Today, 05th May, is African world heritage day. This is as observed by international organisations such as UNESCO (refer http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1364/). As we celebrate this day the main question that may come to many is what is African world heritage? How does it differ from African heritage? What is heritage in the era of international management? What was heritage before the likes of UNESCO etc?
Although heritage can be said to be a common good in Africa, there is a disconnect with the understanding primarily because in these modern times it is looked at from an global perspective (for further discussion read https://africanheritageconservation.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/chapter2-international-conventions-as-frameworks-of-conservation-and-identity-for-african-heritage/) rather than from a local perspective (http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-319-32017-5_4), making the heritage asset look like a diamond in the Kalahari desert. Whereas heritage is in abundance at local contexts and could be easily harnessed for issues of belonging in the global world, innovation, enterprising, to make it beneficial in solving modern day challenges and in harnessing modern day opportunities, Africans are stalled by the lack of understanding of the management skeleton that heritage is currently placed under. As such it does appear as if it not helping or appear as a none-relevant resource in modern day African opportunities and challenges.
How then can we make it possible for African heritage to be beneficial where it matters?
- Heritage beyond the excavation pit of archaeology (http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-319-32017-5_1)
The development of cultural heritage management in particular in African universities started with a Eurocentric view nurtured by an Archaeological focus. Whereas archaeology itself is a necessary component of building up African heritages, it is however paramount to acknowledge that African heritage by natures goes “…beyond the excavation pit of archaeology as well as beyond any other disciplinary tag as this may deny the diverse characteristic of cultural heritage make-up of the region.” (Keitumetse 2016: 08). Indpth discussions @ http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-319-32017-5_1
2. Heritage overlay in various areas of African life and development
The segmented manner in which natural resources and cultural resources are viewed as separate entities for separate spaces has to be re-looked and aligned accordingly. This is particularly so in most of Africa’s protected areas of wilderness and wildlife that are lacking in most components that could make African heritage spaces diverse in both economic and social aspects. Read in-depth insights on this view http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-319-32017-5_8
3. Heritage before and beyond tourism or economic benefit
There is need for Africa to benefit from its resources, but there is also need to conserve and develop African heritage for its own value that may not necessarily be economic (tourism) based. This aspect is largely neglected particularly in the tourism era of most African states. Heritage, in all its entirety is valuable without economics, and perspectives such as tourism come after the fact. Read more insights on this view http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-319-32017-5_7
4. Community and Public heritage conservation and management
International conservation has for a long time relayed on the ‘convenient indigenous’ mention as representative of community in heritage resources management. However, more and more research is bringing out the fact that there are various forms of communities that relate with either natural or cultural heritage. Thus a convenient mention of indigenous communities in international conventions does not do enough justice to encouraging a wider community participation in African heritage management. If anything it creates a seamless envy and conflict with other autochthonous communities in African spaces. Furthermore a narrow focus on African community of heritage as soley indigenous only causes the issue of community participation in African heritage to seem as a glossy tag. Thus models need to be devised that cover wider community conceptions and also that compel a meaningful local engagement. Such models as Community-Based Cultural Heritage Management (COBACHREM) will enable a more people diverse and resource specific approach from the beginning to end of participation. Read about COBACHREM @ http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-319-32017-5_4
Therefore as we celebrate African heritage day, there is need to reflect on these various issues that are being brought to the forefront by the constantly evolving needs and pressures befalling African heritage resources and heritage spaces.