Wednesday, June 19, 2024

World Heritage Sites In Africa, Preserving And Protecting Cultural Treasures

World Heritage Sites are cultural and natural sites considered to be of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’, which have been inscribed on the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Committee.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to protect and preserve such sites through the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. This international treaty was drawn up in 1972.

Governments of countries that have ratified the Convention (States Parties) identify and nominate suitable sites to the World Heritage Committee for inscription on the list maintained by UNESCO.

This document was adopted by UNESCO in 1972 and formally took effect in 1975 after having been ratified by 20 countries. It provides a framework for international cooperation in preserving and protecting cultural treasures and natural areas throughout the world.

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Origin Of World Heritage Convention

The primary impetus for the adoption of the World Heritage Convention was the construction of the Aswan High Dam. In 1959 the governments of the United Arab Republic (U.A.R.; now Egypt and Syria) and Sudan turned to UNESCO for help in salvaging the ancient sites and monuments of Egyptian Nubia.

The sites were threatened with destruction by the great lake which would build up behind the new dam at Aswān.

UNESCO responded with an appeal to the international community for assistance, and the result was the largest archaeological rescue operation in history.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated 147 World Heritage Sites In Africa. These sites are located in 46 countries. Let’s take a look at some of them.http://www.ln247.news

Lake Turkana National Parks, Kenya

Lake Turkana National Parks are constituted of Sibiloi National Park, the South Island and the Central Island National Parks, covering a total area of 161,485 hectares located within the Lake Turkana basin whose total surface area is 7 million ha.

The Lake is the most saline lake in East Africa and the largest desert lake in the world, surrounded by an arid, seemingly extraterrestrial landscape that is often devoid of life.

The long body of Lake Turkana drops down along the Rift Valley from the Ethiopian border, extending 249 kilometers from north to south and 44 km at its widest point with a depth of 30 meters. It is Africa’s fourth largest lake, fondly called the Jade Sea because of its breathtaking color.

The property represents unique geo-morphological features with fossil deposits on sedimentary formations as well as one hundred identified archaeological and paleontological sites.

There are numerous volcanic overflows with petrified forests. The existing ecological conditions provide habitats for maintaining diverse flora and fauna.

At Kobi Fora to the north of Allia Bay, extensive paleontological finds have been made, starting in 1969, with the discovery of Paranthropus boisei.

Archaeological Site Of Cyrene

A colony of the Greeks of Thera, Cyrene was one of the principal cities in the Hellenic world. It was Romanized and remained a great capital until the earthquake of 365.

A thousand years of history is written into its ruins, which have been famous since the 18th century.

Cyrene was an ancient Greek and later Roman city near present-day Shahhat, Libya. It was the oldest and most important of the five Greek cities, known as the pentapolis, in the region. It gave eastern Libya the classical name Cyrenaica that it has retained to modern times. Located nearby is the ancient Necropolis of Cyrene.

The traditional founder of the city was Battus the Lacedemonian, though the exact relationship between the fledgling city and other cities has led historians to question that narrative.

Particularly, the idea that Thera was the sole “mother city” is disputed; and the relationship with other cities, such as Sparta and Samian merchants, is unclear.

Cyrene lies in a lush valley in the Jebel Akhdar uplands. The city was named after a spring, Kyre, which the Greeks consecrated to Apollo. It became the seat of the Cyrenaics, a famous school of philosophy in the fourth century BC, founded by Aristippus, a disciple of Socrates.

Lake Malawi National Park, Malawi

Located at the southern end of the great expanse of Lake Malawi, with its deep, clear waters and mountain backdrop, the national park is home to many hundreds of fish species, nearly all endemic.

Its importance for the study of evolution is comparable to that of the finches of the Galapagos Islands.

Located at the southern end of the great expanse of Lake Malawi, the property is of global importance for biodiversity conservation due particularly to its fish diversity. Lying within the Western Rift Valley, Lake Malawi is one of the deepest lakes in the world.

The property is an area of exceptional natural beauty with the rugged landscapes around it contrasting with the remarkably clear waters of the lake.

The property is home to many hundreds of cichlid fish, nearly all of which are endemic to Lake Malawi, and are known locally as “mbuna”. The mbuna fishes display a significant example of biological evolution.

Due to the isolation of Lake Malawi from other water bodies, its fish have developed impressive adaptive radiation and speciation, and are an outstanding example of the ecological processes.

The property is an area of exceptional natural beauty with its islands and clear waters set against the background of the Great African Rift Valley escarpment. Habitat types vary from rocky shorelines to sandy beaches and from wooded hillsides to swamps and lagoons. Granitic hills rise steeply from lakeshore and there are a number of sandy bays.

The property is an outstanding example of biological evolution. Adaptive radiation and speciation are particularly noteworthy in the small brightly coloured rocky-shore tilapiine cichlids (rockfish), known locally as mbuna.

