A new project begins this month!

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 A new project begins this month!

ACHA has started to focus on a new project for the National Heritage Council! It a research project focused on developing a heritage site management plan proposal for Lake Fundudzi in Limpopo. This is part of the team that will be tackling our exciting new journey – Ian Durbach, Heather Wares and Bantu Halam. Ian and Bantu are statistical experts that have joined the team to design a meaningful and responsive quantitative survey of the area. Heather is a historian specialising in Maritime Underwater Cultural Heritage (MUCH) – she has joined the team to provide a historical context and overview of the area.

More about “Whispers of the Sea”!

Written by Janet Ranson,  Artist behind the “Whispers of the Sea” exhibition

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We set up the Whispers of the Sea exhibition on the top floor of the Pan African Market in Long Street, Cape Town on 4th June. Tahirih and Andisiwe, Claire and Sam Murgatroyd helped with the installation.

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Participants at the NAS training – they contributed bottles of things they felt were “heritage significant” to the Exhibition as well!

We decided to place our ring of ‘treasure jars’ in the centre of the landing, to create drama as you came up the stairs. 16 jars were suspended from hooks in the ceiling, appearing to float at head height. The contents included pot-shards and beads collected on the beach near Lambasi village (donated by the collectors), a copy of a gold bell recently found, mussel shells, photographs from the research and images of precious heritage as documented in the NAS training. Each jar was internally lit by LEDs.

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Andisiwe and Janet!

Speakers were placed on either side of the ring of jars, playing a selection of clips from the research interviews, edited by musician Eric Michot. These clips were edited in the original isiXhosa with English translation, fading into sea sounds, creating the effect of a multiplicity of voices, telling stories and commenting on Eastern Cape maritime heritage.

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We also displayed a worn spade and hoe with worn-away blade, which had been used by some of the interviewees for digging on the beach for many years. For an extra interactive element, a rusted chest was filled with sand and ‘salted’ with beads, shells, pot-shards and chocolate coins, with visitors invited to dig for ‘treasure’ (this was not popular and won’t be repeated at future exhibitions). Alongside the usual opening night offering of a glass of wine, Tahirih set out jars of favourite childhood sweets: stars, cachous, chappies, wicks and liquorice gob-stoppers, which were enthusiastically enjoyed by visitors.

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When visitors arrived at the exhibition, they were curious about the display and a somewhat puzzled over the jars, although they liked the effect. This was the intention: while they examined the jars they could hear the sound piece. Janet Ranson has observed that people are not used to listening, and calculated that they would need a visual distraction to help them take time to hear the stories.

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Vuyo Koyana from the Pan African Market, the person who made this event possible!

Positioning the exhibition at the Pan African Market and partnering with First Thursdays helped attract a large and varied audience. At the opening, the space was packed, despite the cold weather and 3 flights of stairs. Andisiwe was on hand to explain the research project and the significance of the objects in each jar. We found that tourists, artists and even historians were fascinated by her tales. The recorded voices proved so effective that one visitor thought the voices were coming from the jars themselves!

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Lunga, Andisiwe and Sbu – the team of people that welcomed and guided visitors through the exhibition!

People were visibly engaged and animated and emotional discussions ensued: urban Xhosa-speakers seemed delighted to see some of their culture and customs recognized in this way. Waves of visitors kept arriving, including some of the ‘who’s who’ of Cape Town’s contemporary performing arts scene, who came to see Khaya Witbooi and Jacqueline Manyaapelo’s performance (in the same space) and stayed to comment on the exhibition. It was exciting to see so many people take an interest in the research from an isolated and neglected part of South Africa.

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Khaya Witbooi’s performance art piece beginning

 

NAS Training – A Community Workshop!

IMG_2925Written by Heather Wares – Selection from project report

As part of the agreed upon project outcomes, a five day community workshop was held in the week of the 26- 30 May. This workshop was mandated to include both a discussion around the importance of protecting Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage (MUCH) sites and the teaching of basic archaeological survey skills through the Nautical Archaeological Society (NAS) courses. A team of seven people travelled to the Eastern Cape to present the workshop, including a SAHRA intern who participated in the NAS training.

The aim was to integrate the oral histories gathered over the course of the project within the structured topics of the workshop. In order to create an atmosphere of interaction and gauge the level of understanding, the participants were divided into three groups who would produce mini-projects representing a heritage site which they deemed important to the community and area. The resulting projects far exceeded the expectations of the project team and illustrated the outcome of the workshop as being one of mutual teaching and learning.

