AFRICAN HERITAGE DAY: REFLECTIONS TOWARDS THE FUTURE

cropped-9783319320151-32.jpgToday, 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?

  1. 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.

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**CONFERENCE** Sub-Saharan Africa and International Trade Routes

In 2011 ICAHM began an Africa Initiative “The Potential Role of the World Heritage Convention, ICOMOS, and ICAHM in African Archaeological Site Preservation and Economic Development” geared towards identifying sites with potentials to be included in the World Heritage List thus increasing the number of World Heritage Sites in Sub-Saharan Africa to balance it with other sites in the world.  Therefore, we are now happy to announce that the next ICAHM meeting, under the patronage of the African World Heritage Fund, will take us for the first time to the African continent, to Bagamoyo on the shores of Indian Ocean near Dar es Salaam.

The emphasis of this meeting will be on: trade routes to and from Sub-Saharan Africa to the rest of the world, the Africa Initiative, and conservation and sustainable use of paleoanthropological sites. Furthermore, we intend to organize sessions on: World Heritage Sites as Sources for Sustainable Development and Digital Technologies and Archaeological Heritage Management.

For more information click the link below:

ICAHM’s 2017 ANNUAL MEETING

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***C O N F E R E N C E*** Development and Best Practices of (Archaeological) Heritage Management As a Course

CONFERENCE: Development and Best Practices of (Archaeological) Heritage Management As a Course

REGISTRATION NOW OPEN!

 Please go to the registration page for more information.

The University of Helsinki, Friends of ICAHM, Museum Centre Vapriikki, Pirkanmaa Provincial Museum and Newcastle University proudly present a working-conference on Development and Best Practices of (Archaeological) Heritage Management as a Course.

With this working-conference we aim to identify possible teaching and/or training needs in heritage management in the Finnish context. We bring together experts, with experience in teaching archaeological heritage management from Finland and from around the world, together to share best practice and discuss whether there is scope to develop teaching and learning around cultural (and especially archaeological) heritage management. We welcome heritage practitioners and researchers, as well as students interested in this field.

Keynote speakers:

……Click link BELOW for more information

http://blogs.helsinki.fi/ahmtampere/registration/
http://blogs.helsinki.fi/ahmtampere/

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African Cultural Heritage Resources as a Needle in ‘Environment’ Haystack: Changing Perceptions and Re-thinking African Environmental Conservation

The word ‘Conservation’ in African landscapes is a popular term. However, the word ‘conservation’ is rarely associated with cultural heritage resources present in these geographical spaces.

Why?

Because most of southern African protected landscapes conservation strategies are perceived through the lens of nature-based environmental indicators at the exclusion of culture-based environmental indicators. And neither is the word ‘environment’ popularly associated with cultural and heritage resources (see also discussion of this angle at http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-32017-5_2). Perhaps of more concern is that cultural and heritage derivatives of the environment are scarcely perceived as resources with a high potential to support environmental conservation in southern Africa, perhaps owing to their derivation from an already altered format (products of human change to nature based environment), as compared to natural resources which are perceived as ‘purely’ derived from nature.

Environment is a term that encompasses all products of life that ever existed in a landscape – including human activity. Yet most environmental conservationists’ perception of environment is nature, to an extent that associating the words “cultural” “cultural heritage”, “heritage” etc with the word conservation does not come easy to most African scholars and practitioners in both the nature (‘environment’) and nurture (cultural) camps

Haystacks in the context of this research are approaches, policies, and other strategies that obscure a focus on aspects of cultural and heritage resources in the broader environmental conservation discourse of African environments. These are diverse, as they range from disciplinary approaches to conservation knowledge production, policy frameworks at both national and international contexts, political status of areas under consideration, economic haystack as well as biophysical substance of landscapes in question.

In most of Africa, a biased focus on conservation minus cultural and heritage resources is to some large extent influenced by a biased focus on tourism (economic) proceeds. A reactionary approach based solely on economics obliviously blur relevance of cultural and heritage resources in environmental conservation.  Such an approach fails to lead to a broader sustainable environmental conservation.