All but five of over 350 species of mbuna are endemic to Lake Malawi and represented in the park. 

Lake Malawi is globally important for biodiversity conservation due to its outstanding diversity of its fresh water fishes.

The property is considered to be a separate bio-geographical province with estimates of up to c.1000 species of fish half occurring within the property: estimated as the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world.

Endemism is very high: of particular significance are the cichlid fish, of which all but 5 of over 350 species are endemic. The lake contains 30% of all known cichlids species in the world. The property is also rich in other fauna including mammals, birds and reptiles.

ECONOTES

CRITERIA FOR SELECTION OF WORLD HERITAGE SITES

(i)

to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;

(ii)

to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;

(iii)

to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;

(iv)

to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;

(v)

to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;

(vi)

to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.

(vii)

to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;

(viii)

to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;

(ix)

to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;

(x)

to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park provides stunning views of glacier and snow-capped mountains just kilometres from the equator, where it is contiguous with the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Having the third highest mountain in Africa at 5,109 m (after Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya), the Park includes a much larger alpine area than either, covering an area of 99,600 ha of which 70% lies at over 2,500 m in height.

The Rwenzori Mountains are the highest and most permanent sources of the River Nile, and constitute a vital water catchment.

Their multitude of fast flowing rivers, magnificent waterfalls and stratified vegetation make the property exceptionally scenic and beautiful.

The mountains are well-known for their unique alpine flora which includes many species endemic to the Albertine Rift in the higher altitude zones including giant heathers, groundsels and lobelias.

The Park also supplies local communities with various wild resources and is an important cultural heritage.

The Rwenzoris are the legendary “Mountains of the moon”, a reflection of the mist-shrouded mountains of this rugged massif that tower almost 4,000 m above the Albertine Rift Valley, making them visible from great distances.

These mountains offer a unique and pristine landscape of alpine vegetation studded with charismatic giant lobelias, groundsels, and heathers which have been called “Africa’s botanical big game”.

The combination of spectacular snow-capped peaks, glaciers, V-shaped valleys, fast flowing rivers with magnificent waterfalls, clear blue lakes and unique flora contributes to the area’s exceptional natural beauty.

Because of their altitudinal range, and the nearly constant temperatures, humidity and high insolation, the mountains support the richest montane flora in Africa. There is an outstanding range of species, many of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift and bizarre in appearance.

The natural vegetation has been classified as belonging to five distinct zones, determined largely by altitude and aspect.

The higher altitude zones, covered by heath and Afro-alpine moorland, extend from around 3,500 m to the snow line and represent the rarest vegetation types on the African continent.

Significant species include the giant heathers, groundsels, lobelias and other endemics.

In terms of fauna, the Rwenzoris have been recognised as an Important Bird Area with 217 bird species recorded to date, a number expected to increase as the park becomes better surveyed. The montane forests are also a home to threatened species such as the African forest elephant, eastern chimpanzee and l’Hoest’s monkey.

The endangered Rwenzori black-fronted or red duiker, believed to be a very localized subspecies or possibly a separate species, appears to be restricted to the Park.

While little agricultural encroachment has occurred due to the Park’s clearly marked boundary, insecurity caused by rebel insurgence in recent years has affected park management and encouraged illegal activities, the reason for which the property was inscribed in the List of World Heritage in Danger from 1999-2004.

The growing number of people living around the property is adding pressure on forest resources, although the cultural importance that the local communities attach to the Park as well as the various benefits they derive from ecotourism and regulated plant resource use is designed to manage this.

The watershed functions as a result of the intactness of the boundary has enhanced the Park’s capacity to act as the biggest contributor of water in the region for domestic and industrial use.

Island of Mozambique

The fortified city of Mozambique is located on this island, a former Portuguese trading-post on the route to India.

Its remarkable architectural unity is due to the consistent use, since the 16th century, of the same building techniques, building materials (stone or macuti) and decorative principles.

The Island of Mozambique is a calcareous coral reef situated 4 km from the mainland coast in the entrance to the Mossuril Bay of the Indian Ocean in Nampula Province of the Republic of Mozambique.

A bridge built in the 1960s joins the island to the mainland. The island forms an archipelago with two small uninhabited islands, the Islands of Goa and Sena to the east.

The island communities are intimately associated with the history of navigation in the Indian Ocean as the island played a unique role in intercontinental trading links from the 10th century. Its international historic importance relates to the development and establishment of Portuguese maritime routes between Western Europe and the Indian subcontinent.

The Island of Mozambique has two different types of dwellings and urban systems. The stone and lime town of Swahili, Arab and European influences in the north half, and the macuti town (city of roofed palm leaves) of traditional African architecture in the south.

The stone and lime town, with its administrative and commercial properties, was the first seat of the Portuguese colonial government that lasted from 1507 to 1898. Thereafter the capital was transferred to Lourenço Marques now Maputo.

