Chao Tayiana Maina is a public historian who uses digital technologies to capture and preserve previously hidden or suppressed historical narratives in Kenya, enabling communities to engage with their cultural heritage and centering African histories within digital spaces.
Operating at a time when many African and Afro-diasporic audiences are looking to reclaim their past and take back agency over their identities, Chao Tayiana seeks to help those in search of narratives on their own past to find answers to some of their most pressing questions.
She is a digital heritage specialist with a presence at the intersection of digital humanities and public education. She uses technology to unearth previously hidden or suppressed historical narratives and make these narratives accessible to wider audiences, enabling communities to actively engage with their cultural heritage.
Rather than simply present existing historical archives in a modern way, Chao Tayiana uses technology to excavate unknown stories and shine a light on people previously excluded from historical narratives.
Using tools such as digital visualizations and oral history recordings, her works aims to subvert traditional hierarchies and make previously hidden forms of knowledge visible and to heal communities by legitimizing formerly delegitimized narratives.
Her work centers around interactive participation, as she believes that history is not merely a recording of the past that people can read or consume, but rather something that people embody and actively create. Her objective is to enable African people from various walks of life to actively engage with their cultural heritage. She views the participatory nature of her work as a natural progression of the type of history traditionally practiced in indigenous African communities, such as oral history and storytelling, in contrast to the more dominant forms of historical preservation where objects and knowledge are removed from community contexts and placed out of reach.
Chao Tayiana is the founder of African Digital Heritage, a Nairobi-based non-profit organization working to promote holistic digital practice within African cultural heritage. She is also the co-founder of the volunteer collective Museum of British Colonialism and of the Open Restitution Africa project.