Towards conserving Southern African heritage

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Tadious Manyepo

 

The grave effects of Cyclone Idai which ravaged parts of Southern Africa earlier this year continue to be felt, seven months down the line.

Hearts are still bleeding, in more ways than one. 

Thousands perished and hundreds are still to be accounted for. 

Several orphaned and demographics were disturbed.

Flora and fauna were destroyed and ecosystems floored. 

Graves were swept, leaving remains of the dead in the open. 

Cultural sites were not spared either. 

A lot more gone, in terms of African identity. Artefacts, written material and paintings were all consumed in that hell.

Natural disasters have proven in recent times to be one of the major drivers to the loss of African identities. 

With the punishing effects of climate change upon this age, it could even get worse. 

Archaeologists from this region cannot just wait and see. They are up in arms.  

Heritage is the last thing they want to see go down the drain. 

It has to live on. For epochs.  

What pains them most is perhaps the fact that natural disasters constitute only a fraction of the destruction. 

More often, the buck stops with human activity. This includes urbanisation, migration, resettlement and globalisation. 

While these phenomenon have their own benefits, the often casual way they are executed leaves a lot of archaeological gaps. 

As the Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA) wrap up their biannual conference in Kimberly, South Africa this weekend, they are all speaking with one voice: conserve Southern African heritage. 

With high ranking speakers like Justin Bradfield, Tim Forssman, Emma Loftus, Joy Tatem and Garth Sampson having presented, the over 250 experts have vowed to do everything in their power to see to it that culture is given the attention it deserves. 

Some have even pledged to approach their respective governments to convince them to enact laws which promote heritage and identity. 

Dr Seke Katsamudanga from the University of Zimbabwe said heritage has to be prioritised as it is what defines humanity. 

“Heritage is what defines us as a people. We cannot afford to tamper around with it. Everything that define our past should be well respected by everyone. We should know where we are coming from. All cultural sites in the SADC region should be respected and given all the recognition they deserve,” he said.

Innocent Ndiya said the region needs to do a lot in conserving its norms and values for that's what define them as a people. 

"It's a revolving world, underlined by cultural dynamism but we remain Southern African. 

"We have our norms and values which we should always remember to respect, whatever it takes.

“We are a region with its own norms and values which should be respected. We know there a lot in terms of change which is sweeping across the globe but that shouldn’t in any way distort who we are as a people,” said Ndiya. 

"Migration is a fact but that shouldn't be a big factor. People should always remember what matters to them. Their roots, what they have to respect and things like that. As archaeologists, this is our gospel and we wish to see our culture being respected”.

Some of the discussions at this seminar centred on digital resources, dating, shells, bones and decolonising praxis.

Refreshingly, even sport stakeholders have agreed to preserve that which deserves recognition in a museum. 

The museum is to be established in Zimbabwe by end of this year. 

A high powered delegation comprising the African Union Sports Council Region Five chairperson Dr Vetumbuavi Veii and chief executive Stanley Mutoya recently toured the site which they endorsed in Harare.

 

 

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