Arts and Culture

KEEPING HISTORY ALIVE

We are conserving the heritage of Taita hills to ensure that the treasure it holds continues telling the story to future generations

The alluring hills of Taita Taveta are more than just beautiful landscapes; they have a story to tell. They hold the customs and belief of the Taita, and are imbued with historical nuances. High up in the knolls of Kisaghau, Mbololo and Sagalla is a story that stretches back more than a century. It is a story of skulls, monuments and military grounds.

In 1916, the hills were a safe haven for warring battalions of the German and British armies. It is at this site that the German army exchanged fire with their British counterparts as the latter protected its first East African Airfield and Garrison.

At the Taita foothills lies magnificent monuments. These are architectural masterpieces that have stood the test of time and showcase high quality workmanship. Unfortunately most of them have worn off for being exposed to the elements.

One of the imposing structures is Grogan’s castle. The castle is within Grogan Estate about nine kilometres from the Voi– Taveta road. It stands on a hill overlooking the flat plains that open up to a big population of elephants. This magnificent castle is set to be turned into a hotel.

The human skulls, some in caves and some in the open, form part of the well-kept treasure in Taita hills.

During data collection, researchers from the National Museums of Kenya discovered smelted iron, ceramic items and crude tools which they believe were used by the communities back then.

The county government of Taita Taveta has taken various measures to preserve the skulls which are threatened by soil erosion that buries them and rock droppings that break them.

To ensure that some of these artifacts are preserved, Safaricom Foundation and the Taita Taveta County funded a project to document the sites, caves and skulls through the creation of a database. The funding financed field data collection including installation of the necessary information systems.

The Taita Taveta Skull Cave Heritage Sites Project also undertook to educate the community on the need to protect the skull sites and caves.

Before to the exercise, the sites were being destroyed by community and religious groups. By documenting the sites, its existence will be subject to preservation by both National Museums of Kenya and the County Government of Taita Taveta.

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