Chapter# 5 – Interpretation: Dealing with multiple identities







ABSTRACT: The need for sustainable interpretation of cultural and heritage resources is heightening due to the resources’ growing use in socio-political as well as socioeconomic forums. Contestations for the resources are bound to surface in situations where multiple identities belonging to multiple stakeholders from multiple historical frameworks exist. Balanced interpretation therefore becomes important.

Interpretation can be approached from both a scholarly perspective and a management
perspective – the former when knowledge production is a target and the latter
when knowledge packaging is the main focus. Preceding chapters of this book have
illustrated some conservation and management dichotomies that already exhibit
multiple identities. These include amongst others the nature-nurture divide in
Chap. 1 , tangible-intangible dichotomy in Chaps. 1 and 2 , African-European in this
chapter and governor-governed in Chap. 3 . To illuminate on approaches to interpretation,
this chapter uses a site imbued with multiple cultural meanings and values
and brings out potential issues to discuss and critique in search of sustainable interpretation. The ‘Livingstone Memorial’ site in Botswana is a landscape constituting
of local (native) and foreign (missionary) components of heritage, therefore confl
ated with multiple cultural meanings. The case study characteristics invoke questions
such as: Whose heritage? Selected by whom? The name of the site denotes a
singular identity brand, but the chapter analysis will show that other identities exist
and even go beyond historical stativity of missionary brand as they extend to current
descendants of natives that shared the site with the missionary. In Africa, sites
denoting David Livingstone ’s heritage are found in Angola, Botswana, Burundi,
Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, RSA, Tanzania,
Zambia and Zimbabwe.
KEYWORDS:   •Multiple identities • Historical dichotomies • Sustainable interpretation
• Cultural equity • ICOMOS Charter • Public heritage • David Livingstone sites •Southern Africa


Interpretation is the process of sieving and scaling cultural signifi cance o f a
place, site, monument and/or artefacts. In offi cial contexts interpretation process is
hosted within conservation and management platform supported by disciplinary
frameworks, legal instruments of international signifi cance, government policies
and globally agreed practices. In informal set-ups, interpretation process is hosted
by society’s ideologies and practices usually entrusted to selected group of custodians
in a community who then disseminate the ideologies to the rest of the society
using socio-cultural and socio-political networks. – pg 114

Figure 5-1_Road sign bearing Livingstone identity

Fig. 5.1 Road sign for ‘Livingstone Memorial’ site in southern Botswana

‘ Livingstone Memorial ’ in Botswana is a site that was inhabited by missionary
David Livingstone during the nineteenth century. The heritage site carries multiple
historical dichotomies that subsequently suggest multiple cultural meanings from
multiple stakeholders. However, it is expressed only through missionary Livingstone.
The most distinct of these dichotomies are local (native) and foreign (missionary),
pre-colonial (before independence) and post-colonial (during and after independence)
historical paradigms. The site is therefore imbued with multiple meanings
that allow interrogation of the subject of interpretation in a cultural heritage management
approach. In Africa, Livingstone sites are found Angola, Botswana, Burundi,
Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, RSA, Tanzania,
Zambia and Zimbabwe, majority of which are southern African countries.
The case study characteristics invoke scholarly discussion on heritage such as:
Whose heritage? Selected by whom? The name of the site denotes that the landscape
carries a single identity, in this case, missionary heritage. pg 117

About this Chapter

Interpretation: Dealing with Multiple Identities
Book Title
African Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management
Book Subtitle
Theory and Practice from Southern Africa
pp 113-133
Print ISBN
Online ISBN
Springer International Publishing


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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One Response to Chapter# 5 – Interpretation: Dealing with multiple identities

  1. “Modern interpretation is further challenged by equal rights frameworks to
    account for issues of cultural equity, i.e. going beyond focus only on the cultural
    product, to incorporating lateral analysis of ideologies, human generations, human
    rights components, minority views and informal knowledge sources, amongst others.
    To illustrate this point of departure, a site carrying cultural identity of a
    nineteenth- century European historical figure in an African landscape is interrogated
    as a case study that illuminates discussions and critique on how past and
    future interpretation frameworks may be approached.P” – pg115


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