The Mijikenda Kaya Forests

The Mijikenda Kaya Forests consist of 11 separate forest sites spread over some 200 km along the coast containing the remains of numerous fortified villages, known as kayas, of the Mijikenda people.

The kayas, created as of the 16th century but abandoned by the 1940s, are now regarded as the abodes of ancestors and are revered as sacred sites and, as such, are maintained as by councils of elders. The site is inscribed as bearing unique testimony to a cultural tradition and for its direct link to a living tradition.

Many of the sacred forests of the Mijikenda people were originally fortified villages surrounded by thick belts of lowland tropical forest. Access to the village was limited to one or two paths through the forest, and use of the forest vegetation was limited to the gathering of medicinal herbs. Cutting of trees for timber, grazing of livestock, and clearing for farmland was strictly prohibited. These rules were enforced by the kaya elders who were also responsible for the care of the sacred objects (Fingo) which were buried in the kaya and were believed to be essential to the well-being of the community.

The kaya forests were also places for prayer, not only by the elders on behalf of the community but also by individuals seeking help in problems facing their daily lives.

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