Africa’s Cultural Landscapes Analyzing World Heritage Sites

Geography 363V

Dr. Wright

Learning Objectives

 World Heritage Sites (UNESCO Program)

 Cultural Memory and Cultural Narratives

 Africa

 Ota Benga

 Nelson Mandela

 133 World Heritage Sites (12% of world total)

 What kinds of sites are most common?

 What kinds of sites are less represented?

 What is a “Living Cultural Landscape?”

The World is Changing Fast

 7.3 billion people  Up from 1.5 billion just 100 years ago

 May stabilize at 9 billion, then fall

 60% of all people now live in cities that expand and consume farms, ranches, rural landscapes, and plant and wildlife habitats

 Cultural heritage sites are also being lost

What is the right balance?


 Cultural change, resource and land development, creation of new cultural landscapes, modernity


 Recognition and protection of historical cultural landscapes, resource conservation, preservation of places and what they teach us

 Who decides?

 Based on what criteria?

Case Study: Egypt and the Nile

 Post-WWII Egypt wanted to modernize

 Electricity was needed in a country with no coal

and little oil & gas (at that time)

 Nile River often flooded the valley

 Brought needed fertility to fields and productivity

to the Mediterranean Sea

 But, floods were destructive at times

Aswan High Dam - 1954

Nile River, Egypt

Aswan High Dam *

Abu Simbel, Egypt

Abu Simbel Relocation Saved it from being flooded by Lake Nasser

Site: religious monument and reminder that empires fall

Abu Simbel Reconstructed

Abu Simbel was saved

• $80 million cost

– Half of the money donated by 50 countries

– Recognition that this site is a part of our world

heritage – a place worth saving

• Relict of a past major civilization, artistic value,

reminder of transience of empires

• This led to other global efforts to save

important cultural sites from

destruction during the 1960s


Flooding threat

4600 year old Mohenjo Daro Ruins

Indus Valley, Pakistan

UNESCO • “United Nations Educational, Scientific,

and Cultural Organization”

• 1972 an important agreement was


– Convention Concerning the Protection of

World Cultural and Natural Heritage

– Help protect “World Heritage Sites”

• “Cultural Heritage Sites”

• “Natural Heritage Sites”

Advisory Bodies They Decide what Sites are Included


– International Union for the Conservation of Nature

• Switzerland


– International Council on Monuments and Sites

• France


– The International Centre for the Study of the

Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property

• Italy

World Heritage 10 Selection Criteria (

• “To represent a masterpiece of human creative


• “To exhibit an important interchange of human

values: architecture, technology, monumental arts,

town-planning, or landscape design”

• “To bear a unique or exceptional testimony to a

cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living

or which has disappeared”

World Heritage Selection Criteria

• “To be an outstanding example of a type of building,

architectural or technological ensemble or

landscape which illustrates significant stages of

human history”

• “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”

• “To be directly associated with events or living

traditions, with ideas, or beliefs, with artistic and

literary works of outstanding universal significance

Natural Heritage Selection Criteria

• “To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of

exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance”

• “To be outstanding examples representing major stages of

Earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going

geological processes”

• “To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going

ecological and biological processes in the evolution and

development of species and ecosystems”

• “To contain the most important and significant natural habitats

for in-situ conservation of biological diversity (including

endangered and threatened species”

What is missing?

What do these criteria seem

to exclude?

“Cultural Memory”

• What a culture remembers and why it is

important – their “Cultural Narrative” – “Collective memory”

– Learning lessons of history

– Books, objects, museums, public history and oral

traditions such as stories

– Moral narratives of how to live

– For geographers, places are the source of cultural


• Dangers of ultra-nationalism, racism, propaganda

• Monumentalism – big buildings conveying power

1910 Monument to King Vittorio

Fascist Architecture in Rome

Nazi Monumentalism

Essential Purpose Help protect “important” places on Earth

• 779 Cultural Heritage Sites

• 197 Natural Heritage Sites

• 31 Mixed Sites

World Heritage Sites 1007 sites in 161 countries

• Africa: 133 total sites (12% of world total) – 88 are cultural sites (67% of Africa total)

