Kenya: Fort Jesus Using 3D Projection to Tell Rich History and Lure More Tourists

18 January 2021

Fort Jesus, a Unesco World Heritage site, has been revamped using 3D projection to attract more tourists.

The exercise, which cost Sh150 million, entails retelling the citadel's story using 3D projection including mapping, holograms, lasers and magnificent fireworks at night.

The world class creativity is a new concept in the country to attract visitors to see the historical site.

Fort Jesus incurred Sh10 million in losses due to the coronavirus that completely paralysed Kenya's tourism sector but a private investor has injected Sh150 million to revamp the heritage site.

Located in Mombasa's Old Town area, it attracts both local and international tourists, historians, culturists, researchers and students to learn about its rich history including slave trade.

The Ministry of Sports and Cultural Heritage has collaborated with Jays Pyrotechnics to tell the story of the historical site every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sundays.

The journey started two years ago when director of Jays Pyrotechnics, Mrs Jayshree Suchack, visited the fort, for another project but was smitten and inspired by the rich history the facility holds. She immediately contracted archaeologists and creatives on how to revamp the 400 year Old Fort using new media.

Creativity

"We wanted to enhance it so we immediately started researching on how to enhance it using our creativity to bring it out in an artistic way," she told Smart Business during an interview in Mombasa.

Mrs Suchack, East Africa's only pyrotechnician said the show is similar to a 7D experience only comparative to Disneyland and the Universal Studios.

"In 2018, we gathered renowned archaeologists and historians to get the script right and started the production that we have now launched. We used Sh150 million for the production of the 40 minutes show," she said.

Zameer Noorali, a master projection artist at Jays Pyrotechnics Limited said the light and sound multimedia show has recreated the 400 year rich history of the fort using holograms, 3D projection mapping, lasers and augmented realities.

On November 11, Tourism industry players, Portuguese officials and Sports, Heritage and Culture Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohamed, watched as a huge 270-kilogramme firework blazed through Old Town skies after the show that depicted how the Portuguese captured Mombasa.

"We are re-enacting what happened at this fort. When you are watching the show, you will see how the Portuguese got here, what they did, why they built the fort in Mombasa and not anywhere else. The importance of Mombasa for colonisation by the British, we are bringing history to life with sound, light and technology," said Mr Noorali.

Revive tourism

Jays Pyrotechnics wanted to launch the project early last year but suffered a setback due to the pandemic. The initiative was launched to revive tourism and Old Town area that also has a rich history but became a ghost town due to the restriction measures enforced by the government to curb coronavirus infections.

"The show is only happening in the evening on those four days which we will bring both local and international tourists to come and enjoy. Locals are also invited. We will support local artistes from Old Town to come and perform. We want to revive the economy of Old Town. With this show Kenya will be the third world largest purchaser of fireworks in the world after the US government and Disneyland," said Noorali.

Jays Pyrotechnics Limited has a similar show in New Delhi, a partnership with Singapore and at Disneyland show.

In Mombasa they charge Sh1,500 per person out of which the fort gets 20 percent.

"The revenue coming from the show will pay salaries for the National Mesums of Kenya employees, their budgets can go into preservation of other arts, heritage sites instead of going into salaries. This is sustainable and has a lifespan of 99 years," said CS Mohamed.

She lauded the initiative saying it will tell the story about Kenya's history, heritage and journey. She said the show will reposition Mombasa as a popular tourist's destination with rich culture and heritage.

Historical events

"We have begun this trend at the ministry of Culture where we will be telling stories about our country, the very interesting historical events that have taken place here. Mombasa was ideal and Fort Jesus is indescribable, you have to come to this site to actually experience it," said the CS.

She said at the museum in Nairobi has launched a programme on The people of Kenya to tell stories about Kenya's heroes and heroines.

"We unveiled all the heroes and heroines of our country from every community and sect. We are beginning to tell their stories, giving us a sense of pride, dignity and continuation of our journey. We must take pride from everything that has happened in our country, the good, the bad and the ugly, it's all part of our history and we have to acknowledged, own and celebrate them in different ways," she added.

Ms Mohamed further assured Kenyans that her ministry will revamp all the historical sites that are in ruins to protect them against any threats including climate change. For instance at Fort Jesus, she said the government has built a seawall to protect the fort from being eroded by the sea.

"We are restoring many of the cultural sites across the country, we are unveiling new ones that we are discovering as we move along. It's an ongoing project but depending on the resources that we have. But we are grateful that we have the sports and social development fund that can give us money to keep pushing us forward," she stressed adding that the government will not ignore any of the heritage sites saying they must be protected and preserved for the future generation.

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