Kasubi Tombs – Kampala – Uganda

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Africa Business Category: TOURISM, HISTORICAL PLACE, and MONUMENTAfrica Business Tags: Historical Place, Kampala, Kasubi Tombs, Monument, Tourism, and Uganda

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    Situated on a hill within Kampala, the Kasubi Tombs site is an active religious place in the Buganda kingdom. Its place, as the burial ground for the previous four Kabakas, makes it a very important religious centre for the royal family, a place where the Kabaka and his representatives frequently carry out important rituals related to Ganda culture.

    The Kasubi tombs hill is divided into three main areas: the main tomb area located at the western end of the site, an area containing buildings and graveyards located behind the tombs, and a large area on the eastern side of the site used primarily for agricultural purposes.

    The entrance to the site is a beautifully built gatehouse called Bujjabukula. According to Ganda tradition, the guards who control access to the site hide behind a see-through woven reed screen, to keep watch round the clock in order to control access. This gatehouse was constructed using wooden columns supporting a thatched roof, with walls made of woven reeds. The Bujjabukula leads to a small courtyard which contains a circular house in which the royal drums are kept, the Ndoga-Obukaba.

    From this forecourt, one enters the main courtyard (Olugya), enclosed by a reed fence and several houses built for the widows of the Kabakas and for other ritual purposes. The entrance into this courtyard is a striking experience as one immediately faces the main tomb building known as Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga, which is the architectural masterpiece of this ensemble.

     

    The main tomb area or palace, called Muzibu Azaala Mpanga, which is located at the western end of the site.

    A large area on the eastern side of the site which is primarily used for agricultural purposes.
    A secondary graveyard and living area that is located behind the main tombs containing a number of buildings.

    The entrance to the site is a beautifully built gatehouse called Bujjabukula. According to Ganda tradition, the guards who control access to the site hide behind a see-through woven reed screen, to keep watch round the clock. more..

    Muzibu Azaala Mpanga

    Muzibu Azaala Mpanga is the main tomb area or palace. The first palace was originally built by Ssekabaka King Suuna II in 1820 (a deceased Kabaka is referred to as Ssekabaka). The main building that is seen today was rebuilt by Ssekabaka Mutesa I, son of Suuna II, in 1882.

    Muzibu Azaala Mpanga, which means “A tough one brings forth powerful ones”, is circular in plan and has a dome-like shape. Its massive scale can be seen in its external diameter of 31 meters and an internal height of 7.5 meters. more..

    Traditional rituals

    Anthropological Dimensions
    The physical features of the Kasubi Tombs represent only a fraction of the traditional life there. The tombs and the entire site environment carry strong spiritual and social significance while the architecture itself carries meanings related to the Ganda traditions. The rich decorative features, invested with spiritual values, reflect the interaction between nature and culture, between the spirits and the living people. One example is the fifty two rings of spear grass supporting the great roof. Their number relates to the fifty two Ganda clans. more..

    The Thatched Roofs

    The thatching technique at the Kasubi tombs is quite unique and can hardly be compared to any other African or European thatching technique. The grass is prepared in conical bundles which are simply laid onto the roof structure without being tied, except for the first layers at the bottom. When one of these bundles decays, it can be efficiently replaced. This interesting technique makes the huge maintenance task of the thatched roofs much easier.

    All thatching and roof maintenance is exclusively carried out by the members of the Ngeye clan (colobus monkey clan). The thatching skills are kept and advanced within the Ngeye clan and knowledge is passed down to generations through apprenticeship. more..

    Bark Cloth

    Creating cloth fabric from the soft bark of the fig tree (ficus natalensis) is one of the more fascinating Ganda skills. This bark cloth, called olubugo, has a strong ritual importance to the people of Buganda. To make this soft and resistant fabric, the outer bark of the tree is carefully removed and then alternately soaked and beaten with a grooved wooden mallet, until the fibers become flexible. The bark then re-grows and can be harvested again a year later.

     

    Prior to the introduction of cotton cloth in Buganda by Arab traders, olubugo was the standard fabric used for clothing by Baganda. Bark cloth or olubugo is used for covering and decoration throughout the Kasubi Tombs complex. In contemporary Uganda, however, bark cloth or olubugo is primary used as burial cloth in Buganda and a few other communities, and to make souvenirs and novelty products hats, mats, book covers and purses. more..

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