Ontology of Vernacular Interior and Exterior House Decorations in East Africa

Vernacular architecture evolves over time reflecting the characteristics of the local environment, climate, culture,
natural materials, technology and the experience of centuries of community building. Mostly, men build the house and
the women decorate the facades. All the figures have a symbolic meaning. This paper studied east African vernacular
wall decorations from an art and design point of view. The objective was to document the fast fading cultural practices
for posterity and for academics. Conducted in Nairobi, the domain of interest was east African cultures. The study used
desktop and field research methods. It formed part of the annual research output seminars and symposia of the school
of the arts and design of the University Of Nairobi, Kenya. The papers studied the following museums, heritages and
contemporary spaces: King’s Palace Museum in Rwanda, the Nubian House, the Rabe family house, various huts
decoration and design in Uganda, The church martyrs’ museum in Uganda and the Oasis Diani Villa in Kenya.
From the study, it emerged that East African vernacular building styles are culturally rich, and decorating the walls of
their buildings is an important part of their cultural legacy. Wall decorating is always a community project done by the
women and it’s a very ancient practice that dates from the sixteenth century AD.’ The study concluded that Interior and
exterior decorations in East Africa is one of the African heritage being practiced up to now. This is mainly done by
women who pass their skill to their daughters from generation to generation. Although most of them are not being
practiced today, there are those that have been turned to museum while others have contemporary influence.