Kasubi Tombs : A heritage of the Buganda Kingdom
Kasubi Tombs: Kampala is built on 9major hills which are distributed between the education, religious and medical institutions. However there are also other several small hills which support Kampala as the capital of Uganda and Uganda as a whole. The Kasubi hill holds a significant UNESCO world heritage site which is also a significant place for the Buganda kingdom.
The Kasubi tombs are a burial place for the fallen Buganda Kings and are spiritually active in the Buganda Kingdom. The place was named as a UNESCO world heritage due to its significance to the kingdom. The Kabaka of Buganda along with members of the royal family and his representative often come to perform certain important cultural rituals. The place houses four fallen Buganda kings.
The place was originally the palace of Kabaka Mutesa 1 and upon his death, the grass thatched places became his burial place. The ensuing kings: Mwanga; Daudi Chwa II; and Edward Mutesa II, father of the current Kabaka, Ronald Mutebi II – broke with tradition and chose to be buried here instead of in their own palaces.
The Kasubi tombs can be classified into the green major important areas: the Bajjabukulu which the main entrance to the Kasubi tombs. The courtyard which houses the royal drums known as the “ndoga obukaba and finally the main house which is also the burial grounds for the Kabakas the Muzibu Azala Mpanga. Other members of the Royal family are buried among the trees out the back, and the whole place has the distinct look of a small rural village.
The “Bujjabukula” is the superb architected entrance to the site woven with reeds through which it is believed that the site guards keep watch from all day long. Coupled with the reeds are the wooden columns that support the grass thatched roof and reed walls. This entrance leads to the court yard of the “ndoga obukaba” a circular house that houses the royal drums.
From the small fore court yards you will be led to the main courtyards (olugya) in the native luganda language which like the ancient Buganda homesteads is enclosed with a reed fence. Within this reed fence and court yard are a number of houses which were built the widowed queens and also for other rituals. As you make your way through the entrance you will be faced with a circular doom like masterpiece which holds the tombs known as “Muzibu-Azaala-Mpang” an architectural masterpiece of this ensemble.
The thick grass thatched roof with extends all the way down to the ground is definitely captivating. You will enter through the wide low arch flanked on either ends with richly woven reeds. The interior of the house is partitioned with the traditional bark cloth the first form of cloth to be worn by the Buganda, to isolate the “sacred forest” where the the cadavers of the fallen kings now rest. the entrance to the “sacred forest” is restricted to the widows of the Kabakas, the royal family, the Naalinya, and Katikkiro of Buganda. The interior of the house is decked with power symbols such as drums, spears, shields, medals, and photographs of the Kabakas buried there. The floor is covered with a thick layer of lemon grass and palm leaves mats. The whole structure is supported by gigantic straight wooden poles wrapped in bark cloth. The architecture especially the thatching is incomparable to any other place in Africa or even Europe. The thatching is done by the ngeye clan (colobus monkey) only. the elders of the clan are responsible for passing on the skills to the young ones and to the next generation.
These cultural practices are still very much practiced for example in the past tragic incident when the place was gutted by fire. The members of the “Ngeye” clan volunteered for this special cause no one form any other clan is allowed to do the thatching. Certain other customs are followed in the process forexample widows of the Kabakas and pregnant women are not allowed on site during work as it is believed to cause leakage.
The Ngo clan (leopard) are the interior decorators of the poles and like the thachers are not allowed to have any form of sexual contact during the course of the work. 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 is rotten, it can simply be pulled out and replaced. This interesting technique makes the huge maintenance task of the thatched roofs much easier.