Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

African World Heritage Sites

Representatives of Cameroon, Eritrea, Guinea, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania met in Eritrea Sunday to propose possible sites in Africa to join a new "modern heritage" category of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites that will focus on the 19th and 20th centuries. "Colonial heritage is a major part of Africa's modern built landscape but it goes much further," said Ron Van Oers, UNESCO's program coordinator for modern heritage. "Not all the African modern heritage was colonial-made," he said, adding that it was worth looking at "how Africa reacted to and resisted the colonialism." Places such as Asmara, Eritrea's capital and the meeting's venue, and Inhambane, Mozambique, are vestiges of European presence during the colonial era and are top candidates for modern heritage sites. The townships of South Africa are also being considered because they are an important legacy of apartheid. There are 754 World Heritage Sites worldwide, but with only 60 of them in Africa, the continent is "underrepresented," Van Oers said.