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Reconstruction Project of the World Heritage Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi

Reconstruction Project of the World Heritage Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi

Republic of Uganda

Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi

2013-2016 Conservation and Restoration
01/03/2015
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BACKGROUND

Background of the Reconstruction Project

The Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi, which are registered as World Heritage, are located in the suburbs of the capital Kampala, Uganda in East Africa. Traditional Bantu kingdoms such as Toro and Buganda still exist in the country. The Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi are the burial site of four kings, and were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. On March 16, 2010, Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga, a major structure at the site, was completely destroyed by arson.
In response to this incident, UNESCO placed the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger in the same year to promote the reconstruction. A mission was dispatched through the UNESCO Japanese Funds-in-Trust for the Preservation of the World Cultural Heritage to create a prevention scheme for reconstruction of the tombs. Based on the results of the mission, the Japanese government decided to provide project fund cooperation for reconstruction of the tombs, removal from the List of World Heritage in Danger, the setup of an efficient risk prevention scheme and the dispatch of experts in cultural property restoration.
The site is the major spiritual center for the Baganda. The Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga structure that was destroyed by fire was a circular wooden building with thatched roof measuring approximately 30 m in diameter and 15 m in height. Many wooden buildings with thatched roofs are preserved as cultural properties in Japan of which preservation techniques have been accumulated over a long period of time. Therefore, it is advisable for Japanese experts in cultural property restoration to provide technical cooperation for reconstruction of the tombs.
The original wood structures were reconstructed with concrete poles and steel-framed roof trusses by the British in 1938. For this reconstruction, the tomb will be restored to its pre-fire state.
This project has continued for three years, from March 1, 2013 to February 28, 2016 with a planned budget of 650,000 USD.

Destroyed by arson on March 16, 2010

After the fire

ACTIVITIES

Technical Cooperation by Japanese Experts in Cultural Property Preservation

To date, UNESCO and Japan have jointly provided technical cooperation for the reconstruction of Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga twice. Participants from Japan have included four experts; Kazuhiko NITTO (Visiting Professor at Tokyo University of the Arts, specialist in cultural properties and thatching), Hiroshi FURUKAWA (Part-time Lecturer at Musashino University, specialist in architectural structure), Shigeru SUGASAWA (Visiting Researcher at Kogakuin University, specialist in disaster-proof equipment), and Junichi HASEGAWA (Director of Sumai Kukan Kenkyusho, specialist in disaster prevention planning).
The mission held discussions with the Uganda Museum, the Uganda National Commission for UNESCO, and the Buganda Kingdom, made on-site visits and conducted interviews with concerned parties in cooperation with on-site and project managers. In addition, participants deepened their understanding of the tombs, including the Wamara tombs, through field surveys. For structures, we investigated the structure of concrete poles and steel-framed roof trusses, checked fire damage, clarified important points for reconstruction work, and made proposals for the points to be improved. For thatching, we visited cogon grass fields, surveyed thatching work at the Wamara tombs, and interviewed thatched-roof workers to understand the thatching techniques and maintenance skills used in Buganda, and made proposals to prolong the life of thatched roofs. For disaster prevention, they introduced disaster-proof equipment appropriate for wooden buildings with thatched roofs, and gave instructions on performance design. Furthermore, we visited the Kampala Fire Station Headquarters and branch stations to understand their system, made proposals for improvement, and suggested the establishment of a fire defense organization for self-protection of the tombs.
We also suggested the creation of models of the tombs of kings for restoration, and the issue of technical reports of the project.

Construction of concrete poles

Raised portion in the shaft structure

RESULTS

Future Issues

This project is currently continuing; however, the following issues must be addressed.
(1) The construction work for concrete poles and steel-framed roof truss
structures is not as accurate as needed, and they require partial repair. There
is concern about the capability of local construction companies.
(2) The most difficult issue in the project is the thatching of roofs. We have not
been able to determine how to procure a large quantity of high quality cogon
grass, and the number of thatched-roof workers is insufficient for project
needs. These issues caused us to predict significant delay in the progress of
restoration. However, the project period has been officially prolonged for 12
months, which has made it possible to complete all the work during the
period.
(3) In regard to disaster-proof equipment installation, there is concern about
whether good construction work is possible even if useful equipment is made
available for the wooden buildings with thatched roofs. In addition,
excavation survey for the ground along with piping work is necessary over a
wide area, which will cause difficulties in the execution of the project.
(4) For disaster prevention, accurate inspection, operation, and maintenance
of equipment and devices are necessary. In addition, there are many other
concerns, such as periodical disaster prevention drills and the establishment
of a fire defense organization for self-protection.
As mentioned above, many technically difficult excavation works remain along with the thatching, building, disaster-proof equipment installation, and piping. It is also necessary to arrange religious events along with the progress of construction work; therefore, the difficulty in advancing the project as planned is predicted. Fortunately, however, the construction period was officially prolonged. We are planning to complete the thatching work by August 2015, followed by interior decoration, including the covering of interior walls with bark cloth, and the holding of an opening ceremony in October 2015.

Survey on cogon grass fields

Survey on thatching work (Wamara tombs)

Survey on decorative ceiling structure (Wamara tombs)

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