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Introduction guide to the preservation of traditional thatching of the Buganda Community

The Kasubi Tombs in Kampala, Uganda, is the site of the burial grounds for four kabakas and other members of the Baganda royal family. As a result, the site remains an important spiritual and political site for the Ganda people, as well as an important example of traditional architecture (PHOTO /Courtesy)

As part of the project “Technical and financial assistance for the reconstruction of Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga, architectural masterpiece of the Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi, Uganda, World Heritage property in Danger” funded by the Japan Funds in Trust to UNESCO, an Introduction Guide to the Preservation of Traditional Thatching of the Buganda Community of Uganda was produced to document and showcase the unique intangible cultural heritage architectural practice known as the ‘ganda thatching technique’ carried out at this exceptional World Heritage property in Uganda.

The guide was written, designed and coordinated by Mr. Sebastien Moriset, an architect from CRAterre engaged by UNESCO for the Japan-funded project.

Mr. Moriset worked closely on the guide with local craftspeople and researchers including Mr. Jonathan Nsubuga, an architect and member of the Buganda Kingdom, who is overseeing the reconstruction of the Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga building, which housed the tombs of the Buganda Kings and was destroyed by a fire in 2010.

As explained in the introduction to the guide: “Thatched roofs are becoming scarce on all continents. They are generally reserved for modest homes in rural areas. Outstanding exceptions in the design and construction of thatched roofs however exist.

UNESCO World Heritage List presents several of these extraordinary architectures, which prove that it is possible to build huge monuments just from dry grass and a few reeds, an unthinkable concept for a contemporary engineer or architect trained in reinforced concrete.

At a time when humanity is trying to reinvent architecture to return to more environmentally friendly practices, thatch is once again becoming popular.

The ecotourism industry and the heritage sector are embracing thatch as a warm and welcoming material which enhances the visitors experience.

But these practices remain marginal and some techniques such as the one described in this guide, which are totally unknown and undocumented, could disappear.”

The guide contains forwards by H.E. Ssabasajja Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Kimera Mutebi II, King of Buganda; Dr. Mechtild Rössler, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (now retired); and H.E. Takio Yamada, Former Permanent Delegate and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to UNESCO, an introduction by Mr. Sebastien Moriset, and then details skills, designs, materials, tools, construction details and then ends with a chapter on deterioration and maintenance.

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