Elizabeth Duve Dziva
Cultural Heritage allows us to have a feel of the past through its tangible and intangible aspects. As a matter of fact, this generation is undoubtedly benefiting from cultural heritage hence the necessity to actively participate in the veneration and perpetuation of cultural heritage.
The very first stage of involvement is the ability to identify and define what defines us, thus our tangible and intangible heritage. As the word tangible suggests, these are physical things that we can touch and they entail artifacts produced, maintained and transmitted over generations. Such include bows, arrows, drums like the famous and controversial Ngomalungundu (subject for another day).
Tangible heritage includes artistic creations, built heritage such as buildings and monuments, and other physical or tangible products of human creativity that have cultural significance. There are approximately 200 recorded monuments in the country which the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) has worked tirelessly to preserve and conserve. Among them are Khami Ruins, located 15 miles from the Bulawayo, Bumbusi National Monument in Hwange National Park, Ziwa National Monument in Nyanga National Park, Great Zimbabwe and the neighbouring Mujejeje Ruins in Masvingo, the National Heroes Acre in Harare, Matobo Rock Art, Naletale National Monument, Dhlodhlo Ruins, Tsindi Ruins, Chamavara Rock Paintings and Insunkamini Ruins in Gweru.
It is important to note at this juncture that tangible aspects of heritage encompass natural features which are worthy conserving and preserving for generations that will come after us, The National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority of Zimbabwe (Zimparks) has a statutory mandate to preserve that form of heritage. In Zimbabwe natural heritage includes Mosi oa Tunya, Popoteke Gorge in Masvingo, Inyangani and Chimaninani mountains, Chinhoyi Caves, the many national parks as well as the flora and fauna therein.
According to United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organisation (Unesco), intangible cultural heritage is a practice, representation, expression, knowledge, or skill, as well as beliefs essential to a particular group of people and worth passing inter-generationally. Intangible heritage entails oral tradition which includes language, songs, folktales, performing arts like music, dance, rituals, festive events, rites of passage, knowledge and practices concerning nature and universe. Intangible heritage also includes traditional medicine, traditional architecture, traditional craftsmanship, knowledge and skills of pottery-making, carpentry, blacksmithing, jewelery-making and musical instrument-making.
Controversial as it is, both cultural and natural tangible heritage have custodians, but the million dollar question is who guards intangible heritage? In the midst of religious chaos and the dilemmas faced by the supposed custodians of intangible heritage who are torn between following present day wealth-promising religious doctrines and cultural values, intangible heritage faces possible extinction.
The sun is almost setting on most of the elders who are well-acquainted with the information on how to safeguard the endangered heritage aspect in question. The upcoming generation should consider utilizing the elders. One wise man once said the richest place in the world is the graveyard, for there lies the intelligent, wise men, once famous and rich men, men and women who died and were buried with important knowledge and skills. The possibility is that in decades to come, our intangible cultural heritage will be regarded as faded glory, a once lively culture, extinct and beyond resuscitation. All the same, there are various remedies and strategies which can be employed to conserve and preserve intangible heritage.
Till we meet again next week
The writer is an Archeological and Cultural Heritage practitioner. The views expressed in this article are entirely those of the writer in her private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of any organisation