SA Wel­comes An­other World Her­itage Site

ǂKhomani Cul­tural Land­scape

Indwe - - Advertisements - Text: Priya Pi­ta­m­ber / Brand South Africa Im­ages © Fran­cois Oden­daal Pro­duc­tions (FOP Films) & iS­tock­photo.com

The United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tion, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion (Unesco) World Her­itage Com­mit­tee re­cently added South Africa’s ǂKhomani Cul­tural Land­scape in the North­ern Cape to the coun­try’s list of World Her­itage Sites, dur­ing its 41st ses­sion in Krakow, Poland, in July. The com­mit­tee also in­scribed two other sites from Africa – one in Eritrea and an­other in An­gola.

“The de­ci­sion that was taken marks a long-awaited his­tor­i­cal mo­ment for us, the ǂKhomani San, and all other San/Bush­man com­mu­ni­ties,” said Dirk Pien­aar, a ǂKhomani com­mu­nity mem­ber, who ad­dressed the ses­sion.

He said it was an ac­knowl­edge­ment of uni­ver­sal value and im­por­tance. “This list­ing will thus pro­vide a foun­da­tion for us to con­tinue to pre­serve, pro­tect and prac­tise our an­cient cul­ture and tra­di­tions with min­i­mum threat of ex­tinc­tion within the cur­rent so­ci­ety.”

The ǂKhomani Cul­tural Land­scape is lo­cated on South Africa’s bor­der with Botswana and Namibia in the north­ern part of the coun­try. It falls within the Kala­hari Gems­bok Na­tional Park and cov­ers an area of 959,100 ha, ac­cord­ing to the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs (DEA).

“The ǂKhomani and re­lated San peo­ple are unique in that they de­scend di­rectly from an an­cient pop­u­la­tion that ex­isted in South­ern Africa some 150,000 years ago,” said a spokesper­son from the DEA. “[They are] the an­ces­tors of the en­tire hu­man race.”

This area with its red dunes has changed min­i­mally since the Stone Age, and the

ǂKhomani Cul­tural Land­scape has been home to peo­ple who learned to survive in the ex­treme desert be­cause of their knowl­edge of the land.

Dur­ing the ses­sion, Unesco ex­pounded on why the site was con­sid­ered worthy of World Her­itage sta­tus: “The ǂKhomani San de­vel­oped a spe­cific eth­nob­otan­i­cal knowl­edge, cul­tural prac­tices and a world­view re­lated to the ge­o­graph­i­cal fea­tures of their en­vi­ron­ment. The ǂKhomani Cul­tural Land­scape bears tes­ti­mony to the way of life that pre­vailed in the re­gion and shaped the site over thou­sands of years.”

MUCH NEEDED RECOG­NI­TION

In her ac­cep­tance speech, the direc­torgen­eral of the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs, Nosipho Ng­caba, said South Africa is com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing ef­forts of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the area, con­tribut­ing to job cre­ation, en­hanc­ing tourism ex­pe­ri­ences, and con­tribut­ing to skills de­vel­op­ment.

Pien­aar said that the com­mu­nity would con­tinue to re­spect their cul­ture and pass it on to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. “Con­ser­va­tion for us is not a planned ac­tion or a buzz­word to use to im­press when needed,” he said. “It is not a choice but a way of life that is in­stilled within all San peo­ple from a very ten­der age.”

He also gave thanks to the el­der com­mu­nity mem­bers, in­clud­ing “Oupa Dawid Kruiper and Ouma Una Rooi, who died sadly whilst fight­ing for our cause”.

South Africa’s other eight World Her­itage Sites are: the Fos­sil Ho­minid Sites of South Africa, Maloti-Drak­ens­berg Park (trans­bound­ary with Le­sotho), the Ma­pun­gubwe Cul­tural Land­scape, the Vre­de­fort Dome, the Richtersveld Cul­tural and Botan­i­cal Land­scape, Robben Is­land Mu­seum, iSi­man­gal­iso Wet­land Park, and the Cape Flo­ral Re­gion Pro­tected Ar­eas.

OTHER AFRICAN NEW­COM­ERS An­gola’s Mbanza Kongo and Eritrea’s As­mara were the other African sites in­scribed as World Her­itage Sites in July.

Mbanza Kongo was the po­lit­i­cal and spir­i­tual cap­i­tal of the King­dom of Kongo, one of the largest states in South­ern Africa from the 14th cen­tury to the 19th cen­tury. When the Por­tuguese ar­rived, stone build­ings were added. Ac­cord­ing to Unesco: “Mbanza Kongo il­lus­trates, more than any­where in Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, the pro­found changes caused by the in­tro­duc­tion of Chris­tian­ity and the ar­rival of the Por­tuguese into Cen­tral Africa.”

As­mara, 2,000 m above sea level and the cap­i­tal of Eritrea, be­came a mil­i­tary out­post for Italy, its colo­nial power. Af­ter 1935, the city went through a mas­sive con­struc­tion project. “It is an ex­cep­tional ex­am­ple of early mod­ernist ur­ban­ism at the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tury and its ap­pli­ca­tion in an African con­text,” Unesco noted.

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