Why Conserve our Heritage?
On the 3rd of July 2019, a public lecture was held at the Northern Cape Theatre as part of the Association of South African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA) 2019 International archaeological conference, which was hosted by Sol-Plaatje University and the McGregor Museum.
The presenter, Professor George Okello Abungu, spoke under the theme “Why conserve our heritage: A journey of splendour, beauty and power”. Addressing members of the public, academics and professionals, he described the African continent as a place of diversity, with a rich culture and as the embodiment of art. According to the scholar, the African Continent has contributed immensely to the world through art, “Prominent musicians such Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masikela, Jonas Gwangwa and Abdullah Abrahim are just a few examples of artists who have made their mark across the globe through music,” he said.
According to the Professor, African heritage encompasses of the shared past, present and future that many want to leave behind. In his view, heritage provides various opportunities to people across the continent such a national identity, tourism benefits, generational knowledge, conflict resolution through heritage of peace, it promotes human rights, job creation and alleviates poverty.
The lecture gave an overview of various archaeological marvels, historical and sacred sites in various parts of the African continent, “In Africa, nature and culture are vastly intertwined, tangible and intangible components that cannot be divided,” he explained. He made an example about various natural sites in Africa that are also culturally sacred sites to particular groups in Africa. The Academic urges archaeologists and people at large to respect this aspect whenever they visit such places. An example of such a sacred place is Table Mountain which is known to be a sacred and spiritual place by the Khoi San people. Another example he made is Lake Bogoria in Kenya which has a deep spiritual and cultural significance for the Endoris people who have been custodians of the area for many centuries.
Lake Bogoria which has a large population of flamingo’s because of the high presence of algae, has now recently been deemed a “Gold Mine”. The lake contains certain elements that can be used to create various antibiotics and cleaning products, this substantiates Professor Abungu’s statements on the benefits of heritage and nature.
Professor Abungu holds a Knighthood of the order of Arts and letters from the Republic of France as a result of his exceptional contribution to Heritage across the globe. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Defence of Art by the Association for Research into Crime against Art (ARCA), he was also rewarded the first African World Heritage Fund Award for his contribution to building capacity in the field of heritage in Africa. He is a former Director-General of the National Museums of Kenya and is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Okello Abungu Heritage Consultants.
In his address he emphasised the importance of passing knowledge to the younger generations, and ensuring that they are empowered by knowing the rich history of the continent thus enabling them to use and safeguard their African Heritage.