• Middle East: 77 (Includes North Africa)

– 71 Cultural Sites

• Asia Pacific: 186

– 161 Cultural Sites

• Europe and North America: 480

– 408 Cultural Sites (52% of world total)

• Latin America and Caribbean: 122

– 91 Cultural Sites

Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan



Bamiyan Valley Buddhist site on the verge of elimination

• Threats

– Taliban and al Qaeda blowing them up because of

religious bigotry and Muslim prohibition on making

human figures as religious icons

• Importance of the site

– Religion and religious art

– Freedom of expression

– Reminds us of the need for tolerance

Palmyra, Syria Intense threats

• Used since the Neolithic (10,000 years ago)

• Assyrian Kings – caravan stop

• Roman ruins in Roman province of Syria

• Silk Road trade center

• Muslim Caliphates

ISIL conquers Palmyra


• Threats

– ISIL destroying sites and images of people

and faces

• Importance of the site

– Diversity of cultures have used this place

• Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Muslims

• Stone Age, Rome, Arab Muslim Empires

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat Buddhist/Hindu Temple Complex

Angkor Wat Buddhist/Hindu Temple Now Protected

• Threats

– Overuse by tourists

– Age: the need for constant restoration

• Importance of the site

– Religious monument for both Buddhists and


– Reminds us of the common quest for God

Galapagos Islands

Biological Rarities

Marine Iguanas

Frigate Bird

Blue-footed Booby

Galapagos Penguin On the Equator

Galapagos Giant Tortoises Can live 200 years


Tortoise Speilberg’s idea for ET

Finches and Evolution Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle

Galapagos Islands National Park under stress

• Threats

– Population growth on the islands

– Climate change

– Overuse by tourists

– Overfishing

• Importance of the site

– Biodiversity

– Place that inspired the Theory of Evolution

– Charles Darwin Research Center

The World Heritage Program

and Africa

• Africa presents unique challenges for

the program – “Which sites are worth

protecting? How and why? What do

these sites represent and teach us?”

– High cultural and biological diversity

– Legacy of colonialism • Poverty

• War and conflict

• Resource destruction

• Disease

• Corruption

• Continuing influence of foreign powers

Percent of People

Living on less than $2 per day

Poverty is falling rapidly worldwide,

but not in poor regions like Africa

Life Expectancy

Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania Early Hominid fossils

Afar Region, Ethiopia Another of our homelands

“Ardi” Skeleton discovery in Ethiopia: 2009

4.4 million years old

“Lucy” – 3.2 million years ago

Afar Region of Ethiopia

• Our species began there and spread

– DNA evidence shows we are all “cousins”

• All “races” are recent – literally skin

deep – at most 60,000 years old?

• All cultural differences are very new – Religions – many in the past 4,000 years

– Modern languages – most in past 300 years

We are all Africans






Only 55




Religion in Africa

Many African Americans have

their roots in West Africa

Slave Trade


• Mostly West Africa

• Slaves

– Many “nations”

– Muslims

– Tribal religions

– Christians

Slave Trade

African Slavery


African Renaissance Monument


The story of


Alex Haley’s “Roots”

• Oral history handed down in his family

– “The African” – “Kunta Kinte”

– Came from the “Gambebelongo River”

– Called a guitar a “Ko”

– Taken to a place called “naplis”

Alex Haley researched and found the story

of his roots from slavery to the 20th century

Alex Haley with the “Griot”

in Jufureh, Gambia

BERLIN CONFERENCE OF 1884 “The Scramble for Africa”

13 European countries divided up Africa for its

wealth without any consideration of cultures

• Superimposed political boundaries created

-- African peoples/nations were divided

-- Unified regions were ripped apart

-- Hostile societies were thrown together

-- Hinterlands were disrupted

-- Migration routes were closed off

• When former colonies became independent in Africa after

1950, the continent had already acquired a legacy of

political fragmentation, conflict, and corruption


• Great Britain: “Brown Colonialism”

– Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe

– Gave power to favored “nations” who were made

representatives of the crown

• France: “Assimilationist”

– French West Africa: Senegal, Mali

– Imposed French culture through language, laws,

education and dress (acculturation)

Ota Benga Pygmy of the Batwa Nation

1902 at age 21

Ota Benga

• Lived in the “Belgian Congo” - a colony of Belgium

• His wife and children were murdered during a

Belgian government program to take the land and

wipe out “evolutionarily inferior natives”

• Ota Benga became a slave

• Samuel Verner, a missionary and explorer, bought

him and other Pygmies to put on display at the St.

