site, which may be used for reconstruction and recovery after the 2010 fire and future disasters.


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