The urban fabric and fortifications of Mozambique Island are exceptional examples of architecture and building techniques resulting from cultural diversity, and the interaction of people of Bantu, Swahili, Arab, Persian, Indian and European origin.

The incredible architectural unity of the island derives from the uninterrupted use of the same building techniques with the same materials and the same decorative principles.

The island’s patrimony also includes its oldest extant fortress (St. Sebastian, 1558-1620), other defensive buildings and numerous religious buildings (including many from the 16th century).

The town and the fortifications on the Island of Mozambique are an outstanding example of an architecture in which local traditions, Portuguese influences and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Indian and Arab influences are all interwoven.

The Island of Mozambique bears important witness to the establishment and development of the Portuguese maritime routes between Western Europe and the Indian sub-continent and thence all of Asia.

The island is also in the path of cyclones and much remedial work to the damaged buildings has been required as a result of the devastating 1994 storm.

Robben Island, South Africa

Robben Island was used at various times between the 17th and 20th centuries as a prison, a hospital for socially unacceptable groups and a military base. Its buildings, particularly those of the late 20th century such as the maximum security prison for political prisoners, witness the triumph of democracy and freedom over oppression and racism.

Robben Island was used at various times between the 17th century and the 20th century as a prison, a hospital for socially unacceptable groups, and a military base.

Its buildings, and in particular those of the late 20th century maximum security prison for political prisoners, testify to the way in which democracy and freedom triumphed over oppression and racism.

What survives from its episodic history are 17th century quarries, the tomb of Hadije Kramat who died in 1755, 19th century ‘village’ administrative buildings including a chapel and parsonage, small lighthouse, the lepers’ church, the only remains of a leper colony, derelict World War II military structures around the harbour and the stark and functional maximum security prison of the Apartheid period began in the 1960s.

The symbolic value of Robben Island lies in its somber history, as a prison and a hospital for unfortunates who were sequestered as being socially undesirable.

This came to an end in the 1990s when the inhuman Apartheid regime was rejected by the South African people and the political prisoners who had been incarcerated on the Island received their freedom after many years.

The remains on the island as a landscape reflect the history of the island since the 17th century and all the attributes that convey its value.

Precisely because it has followed a historical trajectory that has involved several changes of use without conscious conservation efforts directed at preservation, the authenticity of the Island is total.

The evidence of layering reflects its history since the early 17th century and the events with which it is associated.

In terms of the National Monuments Act of South Africa, the area was declared as a National Monument in 1996.

Sukur Cultural Landscape, Nigeria

The Sukur Cultural Landscape, with the Palace of the Hidi (Chief) on a hill dominating the villages below, the terraced fields and their sacred symbols, and the extensive remains of a former flourishing iron industry, is a remarkably intact physical expression of a society and its spiritual and material culture.

Sukur is located in Madagali local government area of Adamawa state of Nigeria along Nigeria/ Cameroon border, some 290 km from Yola, the Adamawa state capital of north eastern Nigeria.

It is a hilltop settlement which stood at an elevation of 1045 m. The total land area covered by the site is 1942.50 ha with core zone having 764.40 ha and the buffer zone 1178.10 ha respectively.

Sukur is an ancient settlement with a recorded history of iron smelting technology, flourishing trade, and strong political institution dating back to the 16th century.

 The landscape is characterized by terraces on the farmlands, dry stone structures and stone paved walkways.

The terraced landscape at Sukur with its hierarchical structure and combination of intensive and extensive farming is remarkable. 

In addition, it has certain exceptional features that are not to be found elsewhere, notably the use of paved tracks and the spiritual content of the terraces, with their ritual features such as sacred trees.

But the people of Sukur Kingdom fear they may lose their UNESCO World Heritage status after fighters destroyed 500-year-old buildings and artefacts.

The villages situated on low lying ground below the Hidi Palace have their own characteristic indigenous architecture. Among its features are dry stone walls, used as social markers and defensive enclosures, sunken animal (principally bull) pens, granaries, and threshing floors.

Groups of mud walled thatched roofed houses are integrated by low stone walls. Of considerable social and economic importance are the wells.

These are below-ground structures surmounted by conical stone structures and surrounded by an enclosure wall.

Within the compound are pens where domestic animals such as cattle and sheep are fattened, either for consumption by the family or for use as prestige and status symbols used in gift and marriage exchanges.

The remains of many disused iron-smelting furnacescan still be found. These shaft-type furnaces, blown with bellows, were usually sited close to the houses of their owners. Iron production involved complex socio-economic relationships and there was a considerable ritual associated with it.

In conclusion…

UNESCO requires every World Heritage Site to have a management plan. This helps to ensure a coordinated approach by all partners who work together to deliver the plan.

A management plan clearly sets out the special qualities and values of the site, establishes a framework for decision-making and provides information on threats and opportunities for the site, so that it can be managed sustainably.

Thanks for watching space.com

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Gimalo-Angel Olowogoke, signing out.

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