Guest Post: Niki Black on the African Heritage Challenges Conference

Today’s post is by Niki Black, ICCHS PhD researcher. Niki’s research focuses on investigating the impact which small-scale, rural festivals may have upon the social sustainability of their host communities. More info about Niki’s research can be found here. More info about the conference can be found here.

The African Heritage Challenges Conference, Cambridge

Just back from attending the African Heritage Challenges Conference (15 – 17 May) held at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Cambridge University. The focus of the conference was on sustainability and development in African heritage with particularly attention being drawn by speakers to the potential contradiction of pairing heritage and development. This linked to another recurring discussion point of the conference, the contestable nature of the definition of heritage. This was interesting in considering if there are differences between the perception of heritage in African countries and between these countries and the West (in other words, the authorised discourse).

In the discussion which followed it was considered that, although on the surface there may appear to be very different issues at stake, many of the underlying considerations regarding heritage are similar (ownership, power, belonging for eg). Although some disagreement occurred between delegates regarding forms of heritage discourse, the majority of speakers appeared to confer on the selection of heritage and its subsequent management as needing to be led by the custodians of the heritage. As to considerations of whether heritage could contribute to sustainability, as long as heritage is seen as a concept of something ‘living’and adaptable, then it can be a positive contributor to sustainable development.

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