In spite of the haystack outlined earlier, there are various strategies to locate and make known the needle that is cultural and heritage resources. To start with, a change in perception, and perhaps terminology and phrases (semantics) that express the relationship between the so-called environment and cultural heritage resources has to be embarked on. Over time the approach can enable a change in the way the resources are viewed and engaged in relation to what is now termed nature parks and game reserves of African landscapes. One of the perceptions to be addressed is to address “heritage IN environment” rather than “heritage AND environment” phrases.

In addition, tourism by nature places landscapes in a capitalist context, and as such the revenue accrued from nature-tourism makes it difficult for practitioners and governments to consider other values attached to such geographical spaces. It is important that the subject of ‘sustainable interpretation’ of landscapes is considered to allow for broader and more engaging questions to be asked. International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) charter on interpretation (2008) can be helpful in this regard (Read ICOMOS charter application in an African landscape at the following publication: http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-32017-5_5

Overall, an ingrained bias towards a brand of protected areas as nature areas in Africa continues to blur recognition and acknowledgement of cultural and heritage resources as key components of national parks and game reserves environments conservation. A change of approach is necessary as an aim towards sustainable conservation of the environment in its totality.

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African wetlands and cultural heritage: Enhancing conservation and diversifying participation

February 02nd was annual World Wetlands Day, carrying a theme of “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction“. A number of issues come to mind when thinking of risks to wetlands, with the most common being climate change.  However, just as much as we think of biophysical risks to these spectacular landscapes, we have to apportion a similar concern to the soft side of risks, being the prevailing disconnect of wetlands with people’s social and cultural values inherent within the protected area model.

Okavango Delta World Heritage Site

Suryeing cultural heritage of wetlands

This is significant in most of sub-Saharan Africa, where setting aside of landscapes is seen by most governments as a step forward in sustainable preservation. But does this bring sustainable conservation?

In my work that looks at overlaying cultural values in otherwise wilderness and and wildlife landscapes such as the Okavango Delta World Heritage Site, I have observed a risk created by a biased focus on biophysical conservation, at the exclusion, or rather ignorance of the socio-cultural and psycho-social values tied to these landscapes. Detailed discussions of these examples can be found in my earlier publications on the subject at the following journal article (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13527250902890811) 

and a book chapter  (http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-319-32017-5_4).

The prevailing approaches to ‘conservation’ (it is rather preservation), are nurturing sub-Saharan communities to become indifferent to the landscapes because they do not recognise and acknowledge local populations’ inherent identities that already exists in these wetlands landscapes (now protected areas), and can be brought out through archaeological, ethnological, anthropological focus to conservation.

Most ‘conservationists’ focus only on the biophysical landscape, the wilderness and wildlife values of these landscapes at the exclusion of the socio-cultural and psycho-social values that carry potential to compel communities to perceive themselves as connected to the areas and therefore inherently responsible for them, with or without wildlife profits emanating from business venture agreements.    For African protected wetlands areas the connections of people and landscape and consequently a nurture of responsibility can be achieved by overlaying the archaeologies, ethnologies, and folklores and folklifes associated with the people that inhabited these landscapes in the past and in the present, and showing these as a package of what constitute the overal use of the landscape, whether in tourism or simple subsistence uses.                                                                                                               Currently what transpires in most protected African wetlands is the emphasis on disconnecting the people heritage (socio-cultural and psyscho-social) from the biophysical heritage, and calling all that conservation when in fact it is preservation. This is the same practice that see listing of wetlands such as Okavango Delta, solely as ‘nature’ environments when in fact they are ‘mixed (nature and culture’ value environments. This in itself does not enhance the sustainability of the landscape but rather creates either a nurtured indifference to the landscape by the people as they are disconnected, or creates a resentment borne from the disconnection that translates to over-harvesting and/or poaching within the landscapes where access is finally secured in measures that later on translate as illegal.

