Johannesburg – South Africa last week hosted the Inter-Ministerial meeting on Sites of Memory and World Heritage Convention in Africa with a call for governments to collaborate in efforts geared towards profiling, protecting and promoting the continent’s heritage.
The South African Arts, Sports and Culture Minister, Nathi Mthethwa, said there was need to ratify the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance, which was adopted by the African Union in 2012. The charter paves way for Africa’s renewal and stimulates the creative and heritage economy of the continent.
“We are pleading with all member states to facilitate the correction process of the charter. History will judge our seriousness and pledge as ministers of culture,” said Mthethwa.
Minister Mthethwa also stressed that sites of memory should celebrate the successes of the leaders “of our continent in their efforts to build nations, increase global awareness about African heritage and to mobilise co-operation for its recognition”.
“They also intend to highlight the progress Africa has made, while reflecting upon the common challenges that arise from the implications of our history. Memory sites associated to recent conflict in the continent tell our recent stories on the routes of African independence and this is also the expression of African narrative and history to the world,” he added.
He said Africans had a duty to elaborate on their own narratives, emphasising that this was particularly important for a SADC region that had experienced liberation wars.
The ministers adopted a set of recommendations on how to advance the cause of preserving and promoting sites of memory.
“The recommendations included that sites related to recent conflict in Africa are in alignment with the purpose and scope of the World Heritage Convention and that the Operational Guidelines, which are periodically revised to respond to global dynamics and broader interpretation of the World Heritage Convention, should be revised to accommodate this category of properties; that the African World Heritage Fund and African States Parties should facilitate a scientific study on sites of memory and World Heritage Convention in Africa in order to support the African perspective on the topic and contribute to the global debate; that the State Parties, the World Heritage Committee, the Advisory Bodies and the AWHF facilitate capacity building for heritage professionals and experts regarding the World Heritage process of sites associated with the memory of recent conflicts in Africa; and finally that the draft declaration on memory sites associated with recent conflict in Africa which encapsulates the African position on the matter be adopted.”
There is a general assessment by experts that many sites in Africa are dilapidated and falling apart. “Our leaders need to approach this matter with urgency before most sites fall beyond repair. I am talking of Africa as a whole. Let’s preserve our heritage for it is our identity,” historian Alex Mangwe told The Southern TimesArts.