How Kenya’s young historian Taiyana Chao wants to change the way we look at history2 minute read

Taiyana Chao is a classic representation of the modern African woman. An ambitious and driven go-getter with a deep love of the history of her region, she literally bridges the past with the future through digital heritage preservation. A passionate historian and computer scientist, Tayiana is enthusiastic about using technology to document and preserve heritage and culture. Starting off with her blog Thee Agora and going on to do major country wide projects such as Save The Railway, her passion for history and technology has driven her to seek out innovative ways in which technology is changing the cultural landscape. She is currently pursuing an MSc in international heritage visualisation and has dreams of one day establishing and growing her own digital heritage company, African Digital Heritage.

She is Of Africa’s Curator for Innovation and she walked us through her journey and hopes of turning a passion to a career.

When did you first fall in love with history?

I remember being continually fascinated with my grandfather’s collection of old books from a young age. One of my favourite past times was sitting down with my grandparents and listening to their stories. This love then escalated in school where I naturally developed an affinity towards the subject. And since then, it’s been an unending spree of intrigue and discovery, through libraries, archives and museums around the world.

What can history teach us?

I think the beautiful thing about history is that although we don’t have the ability to change it, we are at liberty to constantly reinvent it. By drawing from previous narratives, folklore, facts, opinions, et cetera, we create a world of dynamic wisdom and profound lessons that continually inform our present day decisions. Perhaps the important thing is to appreciate that history lives through us and any lessons that we draw from it become lessons that we can pass on to future generations.

How are you approaching history innovatively?

Leveraging my passion for computing, I am currently specialising in the digital heritage field which explores ways in which tech can be applied to the preservation and dissemination of culture. As technology continues to evolve, so does our ability to create platforms, applications and media that allow us to tell the same stories in new exciting ways. Although it is a relatively new field, many museums and organisations are today using technology to digitize their collections and engage wider, more dynamic audiences. I believe this holds a lot of potential for African heritage institutions to share and preserve their collections, and for ordinary citizens to change narratives by harnessing blogging and social media platforms. This immense amount of potential within the continent drives me to continue exploring the use of these cutting-edge tools to create a new frontier for African history in a digital age and on a world stage.

Follow Taiyana’s work here and keep your eyes peeled for her contributions to this season of Innovation!

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