Imagining African Digital Futures

Imagining African Digital Futures

Working at the intersections of tech and cultural heritage, Chao Tayiana Maina speaks with Qanita Lilla about her vision for African digital futures.


Imagining African Digital Futures
Working at the intersections of tech and cultural heritage, Chao Tayiana Maina speaks with Qanita Lilla about her vision for African digital futures.

In this episode, Chao Tayiana Maina shares her pathways into the digital humanities and metadata with Qanita Lilla. Framing new structures for African knowledges, she has combined a lifelong love of history with innovative technologies. For Chao, translating history into the digital sphere requires an understanding that information in the archives has a living relevance to real people’s lives. The digital sphere is therefore an important part of history-making and the cultural record, and Chao’s practice has evolved from telling untold stories to holding colonialism to account.


What I would like to see from the digital space or digital culture is the flexibility for things to grow, for technology to be responsive — especially when you’re dealing with such grave, grave sensitivities as people’s culture and the erasure of Indigenous knowledge.

A group of four people sit at a desk looking at a laptop screen in a library.
Chao Tayiana conducting training on digitisation at the McMillan Memorial Library - Photo courtesy of BookBunk Trust
A masked woman wearing nitrile gloves holds a photograph.
Chao Tayiana conducting training on document handling as part of digitisation efforts by BookBunk Trust. Photo courtesy of BookBunk Trust
A woman takes a photograph of an artifact in a display case, while another person watches.
Chao Tayiana documenting artifacts at the historic Gede Ruins along the coast of Kenya.
Groups of people with headphones sitting at tables in a bright room.
Launch of the Myth of Development audio archive at the Eastlands Library, Nairobi. The podcast is produced by Chao Tayiana, Mumbi Kanyogo and Muthoni Mwangi

Meet our guest

Chao Tayiana Maina

Chao Tayiana Maina is a Kenyan digital heritage specialist and digital humanities scholar working at the intersection of culture and technology. A computer scientist by profession and a historian by passion, her work focuses on the application of technology in the preservation, engagement and dissemination of African heritage. She is the founder of African Digital Heritage, a co-founder of the Museum of British Colonialism and a co-founder of the Open Restitution Africa project. She holds an MSc International Heritage Visualization (distinction) and a BSc Mathematics and Computer Science. She is a recipient of the Google Anita Borg scholarship for women in technology.

@HeadstrongHistorian / https://headstronghistorian.com 


With Opened Mouths: The Podcast is hosted by Dr Qanita Lilla and produced by Agnes Etherington Art Centre in partnership with Queen’s University’s campus radio station, CFRC 101.9 FM. 

Recorded at CFRC 101.9 FM, Queen’s University
Production by Dr Qanita Lilla, Danuta Sierhuis and Evan Wainio-Woldanski 
Original music by Jameel3DN, produced by Elroy “EC3” Cox III and commissioned by Agnes Etherington Art Centre, 2021
Episodes are edited and mixed by Chancelor Maracle, CFRC 101.9 FM
The graphic for the podcast is created by Vincent Perez
The podcast is supported by The George Taylor Richardson Memorial Fund, Queen’s University; the Justin and Elisabeth Lang Fund; and Young Canada Works Building Careers in Heritage, a program funded by the Government of Canada.
CFRC logo
Queen's University
Government of Canada Wordmark

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