’. Classification of Heritage Lowenthal (1996) classify heritage into personal

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Heritage embodies tangible and intangible aspects of a people’s cultural inventory. It comprises those elements held as treasures and legacies from past experiences, norms, values, beliefs, traditions and ways valorised by people as reflecting their identity and worth. Cultural heritage is non renewable and priceless. The essence of this module is to introduce students to the diverse cultural heritage sites in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa and lay a foundation on how this heritage can be properly managed with the view of presenting them for posterity.

What is heritage?

Heritage consists of those aspects of a community’s past, present and future that it holds dear and desires to hand over to future generations. Heritage includes practices that are handed down from the past by tradition

Heritage is that which belongs to an individual, group, community or nation as a result of birth, inheritance and membership e.g. built heritage or natural environments
Ashworth (2007:32) says, ‘Heritage is whatever presents choose from imagined pasts for contemporary use and for bequeathing for the use of imagined futures’.

Classification of Heritage

Lowenthal (1996) classify heritage into personal and collective heritage. Personal heritage is normally inherited by individuals on death of parents or other kin. (But these bequests are just a fraction of a larger legacy of teachings, precepts, and habits drummed into or emulated by an individual since infancy. In some cultures inherited heritage cannot be sold but it is handed down from generation to generation.) Collective heritage denotes group ownership rooted in family legacies. This heritage resembles what people hold together with others in the community, the blessings (and curses) that belong to and largely define a group.

Heritage whether personal or collective, broadly falls under tangible and intangible cultural heritage respectively. Tangible heritage encompasses the physical material, this heritage can be movable (e.g. objects/artefacts) or immovable heritage (e.g. sites, buildings, monuments) whereas intangible heritage is cognitive, a product of accumulated knowledge, experience or creativity passed on from generation to generation. Intangible heritage consists of oral traditions, memories, languages, traditional performing arts or rituals, knowledge systems, values and know how that we want to safeguard and pass to future generations. Intangible cultural heritage is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history provides them with a sense of identity and continuity promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity.
Illustration below;

Tangible Intangible

(Animals, objects, buildings, sites, monuments) (Language, memories, performing arts, rituals, values, knowledge

systems, oral traditions)
Q. Discuss the relationship between tangible and intangible cultural heritage. How important are these two components in heritage preservation in Zimbabwe?
Definition of Culture

Culture is a set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual, and emotional features of society or social group. It encompasses, in addition to art and literature, learned experiences, knowledge systems, traditions and beliefs. Peterson (1979) says Culture mainly include four aspects i.e. norms, values, beliefs and expressive symbols. Norms are the way people behave in a given society, values are what they hold dear, beliefs are how they think the universe operates and expressive symbols are representations, often representations of social norms, values and beliefs themselves. For example an object or cultural heritage site can represent shared significance embodied in material form. This object or site may tell a story about a people’s way of life, their history, values, beliefs and norms.
Relationship between Culture and Heritage

Cultural heritage cannot be conserved or managed without recognising how human cultures have influenced and in some cases shaped existence of such sites. Cleere (1989) says an awareness of the past is a characteristic unique to human beings. Myth and history intermingle to create a tradition i.e. a living reality which is vital in creating social awareness and cohesion. The past is a living component of present day life and this identity of past and present is often associated with specific locations and structures .e.g. Nyadzonya, Mbuya Nehanda- streets and sites named after her.

Sanoja and Vargas (1989) say cultural resources are concerned with materials resulting from human activity in the past and present. The creation of cultural heritage is the phenomena essential for all people. Socially organised communities interact with the landscape in order to change and adapt it to conform to the requirements of the development of its productive resources. Child (1981) notes that a natural environment may or may not have been modified by human activity but whatever the case, it is used and conceived according to the values of the culture for which it forms a material base. In other words culture heritage stand as evidence of human activity which was influenced by the culture-values, beliefs of a social group
The survival of all or part of past natural and cultural environments acts as a guide to the preservation of tangible cultural heritage. Man and nature are twin agents of a continuous revolution which is at one time or another changing the face of the earth and modifying nature through the activities of social groups. Middleton (1990) says heritage communicate the natural and built environment of places, the origins and character of human endeavour that brought civilisation in general and localities in particular, to their present state. Kristiansen (1989) is of the view that heritage contributes to identity of nations, people and local communities. It is part of the sum of knowledge and experience from which decisions of tomorrow are taken at all levels in society. It represents an irreplaceable contribution to what has been termed the collective memory of mankind.

