Talking about Sustainable Heritage

20141031_121027On October 31st, ACHA hosted a round table event focused  sustainable heritage resource management. A number of heritage industry practitioners joined the event and actively participated in the discussions that took place during the morning. The purpose of the event was share ACHA’s experience during the recent Lake Fundudzi project. Lake Funduzi has recently been declared a National Heritage Site for the country by SAHRA and it is important that such a declaration is supported by an effective management plan. The purpose of this event was to explore the potential implications for sustainable heritage resource management based on the project findings and the experience of the project team during the process and to make recommendations for the site management going forward.

The round table event began with a presentation from Jonathan Sharfman, the Director of ACHA and Robert Parthesius, the Director of CIE. Their comments encouraged participants to share their personal experiences in the field with one another during the session! They were followed by a panel of presentations from the project team. Heather Wares discussed the important of creating a historical context for such work by reviewing relevant background documentation. Lusanda Ngacaweni shared her experience of conducting the field work in the Lake Fundudzi catchment area, highlighting significant practical and theoretical considerations for meaningful field work of this nature. The third presentation was by Ian Durbach, He presented his perspective on the significance of including quantitative data into work of this nature and how to go about the process in a meaningful manner. The panel concluded with a presentation by Jonathan Sharfman outlining recommendations and potential strategies that would support sustainable heritage resource management based on his professional experience in the field and work through ACHA.

Following the panel of presentations, the group engaged in creative conversations around each of the four areas that featured. They looked at historical context, field work, data and strategy. The purposed of their conversations were to make specific recommendations that would support future work in these areas going forward. It was an exciting, information rich and at times emotionally charged conversation!

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“Shooting at the Moon?”

Out very first ACHA publication is being released tomorrow during our round table event in Cape Town, The focus is on shaping the heritage agenda in the country by engaging in what sustainable heritage resource management can be. The ACHA team involved in the Lake Fundudzi project funded by the National Heritage Council will be sharing their experiences from this project with the participants. We look forward to having rich and meaningful discussions with fellow practitioners 🙂

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Welcome back!

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The ACHA team involved in the Lake Fundudzi Management Plan project welcomed back a triumphant (if not travel weary) Lusanda from her 3 week expedition through all the villages in the Lake Fundudzi catchment area. We met for most of the day on Saturday to look at pictures and hear her stories about being in the field, the people she met, the situations encountered and exploring emerging themes around this very important and sensitive landmark in South Africa. It was a very successful field work trip! Lusanda will be working on her field work report for the next week or so and Ian Durbach will be analysing the data collected through the data collection tool that the team created for the purpose of this project. It is going to interesting to see what information emerges from the data analysis process and the field work reflection report!

Careful what you (don’t) wish for

On the other side of this hill lies Lake Fundudzi

On the other side of this hill in Tshivha lies Lake Fundudzi

Fully aware that I was going into an area that is steeped in tradition, the singular thing I was most nervous about (and extremely uncomfortable with) going into this project was the protocol involved when greeting traditional leaders. I have seen on television how women prostrate themselves in front of the chieftaincy in greeting. All hopes that this practice was only expected of local women was dashed by a colleague, who told me that she had to lie on the floor a couple of times when greeting traditional leaders during a past visit to the area.

After much prayer and supplication I was at peace with it. I actually started to imagine myself lying on the floor, on my side, in a semi-foetal position, with my hands  together. By the time I left for Limpopo it was no longer an issue. I had mentally prepared myself to ‘do as the Vendas do’.

As it happened, the first appointment on the morning after my arrival was with Chief Netshiavha (of Tshiavha village) and his advisers. Of all the villages surrounding Lake Fundudzi, the Tshiava royal family is the only one that practices rituals in the lake.

Me, Ramudingane, Queen (Nemakonde's colleague), 5th from the left is Chief Netshiavha,

Lusanda, Ramudingane, Queen (Nemakonde’s colleague), Chief Netshiavha (5th from the left), Nemakonde (3rd from the right), the chief’s entourage, and Dog

Prior to my arrival, my chaperone-cum-translator-cum-research assistant, Edward Ramudingange had informed the local economic development manager, Nemakonde about the project. Nemakonde set up meetings for us with the relevant chiefs so that we could inform them about the project and request permission to conduct interviews in their villages. His laying of the groundwork was really appreciated as it played a big role in speeding up the consultation process. To quote Nemakonde, “When you do things smart the result will be smart.” Smart move too on Ramudingane’s part to contact him in the first place.