The sustainable approach will be to nurture the people’s connection to the landscape by recognising, acknowledging, overlaying, juxtaposing and fully interpreting their identities in the new mediums that have now emerged as ways through which these landscapes are now interpreted. Tourism is one of the most popular mediums, but not necessarily the only and best medium. More in-depth discussions of the non-sustainable nature of disconnecting people (cultures) through the protected area management approach can be read in chapter 2 of the book titled African cultural heritage Conservation and Management: Theory and Practice from Southern Africa (2016), available at the following  web-link: http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-32017-5_2

Therefore as we ponder on what constitute “risk” to wetlands on Wetlands day 2017, it is not enough to all be talking of climate change, which is the obvious mention. I would like for us to move away from the biophysical risk and focus on the cultural-psycho-social disconnect risk which leads to socio-political issues relating to the use of wetlands in sub-Saharan African in particular where they appear in protected areas.                                           In our segregated disciplinary approaches, we see African wetlands for their biophysical value, which in the modern economic centered governances automatically translates to tourism revenue and more economic investments. But we fail to look at what protected wetlands’ future is if it is disconnected from the people surrounding it, being local populations. The book on  ‘African Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management (2016)  (http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319320151) brings out discourses on how international conventions and disciplinary approaches are fuelling these disconnects instead of using cultural values, inherent amongst local peoples, to enhance conservation of these landscapes by recognising and overlaying cultural values in protected wetlands of southern Africa. This can further add value to the tourism package that is given so much attention in African protected landscapes.

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Poor ethics in publishing: guide for new scholars- article provided by Elsevier publisher’s editor Bert Blocken

Welcome to 2017!!📖📚. As the year commences with new resolutions to do our best, it is important that we assess whether we are giving our best in the most ethical way possible, in a way that will build our aspirations not destroy them.

Publishing is a long circuitous road particularly for new scholars

Many young and upcoming scholars cherish seeing their names on academic manuscripts. And yes, it is exciting as i remembet my first academic output! But is it somethi g you will be proud of in the next 5 years? Is it an output that will help build one into academia or discourage? 

The article below by one of the most reputable publishers in academic research should be every upcoming and/or yet aspiring scholar’s  manual- written by editor Bert Blocken. It is a great gift to entering the world of academic publishing, worth reading not once, not twice, not 10x but many times.

ENJOY THE READ BELOW…

https://www.elsevier.com/authors-update/story/publishing-tips/10-tips-for-writing-a-truly-terrible-journal-article/_nocache

https://www.elsevier.com/authors-update/story/publishing-tips/10-tips-for-writing-a-truly-terrible-journal-article/_nocache

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Africa’s post-colonial jubilees & potential heritage offerings: Botswana & Lesotho 50th independence celebrations

The aim of this article is to provide a new way for audiences to interrogate the relevance of heritage management for our contemporary needs, and perhaps in future policies call for more robust engagements in the area of heritage management in southern African countries.

On 30th September Botswana celebrated its fifty years since independence rule. Shortly afterwards Lesotho on the 04th October celebrated its 5o years since post-colonial rule. The celebrations were mainly focused on achievements made over these years with a possibility of what could be the next steps towards a sustainable growth of the two countries. In villages people focused on fanfare surrounding their cultural activities, remembering, in a rather nostalgic way, their folklife and folklore activities, feasting on traditional food, as well as performing and dancing cultural tunes.

International heritage conventions and heritage relevance in post-colonial African states