Louis World’s Fair in 1904

Ota Benga

• After the Fair, he returned to Africa and remarried, but his second wife died of snakebite

• Ota was scorned by his own people for the time he spent working for the Whites

• Verner brought him back to the United States for a “visit” but lacked the money to support him, so…

Ota Benga Exhibited in the “Monkey House”

at the Bronx Zoo in 1906

Results of Colonialism  “Incomplete Colonialism?”

 Colonial powers left before creating societies

 Crushing poverty and disease

 Poorest region of the world – massive debt

 Antagonism between tribes/nations

 Nation vs. State wars

 Single commodity economies

 Conflict/blood diamonds, gold, illegal ivory, tourism

Superimposed Boundaries “States” created without local input

 2,000 nations cut up into 55 states


 African cultures/nations ripped apart

 Enemy nations placed inside same country

 Cultures and family structures suffer

 When Independence finally comes, societies are

in chaos

Nigerian Oil Pirates

Boko Haram

• Islamist Terrorist Group in Nigeria – Kidnapped hundreds of girls

– Rapes and beheadings

– Lately, murdering school kids because they might

grow to oppose them

– Murder Christians who do not convert to Islam

Kidnapped Nigerian Girls

South Sudan created

• New country, 2010

• 11 million people

• Christian and Animist

• 4% pop. growth

• Highest infant mortality rate

• 27% literacy

• $1,400 per capita GDP



Cartogram – HIV Infection

Cartogram Malaria Cases

Many outbreaks

since 1970s









300 miles

South Africa Independent in 1961

• Apartheid System – Racism was still the official law

– Black Africans, South Asians had few


– Complete segregation of races

Apartheid System Institutionalized Racism

Nelson Mandela Worked for civil rights in South Africa

• “African National

“Congress” (ANC)

Mandela spent 27 years in jail

Victor Verster Prison 1988-1990


Mandela’s prison cell

“White Only” Residential Areas Grew

Black South Africans had seen enough

Mandela freed 1990

Mandela elected President of South Africa

Apartheid System made illegal, 1994

Nelson Mandela

Won Nobel Peace Prize



Poverty remains high

World Heritage Sites 1007 sites in 161 countries

• Africa: 133 total sites (12% of world total)

– 88 are Cultural Sites (67% of African sites)

• Middle East: 77 (Includes North Africa)

– 71 Cultural Sites

• Asia Pacific: 186

– 161 Cultural Sites

• Europe and North America: 480

– 408 Cultural Sites (52% of world total)

• Latin America and Caribbean: 122

– 91 Cultural Sites

African World Heritage Sites

• What do you think these numbers


– Given Africa’s role as the hearth of

humanity, its extraordinary cultural

diversity, and its turbulent history of being

exploited by Europeans, Americans,

Chinese, and others – can this story be

explained in 88 “cultural sites”?

• Europe and North America have 408

And - are the right African sites being recognized?

What does this geographic

pattern suggest?

African World Heritage Sites


Types of African World

Heritage Cultural Sites • Human Origins – 4

• Rock-Art and Pre-History – 8

• Ancient Civilizations of the Nile – 6

• Frontiers of the Roman Empire – 10

• Egypt After the Pharaohs – 3

• Ancient Ethiopia – 4

• Fortified Cities of the Maghreb – 10

• Trans-Sahara Trading Routes – 6

• Ancient African Civilizations – 8

• Living Traditional Cultural Landscapes – 10

• European Colonial Influences – 12

• East Africa’s Swahili Coast – 3

• Madagascar and Mauritius – 3

What do you notice

about this list?

• What kinds of sites are stressed?

• What kinds of sites are minimized or


• Is there bias in how sites are officially

recognized as part of “world heritage?”