Me and Edward Ramudingane

Lusanda and Ramudingane

So ready was I for the prostration that I wore my darkest sarong. (I’ve learnt from past projects where I’ve spent weeks doing field work in rural villages that the easiest things to pack/wear/wash are sarongs and tops. In the sarongs I have a sensible skirt, scarf, shawl, head wrap and shade – all in one.)

When we entered the chief’s kraal we were shown into an empty rondaval and offered chairs. This was unexpected as I’ve seen on television women sit on the floor while only the men took chairs. As I was about to sit on a chair Nemakonde stopped me and directed me to another chair. Only then did I notice that the chair I was about to sit on was the only one in the room that had a leopard print cloth over it. I nearly sat on the chief’s chair!

Some minutes later four men entered the room.  Everybody who was already inside sprung off their chairs and got on their haunches, hands together, and started murmuring something I could not decipher. I did the same, except the sounds coming out of my mouth were more humming (with lips moving) than murmuring. During the haunched murmuring, which seemed to last forever, I remember thinking, “Thank God I started exercising again last week after many many months or there is no way I would be able to stay on my haunches for this long!”)

We had a very productive meeting, where it was agreed that later in the week we would consult with the Lake Fundudzi steering committee, which is made up of representatives from some of the villages surrounding the lake.

The following day we were scheduled to meet another chief, so I wore another dark sarong in preparation for the prostration. Unbeknownst to me, he was the paramount chief, Chief Kennedy Tshivhase! I needn’t have bothered with the dark sarong because again there was neither prostration nor sitting on the floor for me. I was wiser this time though; when the chief walked in I was on my haunches, hands together and humming at the same time as everybody else in the room. Except they were praise singing (I still couldn’t make out what they were saying), not humming.

Nemakonde, Queen, me, Paramount Chief Tshivhase, Ramudingane

Nemakonde, Queen, Lusanda, Paramount Chief Kennedy Tshivhase, Ramudingane

That consultation meeting also went very well. Chief Tshivhase welcomed me and said he would inform the traditional council, which was sitting the following day, about the research project and my presence in the area.

After the final consultation, which was with the steering committee, I was more than ready to begin the interviews. And to finally see Lake Fundudzi, which I had only heard about and seen in pictures. The closest I’ve gotten to it is a view of a hill from Tshiavha village, behind which lies the lake.

Me, Chief Netshiavha, members of the Lake Fundudzi steering committee, ward councillors, Ramudingane

Lusanda, Chief Netshiavha, members of the Lake Fundudzi steering committee, ward councillors and Edward Ramudingane

It was only at the end of the consultation period that it dawned on me that I was disappointed that I was not required to observe the traditional greeting of the chieftaincy. I had not realised I had been looking forward to it until I was denied the opportunity. A classic case of, ‘careful what you wish for’. But in my case it was more like, ‘careful what you don’t wish for!’.

Lake Fundudzi Field Work begins!

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From left to right: Bantu Halam, Heather Wares, Ian Durbach and Lusanda Ngcaweni

The Lake Fundudzi project team came together at the end of last week to engage in the final preparations for the long awaited field work. Our focus for the past month has been preparing a questionnaire for data collection in the field. An initial draft of the questionnaire was designed by the team before being sent out for assessment and refinement by a group of external reviewers from diverse professional backgrounds. The feedback we received was extremely constructive! The outcome is a sensitive, detailed questionnaire that has the potential to meaningfully bridge the divide between the qualitative and quantitative needs of this project.

Based on the literature survey conducted and written up by Heather Wares, extensive work has already taken place around the establishment of a National Heritage Site at Lake Fundudzi through SAHRA and other institutions. These processes have not resulted in community buy-in or support. The outcome is a stalled process. It is our intention that this current research project sheds light on where there are opportunities for consensus between the vested stakeholders. It is our belief that where there is consensus between stakeholders, there is also an opportunity for action. The challenge for initiative that want or need community support and engagement is finding common ground that meets diverse needs. This is what we are looking for!

Lusanda Ngcaweni will be conducting the field work with the support of a local field work assistant from the Lake Fundudzi region.She flew out last Saturday and will begin posting blogs from the field this week. We are all eager to see what she discovers, encounters and shares with us during the process!