Journey of My Ancestors
An interactive website following a risky dhow voyage from India to Kenya during the era of British Colonization.

University of Southern California Phi Kappa Phi Student Recognition Award.

To read the interview please click here

Journey of my Ancestors is an interactive website about how my ancestors arrived from India to Kenya. The purpose of this project was to learn about my own history and educate those who are curious about how there came to be a large Indian population in East Africa. My end goal was to share my findings in an engaging manner. This way, I would be able to keep the stories and memories I remember being told alive.

A few years ago, I was living with my grandparents and every evening they would tell me bits and pieces about how their parents immigrated from India to Kenya on a dhow. Curious about this part of history, I started to heavily research it and discovered that it was virtually undocumented in history.

This project led to me interviewing Kenyan Indians from around the world and reconstructing my story. I wanted to keep these stories alive to tell my own children, hence I wrote out my story, illustrated it and created an interactive website. I went public with this project three years ago and the response was overwhelming. I still receive encouraging emails from people around the world who shared a similar story to mine. Several schools contacted me asking if they could showcase my project in classrooms to teach the younger generation about their history.

View the project here.
Launch Project
My approach
This project was split into 5 parts: Information Gathering, Assimilation, Illustration, Development and User Testing.
Below are the steps detailing each process and the techniques used:
Information gathering

I carried out online research and visited the archives of Oshwal Library Nairobi to gain a basic understanding about the historic time era of both India and Kenya. While doing research, I discovered that this era of history is not well documented hence I needed to conduct extensive interviews to hear first-hand accounts of the journey/ time era.
Information Assimilation

From the information gathered, I identified key facts, emotions and memories. I decided on a narrative format as the best mode for representing these compelling stories. After writing and revising the story, I noted down the themes and emotions that would be interesting for the audience to explore. Below are the initial chapter notes:

I then created all the illustrations on paper using watercolor and animated some on After Effects. Below are some of the initial watercolor paintings:
I then placed the narrative + animations together on an online platform that had interactive elements such as hover triggers and time delays. In order to do this, I first had to create wireframes detailing the interaction patterns I wanted to create. Below is an example wireframe for chapter 1:
User testing and feedback
After creating each interactive scene, my test users scrolled through the website.

I observed their interactions, noted down their questions and asked them for suggestions on what they felt I should include to transpose them to the time era and environmental surroundings of the story

I then added and changed elements accordingly. Some of the feedback was:

"I could scroll forever" - Added a menu
"I wish I could hear the waves in your story"- added Audio
"The page is not fitting my screen" - Redesigned it to make it scalable
feedback from the world
When I published this website, I had wonderful people from all around the world emailing me. These are some of the emails I received:
"This story is very similar to my family history. My grandparents migrated from Gujarat to Kenya in early 1900 and settles in Narok! I later went to scholl in Nairobi and after finishing high school got a scholarship to study at USC! I am in the process of writing my family history and that is how I found your delightful, illustrated story that is so similar to my family's. Thank you for illustrating it and posting it to the internet."

"Dear Naylee, First of all congratulations on completing this epic project. It takes a lot of patience and perseverance to compile, organize and bring out a masterpiece. Kudos for a job well done. Im sure your great grand dadi, Raniben and great grand dada Bhimjibhai would shower their choicest blessings on you for remembering them and reminding/connecting everyone in the family. Well done once again"

"Wonderful ! Will be a great one for the younger generation to learn about their ancestors."