Education key to preserving African history
CAPE TOWN – Africans need to shape the narrative about their history and need to tell their own stories, and it starts with education, chairperson of the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) Vusumuzi Mkhize said.
“We must shape the narrative as Africans. We must also embed our own stories in our education system,” Mkhize said.
“I think if we have proper education systems that are able to gather historical facts about Africa’s development, growth and past, we then are able to make sure our future generations take pride in their Africanness and take pride in terms of telling their own stories by Africans for Africans.”
Mkhize said Africans should build the capacity to have the necessary skills and expertise in universities to develop appropriate portfolios and historical information to assist the world in understanding the perspectives of what Africans think about their history.
He said this would be important to remove the current distortions that are there, adding that the distortions were often made by those who looked at Africa as “the Dark Continent”.
“(We need to) build the skills to be able to have knowledge about what is a criterion required for us to be able to say this portfolio of evidence that we submit to the world for them to recognise as a World Heritage Site, we are meeting those criteria.”
Mkhize was speaking as experts held a virtual meeting this week on Sites of Memory and the World Heritage Convention in Africa.
The objective of the four-day meeting was to reflect on putting into operation the concept of sites associated with memories of recent conflicts within the framework of the World Heritage Convention in Africa.
One participant, Crispin Yoka from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), said Africans had already started writing their own stories.
“The facts cannot be drafted by other people who are not Africans.”
He said African historians had already started redrafting the history and heritage of Africans in schools and universities.
“We are making sure that the education systems take into account our stories,” he said.
Speaking during the opening ceremony of the meeting, the director-general of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), Dr Webber Ndoro, said world heritage concepts and practices could learn from the recent discussions that arose from the #BlackLivesMatter movement about heritage and museum development.
“Most museums and heritage sites in Africa celebrate colonial history; rarely do we find museums dedicated to African achievements and liberation struggles,” he said, adding that this was where the Sites of Memory could play an important role.
He said colonial history needs to be balanced with African heritage concepts.
The AWHF is an intergovernmental organisation that was launched in 2006 to support the effective conservation and protection of natural and cultural heritage of outstanding universal value in Africa.