Minister Nathi Mthethwa urges Africa to Protect Heritage Sites at last Day of the Virtual Meeting on Sites of Memory and World Heritage Convention in Africa

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09 Apr 2021

The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, in collaboration with the African World Heritage Fund, organised and hosted a four-day virtual African Experts' Conference on Sites of Memory and the World Heritage Convention in Africa (AWHF) from 6-9 April 2021. It brought together African ministers, government leaders, and experts’ working on cultural heritage conservation in Africa.

Today was the last day of the four-day Virtual Experts and Inter-Ministerial Meeting on Sites of Memory and the World Heritage Convention in Africa. Experts from around the continent attended the conference, and the closing ceremony for the approval of the meeting resolutions and declaration drew more than 18 Ministers or delegates.

The aim of this meeting was to draw on the outcomes of the World Heritage Centre's previous expert meetings, which were held in France in December 2019 and a virtual meeting in April 2020.
Addressing the Inter-Ministerial meeting on Sites of Memory and World Heritage Convention, Minister Nathi Mthethwa encouraged Ministers to reflect on the operationalisation of the concept of science associated with memories of recent conflicts within the framework of the World Heritage Convention in Africa.

Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa has urged African culture ministers to collaborate and promote engagements aimed at profiling, protecting, and promoting the continent's heritage resources.

The World Heritage Committee took decisions at its 42nd session in Manama, Bahrain, in 2018, in a setting marked by divergent opinions and roles within the World Heritage community, including among African members to the meeting on nominations relating to sites identified with memories of recent conflicts on the African continent. The debate also exposed the need for a global structure on this subject that takes regional contexts into account.

Minister Mthethwa stressed that for Africans, Sites of Memory are intended to celebrate and acknowledge the successes of the leaders of our continent in their efforts to build nations, increase global awareness about African heritage and to mobilise cooperation for its recognition. They also intend to highlight the progress Africa has made, while reflecting upon the common challenges that arise from the implications of our history. Memory sites associated to recent conflict in the continent tell our recent stories on the routes of African independence and this is also the expression of African narrative and history to the world.

The Minister unanimously conveyed that issue of implementation and operationalisation of sites of recent conflict was of utmost importance to all Africans. Not only does it touch on the continent’s ability to elaborate on its own narratives and negotiate their inclusion in global brands mechanisms such as World Heritage. The subject is also of importance to SADC States because of the liberation movements that fought until relatively recent years to ensure our political freedom as independent countries.
The meeting reflected on the operationalisation of the concept of sites associated with memories of recent conflicts within the framework of the World Heritage Convention in Africa.

Having the mandate to deliberate on (i) the conceptual framework and draft declaration on memory sites and World Heritage Convention in Africa, (ii) the potential nominations for World Heritage listing, and (iii) other mechanism for promoting memory sites in Africa the expects produced a list of recommendations which were adopted by the Permanent Secretaries and later by Ministers of Arts and Culture from different African countries represented at the meeting.

These recommendations included that sites related to recent conflict in Africa are in alignment with the purpose and scope of the World Heritage Convention and that the Operational Guidelines, which are periodically revised to respond to global dynamics and broader interpretation of the World Heritage Convention, should be revised to accommodate this category of properties; that the African World Heritage Fund and African States Parties should facilitate a scientific study on sites of memory and World Heritage Convention in Africa in order to support the African perspective on the topic and contribute to the global debate; that the State Parties, the World Heritage Committee, the Advisory Bodies and the AWHF facilitate capacity building for heritage professionals and experts regarding the World Heritage process of sites associated with the memory of recent conflicts in Africa; and finally that the draft declaration on memory sites associated with recent conflict in Africa which encapsulates the African position on the matter be adopted.

Minister Mthethwa said that the Ministers needed to correct the African Cultural Renaissance Charter. The African Union (AU) adopted the charter in 2012, which paves the way for Africa's renewal and stimulates the continent's artistic and heritage economies.
We are pleading with all member states to facilitate the correction process of the charter. History will judge our seriousness and pledge as Ministers of Culture,” said the Minister Mthethwa.

For inquiries please contact:
Ms. Zimasa Velaphi I Head of Communications and Marketing (DSAC) I E-mail: zimasav@dsac.gov.za Tel: (+27 72 172 8925)
Ms. Masechaba Khumalo I Spokesperson for Minister (DSAC) I E-mail: masechabak@dsac.gov.za Tel: (+27 82 858 4415)

Issued by the National Department of Sport, Arts and Culture