Both Botswana and Lesotho have ratified the two most important conventions that assist nation states to manage cultural heritage in their countries. The popular convention among African states is the 1972 World Heritage Convention (ratified by Lesotho in 2003 and ratified by Botswana in 1998). This convention is responsible for the popularity of the world heritage brand that is now a global world phenomena. However, African countries are yet to know how to apply this convention for their country’s social and economic benefits because of various hiccups: Chief among them being that although the convention provides a brand, its origin and cultural context is more European than African since it was initially coined with visible monuments in mind, such as Greece’s Acropolis, England’s Stonehenges and Westminster Abbey’s,Germany’s Aachen Cathedral; Italy’s Colosseum; to mention a few. A later leaning went to sites of archaeological nature (archaeology also being a discipline that is somehow foreign to African context s of cultural preservation-i.e. no digging of ancestors etc) but also archaeology for colonial African meant a focus, by colonial scholars, on politically safe heritage sites such as South African’s Maropeng Cradle of Humankind, Koobi Fora Prehistoric sites. However, the post-colonial era in Africa is failing to dislodge more diverse heritages still, and a trend towards nature landscapes emanated from RSA which due to apartheid had to stick to the politically safe sites such as the The Kruger National Park.                                               Countries like Botswana and Lesotho, blindly bench-marking on RSA’s apartheid motivated choice of heritages, have gone on to also focus on prehistoric sites and nature labels in their utilization of the 1972 World Heritage Convention. This is evidenced by Lesotho’s listing of Maloti Drankensburg mountains. Although unlike the Okavango Delta the site is listed as mixed site (both natural and cultural), the narrative is purely on the natural aspects. The already acknowledged cultural aspect is expressed through the safe prehistoric archaeology alluded to above. The examples from Botswana of the two listings of Tsodilo World Heritage site (prehistoric) and the listing of Okavango Delta World Heritage site as a natural site despite its rich  well known cultural aspects that could have seen it listed as as mixed site (as permitted by the 1972 convention) exhibits the blind adoption of international conventions with very little application to country contexts, leading to jubilees with internationally recognised sites that are void of national communal identities. These  leanings toward safer political options that served other countries’s political agendas of monuments and political systems such as apartheid and colonial scholarship (not characteristic of countries like Lesotho and Botswana), has made it difficult for these countries to show any difference in terms of utilising their 50 years of indepence in bringing out their different and more relevant historical archaeologies in their localities. They are still celebrating 50 years with references to colonial help, rather than references to how they have moved away from the colonial heritage to their post-colonial narratives that could be shown by listing of sites that showcases their communities’s identities and their evolution into the present post-indepence era. A lot therefore still needs to be done as regards bringing international conventions to the relevance of the owners of the landscapes that are being colored with international brands. The hope is that the 100 years post-independence celebration will have different offerings on the site listing basket so that international visitors can be offered a more diverse menu when they come to African landscapes, at the same time African governments and communities making use of their cultural comparative advantage of diverse culture to strengthen their local economies. The arrival of the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage after 31 years of international political consumption of cultural divergent cultural heritage offers some hope to African cultures recognition of their intangible cultures. However, the danger now is on separating the two conventions per site. The most practical approach for African would have been to automatically overlay intangible aspects of cultural heritage onto the likes of Tsodilo and Maloti but it is not working like that. Every convention for itself, hence the hiccup for expression of African landscapes in their entirety. African nation-states, being dependent on international conventions, still have a long way to go to benefit fully on ratifications of conventions such as the UNESCO’s 1972 and the 2003 afore-mentioned. For a more robust listing and discussion of the various cultural related conventions, read chapter 2 of my book as it discusses the nuances surrounding international convention adoption and African heritage management in the present.The book can be found at the following site: http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319320151

Harnessing heritage towards BOTS60 and LESOTHO 60

For both Botswana and Lesotho, the countries have rich natural resources that are nevertheless conflated with a rich historical heritage. We could be seeing a booming expression of all the country eras in deliberately crafted tourism museums that entice an international traveler the same way European landscapes do today. Too much blind following of foreign indicators of value assessments has long required that international conventions be adapted to African context where necessary, otherwise they continue to deny the diverse African heritages visibility in landscapes that are otherwise seen as archaeological or  natural. A country like Lesotho with massive water-bearing mountains has potential for a water theme park in its various towns and cities, complete with communal histories tied to the mountains all contained in bigger and better tourism museums for economic growth.

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Fig 1:Botswana mine company, Debswana showcased one of its old trucks along a main road for travellers to view as a token show of Bot50 celebrations. The economy of Botswana being solely told through mining means a mining tourism of high value could long have been planned for to supplement the high-paying tourism offering taking place in Botswana

Botswana’s historical economic existence is based solely on its mining story, but this heritage is not expressed boldly anywhere near its very small museums. Mining museums of the size of the newly refurbished African American Museum in Washington DC, could be a common site in Botswana cities as well as open museums where these mines (full of folklore and folklife) are located. Debswana mine in Letlhakane, perhaps realising they had to be known somehow, opted for a big truck alongside one of the main roads, if anything to have a mark of some sort (see picture above). A much more structured expression of heritage that brings economic benefits exists, and countries such as Botswana and Lesotho still have a window of opportunity to tap onto this potential.

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