Brexit and African heritage: opportunities and challenges

June 24th saw Britain’s ‘leave’ EU campaign winning by a large margin. The ‘stay’ campaign had brought out all the negative possibilities that could arise in the event of leaving the EU but has not touched much on other specific issues like the welfare of artifacts in museums, research funding for heritage, and other associated topics. This post asks the reader to switch thinking to a minute level and in particular to a less popular topic like impact of economic decisions on heritage of the world.

Britain in particular prides itself for being multi-cultural, particularly in reference to its relationship with the commonwealth which emanated from post-colonial encounter. This was one of the basis points raised during a recent trial by Greece on return of the Elgin marbles for cultural identity and tourism in Greece. See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/greece-drops-legal-case-to-reclaim-the-elgin-marbles-from-the-british-museum-minister-says-10250462.html Another part of the sentiment is that the cultural objects are properly located in Britain where most cultures and cultural individuals converge.

As regards African cultural objects abroad., several scenarios can manifestas a result of the Brexit outcome

  1. Cheaper travel and access to African cultural material in British institutions by Africans who wish to reconnect with their cultural material through travel and tourism. One of the common predictions of Brexit is that the pound and Britain economy will go down. In this regard insititutions like the British Museum will be financially accessible for Africans to consume African cultures in Britain. The British Museum and British universities host various cultural objects in the form of artifacts, archival documents, to mention a few. See the Birtish Museums’ Africa section at: http://www.britishmuseum.org/learning/schools_and_teachers/resources/cultures/africa.aspx
  2. African governments can fresh negotiations through bodies such as the Commonwealth to assist with establishing tourism museums in Africa. The predicted isolation of Britain could compel it to make new friends and reboot existing partnerships through which African governments can negotiate funding for cultural economies outside the usual post-colonial Empire agreements of the the 1960s.

But there are also challenges:

Funding for African researchers through European grants is bound to be affected. Noting that most African archives are locating in British universities due to colonial encounter of the nineteenth century, it could become harder for African researchers to access such material through scholarship and research. Already The Times Higher education has come asserted to British universities themselves being negatively affected by the Brexit decision. Refer article here fopr in-depth reading on the discussion between intellectual pursuits and Bexit: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/which-universities-would-lose-out-from-brexit

These UK scholarships for international students could be a thing of the past:http://www.scholars4dev.com/category/country/europe-scholarships/uk-scholarships/

Therefore while there is a more negative perception regarding Brexit, African governments through Commonwealth linkages could be accorded an opportunity to re-negotiate economic partnerships that will enhance the diversity of African economies such as a look into developing cultural economies. However, the other side of the coin in the form of eroded existing opportunities is also possible. In the end we can only wait and see where the Brexit vote will take not only Britain but its long lasting partners beyond the European Union as well.

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About HERITAGE CONSERVATION & MANAGEMENT: AFRICA

Dr Susan O. Keitumetse competed for and won two separate Commonwealth scholarships both to University of Cambridge, UK , where she pursued MPhil (Archaeological Heritage Management and Museums) and later on PhD (African cultural heritage and Sustainable Development). Before she had obtained a BA degree (Archaeology and Environmental Sciences) and Post Graduate Diploma in Education (Geography and History) from the University of Botswana. During her post-graduate studies, she combined both environmental science and archaeology disciplines to venture into the broader cultural and heritage management studies with a particular focus on sustainable development and cultural heritage management at the department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge. With a view to catalyze a linkage between environment and cultural heritage in Africa, Dr Keitumetse conducted various researches and published works that illustrate the relevance of cultural and heritage resources for the broader environmental conservation. She works at the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute as a researcher in cultural heritage and tourism where she undertakes applied research in areas such as the Okavango inland Delta World Heritage Site and Kalahari areas. Of particular note is her developing conservation model of Community-Based Cultural Heritage Resources Management (COBACHREM) to guide local communities and practitioners’ initiatives towards sustainable use of cultural heritage resources for social development. Dr Keitumetse is an associate editor of the journal Environment, Development, and Sustainability published by Springer. She also sits in the editorial board of the international journal of community archaeology and heritage, published by Taylor and Francis, as well as the International Journal of Heritage and Sustainable Development published by Green Lines Institute, Portugal. Dr Keitumetse has both national and international experience from across the world. She has won academic grants for research fellowships in international institutions that include; the Rockefeller Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA; the Watson Scholar Fellowship at Brown University in Rhode Island, USA and the Wenner-Gren Foundation research grant for research on ‘historical archaeology of marginal landscapes of eastern Botswana’. Outside academia and in international development Dr Keitumetse has worked and continues to work with institutions such as UNESCO as an expert advisor, examiner, facilitator, and consultant within the intangible cultural heritage section. She has corporate governance experience from African government parastatal institution dealing with environment, heritage, tourism and land use planning. These are derived from her tenure as a board director of Botswana Tourism Organisation for six years, where she also chaired a quality assurance committee of the board dealing with grading and certifying tourism accommodation. Her overall research interests are in the areas of sustainable development and cultural heritage conservation; historical archaeology; community heritage management; communal cultural identities; heritage tourism; heritage and protected areas; international management of cultural heritage; amongst others. Dr Susan Keitumetse has published extensively in the field of cultural heritage conservation and management in Africa, Her works comprise of peer-reviewed articles in international journals; peer-reviewed book chapters; refereed conference proceedings; and technical reports in international periodicals, magazines and newspapers. These can be accessed through search engines such as Google Scholar and LinkedIn. *********************************************************************************************
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