  • Cultural identity makes use of historical landscapes among others aspects

  • Culture defines actions, events and seasons on which traditional rituals are done at CHS to maintain the sanctity of spiritual sites

  • Culture furnishes us with the language, taboos, customs, myths and legends crucial in protection of CHS

  • Culture helps in interpretation and presentation of sites through ethnography

  • Culture and heritage can stand as evidence of the intangible beliefs conferred on material objects, monuments, structures, places and landscapes

  • Culture and heritage are products of individual or collective memories of a social group


? Is it possible to have heritage without culture or vice versa

? How can language as part of culture be used to manage cultural property

  1. Define the symbiotic relationship between culture and heritage (10)

  2. In what ways is this relationship useful in heritage preservation in Zimbabwe and any other African country of your choice (10)

Background to Heritage Management in Africa- Zimbabwe

The mandate to protect and present cultural heritage in southern Africa is generally entrusted to national institutions. In such countries as Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa where there was a large European settler population, heritage management developed as a specialised discipline for a selected few and as a result it was viewed as a highly academic subject never meant for popular consumption. In addition, colonisation in Southern Africa resulted in local communities being alienated from their cultural heritage. Most of the legislation and administrative structures prohibited local communities to access their own heritage for cultural rituals were not allowed to take place on sites and communities were moved hundreds of kilometres away from their original homes thereby creating physical and spiritual distance between them and their ancestral homes. Cleere (1989) refers to this as a period of cultural discontinuity. He argues that few, if any countries can claim to have had an unbroken cultural continuity of any kind. Herrmann (1989) observes that during the advent of bourgeoisie-capitalist society in Europe, monuments were destroyed wherever they stood in the way of the capitalist economy or where profit was to be gained. The destruction of monuments later became a world problem. In their colonies, the colonial powers often put a stop to the traditional utilisation and maintenance of the material cultural heritage thereby suppressing the indigenous people’s sense of identity.

Pwiti and Ndoro (1999) note that from 1890, when Zimbabwe was colonised the colonial system tried all possible ways to tread upon the identity of indigenous people. The intolerance of colonialists to African virtues resulted in an end in some communities to traditional practices and values. The Zimbabwean population was displaced as a result of land policies like the Land apportionment Act of 1930 and the Land Tenure Act of 1969. Shrines in European areas were left unattended as colonial property rights could not allow entry into areas now under private ownership. Ndoro (2008) further argues that the pioneering legislation was not founded on an objective approach to preserve the diverse African cultural landscape but rather on protecting a few sites which served the interest of white settlers. (A case in point is the controversy at Great Zimbabwe, which initiated the movement towards heritage management. The mystery of the stone built sites led to the proclamation as national monuments in the hope that they would reinforce the idea of a vanished, but superior and foreign civilisation.) Most sites proclaimed in the colonial period were either archaeological sites or colonial memorials that had to do with the process of colonisation. After the colonial period the same system continued whereby colonial heritage was inherited as national heritage.eg Rhodes Grave. Postcolonial administrative and legal frameworks adopted the ex-colonial policies on heritage management further alienating communities from their own heritage. However, there are efforts to include the local community and intangible aspects in heritage management. In West Africa most heritage sites are looked after by local communities with minimum influence from government or central authority e.g. the Osogbo Groves (WHS of Nigeria) and the Sukar Cultural Landscapes and the Royal Palaces of Abomey in Benin. The heritage ensemble on national and WHL still reflect an imbalance representation of heritage sites. In Eastern and Southern Africa archaeological heritage is still the main heritage being managed.

Approaches to heritage management in Africa

Management is often defined as the administrative direction or as the control of the course of affairs by one’s own actions. Ndoro (1997) says management or conservation is a term used to mean all actions that are taken to ensure long term conservation of a site. These include such steps as management policy, physical interventions to ensure structural stability and visitor management. Tombaugh (1986) define conservation as the foresighted utilisation, preservation and or renewal of forests, waters, lands and minerals for the greatest good and greatest number for the longest time. [Conservation means the wise use of the earth and its resources for the lasting good of man.]
Top- Down Approach

Modern heritage conservation was born in many western countries in the form of commitment by governments to recognise and care for heritage on behalf of public interests. The commitment is often translated into designation, support and development of control procedures placed within state led management frameworks. They adopted top-down approaches often expressed in the form of government driven management plans and legal frameworks.

