Abstract:

From footprints in the sand to a carbon footprint – whose history is valued in our protected areas and can we develop a shared notion of ‘our cultural heritage’?

Wendy J Annecke

This paper examines some of the contradictions that South African National Parks’ (SANParks), as a national conservation institution, has to manage in attending to its obligations to conserve our cultural heritage and questions the notion of a shared heritage. There are a least three areas of concern.
The first involves reconciling SANParks’ mandate to conserve biodiversity with the mandate to conservation history and heritage in the Parks. While the conservation and management of biological diversity has been the focus of SANParks’ business over the decades, SANParks Cultural Heritage Policy (2011) makes explicit the intention to conserve both the country’s biological wealth and cultural diversity and acknowledges the substantial amount of work to be done to manage the cultural assets on a par with the biodiversity resources. The paper offers a brief assessment on progress to date in this regard.
The second area of concern is  -whose history will be recognized and celebrated and how will these decisions be made? The paper explores the notion of ownership and perspectives: whose history is evident and valued in the Parks?  From the 100,000-year old origins of humankind, to the period when the ‘bushmen’ people inhabited the Cape or the arrival some 1,300 years later of the Khoekhoe little  is known or celebrated. The period after 1652 is relatively well documented and clearly marked by roads, buildings, the progressive destruction of ecosystems and the establishment of protected areas – often through forcing indigenous people off their lands.  In a country with as fraught and distorted history as ours, how do we begin conserving our cultural heritage – who does ‘our’ refer to?
The third issue arising is, if sites of heritage value are identified for all to acknowledge and share, how should these be protected from over-exploitation and degradation? The paper examines each of these conundrums and suggests some possible ways forward.

Presentation Topic

From footprints in the sand to a carbon footprint – whose history is valued in our protected areas and can we develop a shared notion of ‘our cultural heritage’?

 

Contact Dr Annecke:

SANParks: Cape Research Centre, PO Box 216, Steenberg, 7947

 

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