African Digital Heritage in collaboration with the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO will be undertaking digital documentation of Gede ruins, on the 27th – 30th April 2022. We are excited to be part of this project to document one of Kenya’s most significant historic monuments.
Located between Malindi and Kilifi, in the coastal region of Kenya, 94 km north of the city of Mombasa. The earliest settlement of the town dates back to 1041 to 1278. The town was a significant trade center along the East African coast with finds such as Ming China vase and Venetian glass being excavated from this site.
Gede’s prosperity peaked in the 15th century but by the 17th century the town had been abandoned. The town’s abandonment is attributed to several factors including; raids from neighboring communities, arrival of the Portuguese, conflict in neighboring city states of Malindi and Mombasa, and a drop in the water table.
The town holds a strong presence in the oral history of the Mijikenda community who attributed sacred and spiritual meaning to it. According to oral tradition the site is protected by the spirits and ancestors who are said to harm any one who endangers the site.
It remained unknown to British colonialists until 1880’s. In 1929 it was declared a protected monument and in the late 1930’s some of the buildings which were in danger of collapsing were repaired by the Public Works Department of the Kenya Government. Sitting on 45 acres of land, excavations at the site continue to this day.
Our approach to digitizing Gede will look at preserving both the tangible and the intangible history. We want to document the structures as they appear today while situating the ruins in the context of present day community life. The following digitisation approaches were used:
- 360 Panoramic tours
- Photographs of site and artifacts in the museum
- Videos and interviews with team members and local community.
The Gede Digitisation project brings together multiple data sets created to document the site and share it with wider audiences. The archive contains extensive spatial data as well as audio/visual recordings of the site and community members.