Bottom-Up Approach

The approach stresses need for consultative, participatory management mechanisms which include and define the voice of the public in defining and implementing conservation policies. The approach recognises the importance of traditional forms of heritage management and protection. It is also important in enhancing community development


  • In cases where there are diverse interests and stakeholders, the approach gives priority to traditional custodians of a given cultural property

  • It promotes community involvement and development

  • The locus of decision making is moved closest to people affected by the decision

Integrated Management Approach

In its simplest sense, an integrated conservation and management approach entails working together in a combined effort. The approach goes beyond professional boundaries with all stakeholders involved in order to achieve best results. The process vary from a simple effort to integrate scientific methods and tools to better understand behaviour of materials, the processes of decay to working with legislative bodies, agencies, communities on management of cultural heritage. It also involves working in an integrated fashion within an organisation. The term ‘Integrated Conservation’, although old in practise, received official status with the Declaration of Amsterdam by the Congress of European Architectural Heritage in 1975. Initially it was an effort to expand the definition of architectural heritage to include all areas of towns or villages of historic or cultural interest and to seek support for their conservation within urban and regional planning activities. Applicability of concept now extends to conservation and management of cultural heritage in general – Wijesuriya, G (ICRROM Newsletter 34, December 2008:8)

Why an Integrated Management Approach?

  • An integrated approach facilitates consultation and coordination with community groups and agencies.

  • Understanding the views of all who have an impact on heritage at an early stage enhance inclusiveness of the decision making process

  • The approach accrues benefits to the heritage sector, allocation of human and financial resources for conservation

  • Improves communication between sectors and sharing of knowledge

  • Helps in formulation of complementary or new regulatory instruments to enhance long term protection of heritage.

  • It results in a shift of organisational cultures and participants towards acceptance and pursuit of cooperative approaches.

Q. Which conservation approach is best suited to address African realities in heritage management? Give reasons for your choice and support answer with relevant examples.

Challenges to heritage management in Africa

Many factors threaten the cultural heritage of Africa and these include environmental pressures, uncontrolled developments, warfare and communal conflicts, poverty, lack of political unity, lack of awareness for the value of heritage resources, poor funding, inadequate expertise and equipment, illicit trafficking, poor documentation and excavations,

Lack of legislations and planning laws

In most African countries, laws are now outdated such that they fail to meet contemporary realities of integrated development. They fail to address issues of land use, employment, gender, etc and they tend to be in conflict with other legislations on the environment, land planning, and mining and community values. In Zimbabwe for example legislation seems to be in conflict when it comes to conservation of cultural property for example the NMMZ versus the Mines and Minerals Act, the Towns and Planning Act. Most legislations favour the concept of monumentalism taking little cognisance of associated intangible and spiritual value.

Wars and Conflicts

Intra and inter communal conflicts continue to create havoc in most African countries in relation to the conservation of cultural property. Wars in Liberia, Sudan, DRC, Rwanda, Angola etc threaten heritage. On the other hand religious fundamentalism has resulted in the deliberate burning and destruction of monuments, shrines and sacred places considered offensive to ne w beliefs systems. The vandalism at Domboshava was as a result of religious fundamentalism.

Poor Involvement of Local Communities and Other Stakeholders in Planning and Management

Most legislative and management systems are top down in approach thus disempowering the primary owners of their heritage. Secondary stakeholders would make the decisions regarding the conservation, interpretation and or presentation whilst primary stakeholders are not consulted. In some cases local stakeholders are cosmetically consulted. Thus they lack the power and capacity to change decisions or manage the site and monuments in their localities. This results in the neglect, looting and vandalism of the cultural property

Poor Documentation and Lack of Inventories

Records on cultural heritage are grossly inadequate or even nonexistent for most countries in Africa. Records are needed for purposes of planning and the implementation of conservation and presentation strategies. The heritage picture for most African countries is therefore still very incomplete e.g. in Zimbabwe most rock art sites are still to be documented.

Non Integration of Heritage into Development Efforts

This results in the destruction of cultural property as the developers fail to respect heritage e.g. mining activities in the Shavarunzi cultural landscape and the dam construction in the Nyamweda area where burial were exhumed during construction.


Heritage Management Systems include traditional practices, existing legal instruments and other control mechanisms both formal and informal. The system depends on the type, characteristics and needs of the property, its legal and cultural context.


