African Cultural Heritage Conservation and Management

pp 113-133


Interpretation: Dealing with Multiple Identities

  • Susan Osireditse KeitumetseAffiliated withOkavango Research Institute, University of Botswana

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The need for sustainable interpretation of cultural and heritage resources is heightening due to the resources’ growing use in socio-political as well as socio-economic forums. Contestations for the resources are bound to surface in situations where multiple identities belonging to multiple stakeholders from multiple historical frameworks exist. Balanced interpretation therefore becomes important. Interpretation can be approached from both a scholarly perspective and a management perspective – the former when knowledge production is a target and the latter when knowledge packaging is the main focus. Preceding chapters of this book have illustrated some conservation and management dichotomies that already exhibit multiple identities. These include amongst others the nature-nurture divide in Chap. 1, tangible-intangible dichotomy in Chaps. 1 and 2, African-European in this chapter and governor-governed in Chap. 3. To illuminate on approaches to interpretation, this chapter uses a site imbued with multiple cultural meanings and values and brings out potential issues to discuss and critique in search of sustainable interpretation. The ‘Livingstone Memorial’ site in Botswana is a landscape constituting of local (native) and foreign (missionary) components of heritage, therefore conflated with multiple cultural meanings. The case study characteristics invoke questions such as: Whose heritage? Selected by whom? The name of the site denotes a singular identity brand, but the chapter analysis will show that other identities exist and even go beyond historical stativity of missionary brand as they extend to current descendants of natives that shared the site with the missionary. In Africa, sites denoting David Livingstone ’s heritage are found in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, RSA, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


Multiple identities Historical dichotomies Sustainable interpretation Cultural equity ICOMOS Charter Public heritage David Livingstone sites Southern Africa