Exploring African

Cultural World Heritage Sites

• The cradle of humankind

• Greatest cultural diversity in the world

– Yet only 11% of world cultural sites in Africa

• Immense biological diversity



• 10 Sites scattered along Africa’s coast

• All are symbols of European

colonialism, military conquest, slavery,

and repression

Island of Gorée

• Senegal

– Largest slave-trading center on the African

coast from 15th-19th centuries

– Ruled in succession by Portuguese,

Dutch, English, and French

– Grim slave quarters in contrast with

elegant houses of slave traders

– Reminder of human racism, violence

– Now, perhaps a place of reconciliation

Slave Trader




Last sight of Africa

for Slaves heading to the Americas

Medina of Essaquirra, Morocco

• Fortified French seaport

– Medina is the market area

• Symbol of French colonial control of

West Africa

Fort Jesus, Kenya

• Portuguese fort, 16th century

• Symbol of slave trade and other


• Conquered by Arabs in 1698

Grand-Bassam, Cote D-Ivoire

• French colonial capital of the Ivory


• Symbol of French military and

economic power

Robben Island, South Africa

• Prison where Nelson Mandela was held

for 20 years

• Symbol of Afrikaner racism and the

Apartheid system

• Island has been used as a prison since

1657, when the Dutch built a jail



• 10 sites all located in only 6 countries

out of 55 countries in Africa (why?)

– Senegal (2) French colony

– Mali (2) French Colony

– Nigeria (2) English colony

– Zimbabwe – English colony

– South Africa (2) English and Dutch colony

– Togo – German colony

What is a

“Living Cultural Landscape?”

• Don’t all lived-in places qualify?

• Are we romanticizing people?

• Making them “exotic”?

• Defining them as “the other”?

• “Nobel Savage Myth” was used as part

of racist narrative about non-Europeans

Dogon Cliff Landscapes

• Dogon nation on the Bandiagara Cliff

– Occupied cliff dwelling villages

– Rock art

• Cultural adaptation to arid environment

and raiding from neighbors

– Reminds many of Southwest U.S. cliff

dwelling sits of the Anasazi, Mimbres, etc.

Koutammakou Villages, Togo

• “Classic mud-built tower houses.”

• “A unique adaptation to the local

environment, visually striking, a

manifestation of these people’s close

association with nature.”

– How does this language sound to you?

Bassari Country, Senegal

• Cultural landscapes of three nations

• “Reflects the way three culturally-

distinct groups of people adapt to the

natural environment.”

– Defensible villages on hilltops

– Ancient villages now used most for


Sukur Cultural Landscape,


• “A beautiful settlement of 2,000 people,

under the same form of land

management for at least 400 years”

– Sacred trees, ritual sites, iron smelting,

livestock grazing, stone walls

Djenne, Mali

• “Remarkable towns built of mud,

includes the Grand Mosque, the largest

mud-built structure in the world.”

– A Muslim cultural landscape in northern Africa

Africa in a Broader Perspective

 What types of World Heritage Sites might

be created to more fully represent this

diverse continent?

How about the United States?

 What places should be designated World

Heritage Sites from a cultural perspective?

 Think about what it means for a site to be

officially recognized.

 What sites are being left out and why?

United States World Heritage

Cultural Sites (9) • Cahokia Mounds, Illinois

• Chaco Canyon, NM

• Independence Hall, PA

• San Juan National Historic Site, PR

• Mesa Verde National Park, CO

• Monticello, VA

• Monumental Earthworks, LA

• Statue of Liberty, NY

• Taos Pueblo, NM

U.S. Cultural Sites

on “Tentative List”

• Eight Cultural Sites including:

– Civil Rights Movement Sites

– Thomas Jefferson, slave buildings

– Mount Vernon (including slave buildings)

What is missing?

Learning Objectives

 World Heritage Sites (UNESCO Program)

 Cultural Memory and Cultural Narratives

 Africa

 Ota Benga

 Nelson Mandela

 133 World Heritage Sites (12% of world total)

 What kinds of sites are most common?

 What kinds of sites are less represented?

 What is a “Living Cultural Landscape?”