The basic approach to conservation of cultural property has been largely based on a monumental understanding of cultural significance less consideration was given to the distinctiveness of each region of the world and how conservation was perceived locally. Traditional maintenance and conservation practises were not promoted resulting in their abandonment by local populations. In most African sites significant immovable cultural heritage sites with outstanding universal values have been lost or are today quickly deteriorating. Most heritage managers in Africa have insisted on the need to challenge the monumental perception of heritage by recognising a broader approach which takes into consideration the resilient intangible aspect and beliefs that have always contributed to the permanence of the heritage. Traditional conservation practices play a very vital role in the preservation of a country’s immovable cultural heritage which is associated with specific beliefs and rituals, social organisation and sense of community belonging e.g. Old Bulawayo Site. This approach calls for local communities to assist in the conservation of cultural property since they have developed conservation strategies from the past up to the present. These people therefore bring to light those conservation activities that are authorised and these could be a combination of technical activities and the protection of spiritual values.

Customary Laws and Practices

Most African countries have traditional customary mechanisms and practices which operated before the advent of colonialism and have continued to operate with varying degrees of effectiveness. These include taboos, avoidances and practices put in place by the local communities for the protection of sacred heritage places such as grooves, graves, streams, forests, rivers, shrines, temples, palaces, etc. These customary mechanisms can be regarded as unwritten constitutions or laws that operate on the basis of support and respect that they command from community members.


An oath can be defined as a solemn pact with the supernatural powers used to protect cultural property such as crops, trees, wells, etc. In such cases, the powerful spirits, both evil and good, are enjoined to protect the site and certain objects are put in place to signify this. So great is the fear of the consequences of breaking the spell, thus obedience to orders.


In Africa all nature is seen in religious terms. There are food and behaviour taboos directly linked with plants and animals. Food taboos are closely linked to totemism whereby one is not allowed to eat the object or animal they totemise. This idea is that the totemised plant or animal is not disturbed by a certain ethnic group in the natural environment. Behaviour taboos are based on avoiding certain behaviour or practices e.g killing pythons which might result in drought or lions which are mhondoro mediums. The same goes to the cutting of certain fruit trees such as muzhanje which provided wild fruits in the case of a drought.

Myths and Legends

In Africa how the universe, natural systems and societies is mainly passed on by word of mouth. Myths and legends were one of the first ways that people related to their natural surroundings. An African mythology grew up based on parables common metaphors which related to the various rules and kinds of access to natural heritage resources.

Traditional Leaders

There is the Traditional Leaders Act.

Assimilation of the natural into the sacred heritage

Linking the natural elements of the environment (animals, plants, rocks, stretches of water) with the world of the spirits gives special qualities to some of their components (trees, animals, and ecosystem). This is the origin of sacred places such as mountains, forests, springs, rivers and other landscapes. Sacred sites are areas of special spiritual significance to peoples and communities. Sacred natural sites are areas of land or water having special spiritual significance to peoples and communities. Sacred sites may be viewed as abode of deities and ancestral spirits as sources of healing water and medicinal plants, places of contact with the spiritual realm or communication with more than human reality, they are sometimes burial grounds of ancestors, places of pilgrimage, the locale of a shrine or church. While many sacred natural sites have historical significance they are not static in time and space. New sites can be created in response to changing circumstances and environment.

The Tree

Berre and Mesan (1995) say that the importance of trees is especially interesting in African mythology either as single trees or more broadly as sacred woods or forests. Trees have a special role as intermediaries with the divine. The sacred forest is considered a symbol of motherhood, a centre of freshness, water and warmth, a sort of womb where man can regain strength. Certain ritual taboos have saved other species both flora and fauna. The fabric of historical narratives, myths legends, cosmological beliefs and regulatory system veils tangible heritage sites and itself constitute an abiding heritage for mankind.

Case Study

The Mijikenda Khaya forests are still in existence today based on the strength of local culture and beliefs. Traditional rules and prohibitions have been passed down by elders through generations and are still being held in the minds of local communities. These communities therefore stand in awe and fear of the forest. The Khaya forest are now abandoned but have not lost their importance to the Mijikenda as they have become ritual centres and symbols of ethnic identity and unity. Rules were laid down using a system of oaths, taboos and curses which became deterrent to activities that were forbidden. Strong belief in the supernatural and the activities of both good and bad spirits ensured the survival of the cultural property.

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