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Challenges to Identifying and Managing Intangible Cultural Heritage in Mauritius, Zanzibar and Seychelles

Rosabelle Boswell

Publication Year: 2008

Africa is richly blessed with cultural and natural heritage, key resources for nation building and development. Unfortunately, heritage is not being systematically researched or recognised, denying Africans the chance to learn about and benefit from heritage initiatives. This book offers a preliminary discussion of factors challenging the management of intangible cultural heritage in the African communities of Zanzibar, Mauritius and Seychelles. These islands are part of an overlapping cultural and economic zone influenced by a long history of slavery and colonial rule, a situation that has produced inequalities and underdevelopment. In all of them, heritage management is seriously underfinanced and under-resourced. African descendant heritage is given little attention and this continues to erode identity and sense of belonging to the nation. In Zanzibar tensions between majority and minority political parties affect heritage initiatives on the island. In Mauritius, the need to diversify the economy and tourism sector is encouraging the commercialisation of heritage and the homogenisation of Creole identity. In Seychelles, the legacy of socialist rule affects the conceptualisation and management of heritage, discouraging managers from exploring the island's widerange of intangible heritages. The author concludes that more funding and attention needs to be given to heritage management in Africa and its diaspora. Rosabelle Boswell is a senior lecturer in the Anthropology Department at Rhodes University, South Africa and a specialist of the southwest Indian Ocean islands. Her research interests include ethnicity, heritage, gender and development. Boswell's PhD was on poverty and identity among Creoles in Mauritius and her most recent work is onthe role of scent and fragrances in the heritage of the Swahili islands of the Indian Ocean region.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. 7


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pp. 8

List of Abbreviations

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pp. 9-10

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1. Introduction

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pp. 11-16

Heritage according to UNESCO ‘is our legacy from the past.’ It is also defined as irreplaceable ‘points of reference’ and, ‘our identity’. While this statement is certainly true for certain peoples of Africa, it is not necessarily an accurate definition of heritage...

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2. Managing Heritage in Africa

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pp. 17-23

On 16 November 1972, member states of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adopted a convention to protect the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Since then, UNESCO reports on heritage refer to the groundbreaking...

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3. The Indian Ocean Region

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pp. 24-33

In his discussion of the Indian Ocean world, the historian Edward Alpers notes that this world encountered various traders and seafarers long before the arrival of Europeans. In fact, long before the rise of Islam, traders from the Harappa Civilisation...

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4. Theorical Orientations

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pp. 34-40

Reflecting on both tangible and intangible heritage, Bouchenaki (2003: 1) states that ‘an anthropological approach to heritage leads us to consider it as a social ensemble of many different, complex and interdependent manifestations’. This complexity is evident in the Indian...

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5. Image and Commerce: Mauritius

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pp. 41-54

In a paper on the role of the heritage industry in post-apartheid construction Ian Fairweather (2000) says that ‘without culture there is no future’. In the new millennium one observes varying forms of culture and identity, where some groups emphasise...

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6. Violence and Compromise: Zanzibar

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pp. 55-70

In 2000, UNESCO nominated Stone Town (Unguja’s main port city) a World Heritage site. Three years later, at the UNESCO General Conference in Paris (in October 2003), the 120 members voted unanimously for a new international convention aimed at the protection...

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7. Socialism and Change: Seychelles

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pp. 71-80

The following chapter offers a discussion of anthropological data collected in Seychelles in June 2005. The chapter is divided into three parts. The first introduces Seychelles and the social factors influencing cultural interaction. The second part deals explicitly...

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8. Conclusions

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pp. 81-83

Doing research in Mauritius, Zanzibar and Seychelles and participating in the 29th Session of the World Heritage Committee Meeting (July 2005) has encouraged me to question the values underlying the ‘Western’ heritage management ethos and the ‘openness’ of the West...


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pp. 84-86


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pp. 87-93

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9782869783898
Print-ISBN-13: 9782869782150

Page Count: 96
Publication Year: 2008