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NAS courses were originally designed for the United Kingdom and within South Africa shipwrecks have been a central focus for previous NAS training. While shipwrecks continue to hold importance, there is a realisation that many South African cultures attach intangible meaning to various bodies of water such as lakes and rivers. Thus, the NAS training was adjusted accordingly.

The design of the workshop was informed by the field work done over two ten day periods, giving the team an idea of what to focus on to serve the needs of the community and the project. Presentations were done on topics such as Introduction to Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage (MUCH), Site Types, Site Survey, The Grosvenor Case Study, Heritage and Tourism, and Heritage and Legislation. Over the week these topics were introduced, explained and discussed.

IMG_2927The overall outline of the workshop was to present the basic idea of what an archaeological site type was, why they are important to preserve and how that preservation can be done through basic archaeological survey techniques. In the design of the workshop and the integration of the NAS curriculum, the team had to keep in mind that this was the first time that most of the participants had any interaction with the archaeology. In addition, all of the presentations and discussions were translated between English and Xhosa.

Thus it was necessary for the workshop to extend over 5 days. To best satisfy the objectives of the workshop the week was structured with theoretical and practical components. The mornings were dedicated to theoretical presentations and these were put into practice in the afternoons through group project preparation. This structure allowed the participants to use what they had learnt from the theoretical components to inform and mold their projects.

The numbers of participants varied throughout the week, due to other commitments, with between 13 and 19 attendees. However, with a core group in full attendance the combination of presentations and discussions provided the participants with a new understanding of Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage. The participants could then relate the concept of MUCH to their local heritage sites and implement practical ways of protecting these sites for the benefit of the community as a whole.

 

ACHA in Paris with UNESCO

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This week ACHA members are in Paris at the invitation of UNESCO for the 5th meeting of the members of Scientific and Technical Advisory Body (STAB) of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (the Convention). According to Article 4 (paragraph a) of its Statutes, the STAB must meet at least once every year to deliberate on aspects of the implementation of Convention that are important to States that have ratified. At this meeting, the STAB will draft resolutions for promoting public access to underwater cultural heritage sites, developing education and awareness raising programmes and cooperating with UNESCO accredited NGO’s around the world.

Public access to heritage sites is an important component for protection and management. If we want people to engage with their heritage we need them to be able to visit and interact with it. Although its would be easy to open up a heritage site for visitors, sustainable visitor management plans must be drafted and implemented so that tourism doesn’t destroy or damage the sites. The STAB will discuss ways for tourism and heritage to work together so that heritage sites contribute to the economy but are protected for the enjoyment of generations to come.

Responsible public access is closely linked to education and awareness raising programmes. Heritage sites on land are easy visit. Some maritime sites like harbours, or fish traps are also visible, but sites underwater are usually only accessible to divers. This often means that the people who live near the sites have never seen them and don’t know much about them. While laws might protect heritage, it is important that people who live near the sites assist with managing them. ACHA believes that through education and awareness raising, communities living near submerged sites connect underwater cultural heritage and terrestrial heritage to form a more inclusive heritage where sites, stories, traditions and environments make up a maritime cultural landscape that is part of the identity of the people who live in it. If people are connected to their heritage they will help protect it thereby assisting government agencies in their duties. Protecting heritage and sharing stories and histories can also contribute to creating heritage trails and museums that will stimulate tourism and economic development.

UNESCO and the States Parties to the Convention have accredited ten NGO’s worldwide who will work together with the countries who have ratified the Convention to implement training, capacity building and education programmes, awareness raising projects and management initiatives. The NGO’s provide a network of experts who can assist wherever needed. ACHA has two strong connections with the accredited NGO’s. Firstly, we have partnered with CIE – Centre for International Heritage Activities on several projects in Africa including in Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa. ACHA is also a training provider for the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS), whose courses are taught worldwide.

Although ACHA is not yet accredited with UNESCO, it will support the efforts of CIE at the meeting. ACHA is the only African NGO working in Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage (MUCH) that will be attending the meetings and, as such, will stand for African interests and promote the development of MUCH in Africa.

 

Press Release: “Whispers of the Sea” exhibition

IMG_20140608_091134Oral traditions bearing testimony to people’s relationship with water is explored in an art exhibition in Cape Town from June 5 to 10. The exhibition, ‘Whispers of the Sea’, opened on Thursday night at 6pm at the Pan African Market on Long Street in central Cape Town as part of First Thursdays.

