The Thimlich Ohinga Cultural Landscape

Date of Submission: 12/02/2010
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Department of Museums, Sites and Monuments of the National Museums of Kenya
State, Province or Region:
Nyanza Province
Coordinates: S00 10 01 E37 08 04
Ref.: 5504
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In western part of Kenya (Nyanza Province), there are a number of old villages and settlement sites marked by dry stone walling. These settlements are referred to locally as 'Ohingni', a name that connotes an idea of a refuge in the wilderness. The 'Ohingni' literally refers to a "frightening dense forest" in Dholuo language, a Nilotic group who occupy the region. A total of 138 sites containing 521 structures exist. These are concentrated in the Kadem-Kanyamkago areas, Karungu, Gwasi and Kaksingiri Lake headlands, and in Kanyamwa and Kanyidoto areas. In these areas, the structures are distributed in particular spots giving a first sight impression of a clustered distribution pattern. While the uphill stone structures have survived the vagaries of weather, the ones on the lower side have been degraded. The stone structure enclosure has walls ranging from 1.0 to 4.2 meters in height and 1.0 to 3.0 m in width, were built of loose stones and blocks without any dressing or mortar. Within the structures are interior partitions of various kinds including: small enclosures, depressions and corridors. These were used as either as cattle kraals, pens for smaller animals or garden fence structures. Archaeological record of materials found within the site goes beyond 500 years ago. Since the present inhabitants of the area arrived about three centuries ago, it seems most likely that Bantus who initially occupied this region prior to the arrival of the Luo first built the stone structures. Abundant rocks on the hilly areas provided them with building materials to meet their security requirements. Though many of them have been destroyed as a result of population pressure and expansion in farming activities, there is need to save the remaining sites which are still versatile.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

(iii): Thimlich Ohinga Cultural landscape bears testimony to the civilization of an early group of Bantu people that had settled here in the 14th century.

(iv): The complex, which consists of one hundred and thirty eight sites of skillfully joined enclosures, is a cultural landscape phenomenon of structures with unique stone-walling tradition.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Some sites within the cultural landscape such as the Thimlich Ohinga are a protected historic site whose gazettement dates back to 1981.

Comparison with other similar properties

The style and architecture of the stone wall enclosures of Thimlich Ohinga cultural landscape are similar to those of the Great ruins of Zimbabwe. They are, however, far much smaller in magnitude but spread over a vast area.