The Curator series: re-examining historical depictions of Africa and the diaspora.
Renowned for its cultural diversity, its ornate balconies, intricately carved doors and precariously narrow streets, the old town of Mombasa serenely sits by the edge of the sea like an old man reflecting on a life well lived.
The town, which spans an area of approximately 180 acres, was the first settled area on the island. It is believed to have been primarily started by members of the Swahili ethnic group. Join me on a journey back and forth through time; a journey which has its fair share of setbacks, adventures and wonderful encounters.
1154 world map by Al Idrisi for King Roger of Sicily
The 1584 Africa map by Ortelius Abraham,1527-1598
OLD PORT circa. 1901 and in 2015
Mandhary mosque well circa the early 1900s and 2015
Buildings along Old Town Streets circa early 1900’s and 2015
Hand Carved Balconies
Mombasa Then and Now
Ali’s Curio market (formerly the police station) in the 1980s and 2015
Kids at play
In June 2017, Thee Agora teamed up with Swahili Box to curate and visualize conservation data for the old town. This would entail coming up with digital solutions to solve cultural issues pertaining mostly to conservation and preservation. The infographic, represented below in a still image, was developed by the Swahili Box research team and allows users to visually interact with the town and read about the history of respective buildings and their current conditions. Perhaps this is where the future is headed. Whether that’s true, I am not sure, but it is certainly a step in the positive direction.
Taiyana Chao of Thee Agora is a digital historian and our Curator for Innovation season. This piece is an excerpt from the photo essay “Mombasa: Then and Now” that first appeared on TheeAgora.com and is written and compiled entirely by Chao.