Hiistoriya organised its inaugural webinar on 25 June 2020 on “Preserving African Heritage Heritage in a Social World“.
The aim of the webinar was providing a window for individuals, communities, institutions, agencies, and governments working in heritage preservation on the Eastern Coast of Africa to explore and discuss how culture and heritage is being preserved digitally in a time where experiencing culture and heritage has moved beyond being physically present in space and time. You can download the PDF program here or watch the recorded webinar here.
We took stock of lessons learnt from various projects to inspire a change in the way we create, consume and distribute traditional knowledge and also further catalyse efforts to preserve Swahili Heritage in the digital age.
Objectives of the webinar were to:
- Provide a platform for dialogue between research institutions, governments and conservation agencies on innovative strategies that improve access to African culture and heritage during the digital age
- Promote the delivery of the principles of universal access and inclusive knowledge that benefits local communities
- Improve public participation in heritage preservation on the East African Coast
- Inspire practitioners and agencies working on the East African Coast to integrate best technology practices into heritage preservation
We curated distinguished speakers who are working on projects and initiatives that innovatively apply digital technology and media for heritage preservation in Africa. See speaker list here.
Speakers included a presentation by renowned photographer and digital strategist, Tawanda Kanhema of the Unmapped Planet on virtual tours of heritage sites and on 3D-modelling of architectural monuments and the documentation of cultural heritage sites by Professor (em) Heinz Ruther, Principal Investigator of the Zamani Project, South Africa. Community participation in digital archiving and visualization of cultural artefacts and sites will be discussed by Chao Tayiana, the Founder of African Digital Heritage. The webinar also included a presentation on the promotion of the Swahili language in a digital classroom by Doreen Bateyunga of Ubongo Learning, Tanzania, and on the art of storytelling by Mwihaki Muraguri of Paukwa Stories in Kenya.
The webinar opened with presentations of preservation programs and experiences of existing digitisation projects in Africa. The second half focused on contextualising the lessons learnt on “Improving Access to Swahili Heritage in the Digital Age”. It included a session with an open dialogue with the select contributors to discuss the opportunities for the integration of digital technologies in Swahili heritage preservation.
The baraza session of the webinar provided a platform for governmental agencies, researchers, scholars, community members, and tourism stakeholders working on the East African Coast to take stock of African case studies and experiences and foster political and community dialogue on the opportunities for integration of digital technologies in Coastal heritage preservation. You can download the full PDF program here.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made undeniably clear what many people have been advocating for decades: the availability of effective and widely accessible digital initiatives is not a luxury, but an urgent and pressing issue. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have witnessed institutions and organisations scrambling to catch up.
Equitable access to digital spaces in Africa and the world continues to be a challenge. Even so, the rise in mobile technology and cheap internet access has resulted in an increasing number of people interacting with and contributing to digital content. African countries are now experiencing significant changes in how the government, institutions, and communities engage with sharing and consuming knowledge in digital spaces.
In the arena of formal heritage preservation, there is ample room for agencies and institutions to incorporate creative technological innovations that have enriched documentation, preservation, and access to heritage. In Preserving Heritage in a Social Distancing World, we focus on an area of the world that has successfully protected and preserved local heritage, but which has been slow to adapt digital tools. Along the East African coast, the widely celebrated Swahili Heritage is one of the best preserved through archiving, research, and the protection of important sites and artefacts. Digital efforts have primarily been limited to the digitisation of written and photographic works. Furthermore, these digitisation efforts have been slow to reach Swahili communities on the ground. There has been a limited amount of community engagement in accessing and producing digital heritage efforts.
Nonetheless, there are an abundance of projects and initiatives experimenting and exploring with the application of digital technology and media with heritage preservation in Africa. The aim of this webinar is to provide a platform for such projects to be highlighted so that working the audience can take stock of lessons learnt from these projects and inspire collaborations to change the way we create, consume and distribute traditional knowledge and heritage.