It is the culmination of the Eastern Cape Maritime Oral History Project, a collaboration involving the South African Heritage and Resource Agency (SAHRA), the African Centre for Heritage Activities (ACHA) and Cape Town-based artist Janet Ranson.

‘Whispers of the Sea’ is an installation of research that focuses on maritime history and water, from the perspective of residents of a designated coastal area. It delves into mythology, historical accounts, archival records and research data to bring together local perspectives on the history of the sea.

ACHA director Jonathan Sharfman, a maritime archaeologist, says this project “explores some of the forgotten, marginalised and ignored histories of South Africa while investigating ways to implement economically sustainable, community driven heritage activities”.

Ranson created the exhibition based on the research project’s findings, working on the premise that a single bold display has more impact than an overload of information. The exhibition includes sound recordings of local voices commenting on issues of heritage, ownership, sustainability and local economics. The exhibition sound track was created by Eric Michot, a French music producer.

Project manager Tahirih Michot says: “Visitors will enter the space and hear excerpts from the research interviews and literally hearing a range of voices commenting on issues of heritage, ownership, sustainability and local economics.”

“Glowing glass jars will be suspended in the exhibition space in a circle, at eye height. This will add to the ritual mood of the space and engage the visitors’ eyes while they listen to the sound recording,” she adds.

“Each jar contains an image from the research: ceramic fragments washed up on shore, from a shipwreck, beads retrieved from the sand, photographs of the local residents, and an antique gold bell.”

Michot explains that the South African Heritage and Resource Agency (SAHRA) commissioned the research project at the end of last year. SAHRA is a statutory organisation established under the National Heritage Resources Act, No 25 of 1999. The primary objective of SAHRA is to coordinate the identification and management of the national estate which is defined as heritage resources.

According to Sophie Winton, Heritage Officer at SAHRA’s Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit (MUCH), “This project centers around the collection of oral histories from communities living along the Pondoland coast in order to build a fuller picture of the heritage landscape in the Eastern Cape. This project forms part of the Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Unit’s efforts to expand the focus of MUCH resources beyond the traditional shipwreck to non-traditional, locally applicable examples of South Africa’s relationship with water. Xhosa culture strongly emphasises the importance of oral tradition, so this research method was a natural choice.”

ACHA was appointed to conduct archival and field research as well as heritage education workshops in Pondoland’s coastal communities in the Eastern Cape. “ACHA undertook this project as the first phase of a far larger community based heritage programme. Its focus was to explore some of the forgotten, marginalised and ignored histories while investigating ways to implement economically sustainable, community driven heritage development activities,” says Michot.

“The project focused on the collection of maritime oral histories for the geographic area between Port St Johns and the Msikaba River in the Eastern Cape Province.” She adds: “It involved the review of secondary literature to create a historical context for the research and field work to gather oral histories from people currently living in the designated area. The objective of this project was to share the research findings in the form of both report as well as a public exhibition.”

ACHA, a non-profit international heritage centre based in South Africa, is inspired by innovation, people, water and identity. It intends for this exhibition and ongoing work to have a positive impact on the heritage sector by focusing on innovative, sustainable community owned heritage activities.

Its objective is to support shifts in attitudes, values and perceptions of communities in relationship to their heritage and the heritage of others. The focus is on improving people’s lives through increased awareness of their own context, sense of place resulting in a great degree of empathy and connectedness.

Whispers of the Sea runs at the Pan African Market on Long Street at these times:

Thursday, June 5, opening night 6pm to 9pm

Friday, June 6, 10am to 5pm

Saturday, June 7, 9am to 1pm

Monday, June 9, 10am to 5pm

Tuesday, June 10, 10am to 5pm

 

For more information, have a look at these online links:

ACHA blog about Under Water Heritage https://underwaterheritage.org/

ACHA Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/African-Centre-for-Heritage-Activities-ACHA/149723961898756

ACHA website: http://acha.co.za/

SAHRA website: www.sahra.org.za

For more about the artist Janet Ranson http://janetranson.withtank.com/

NAS Training in the Eastern Cape!

ImageA team from ACHA are heading to the Eastern Cape tomorrow to run a Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) Training Programme. The training forms part of the Eastern Cape Maritime Oral History Project for SAHRA. The programme will be run with people living the same communities that participated in the oral history field work process earlier this year. Some of the participants are in fact the interviewees themselves!

Members of the ACHA team include Lusanda Ngcaweni (lead researcher), Andisiwe Qubekile (assistant researcher), Jonathan Sharfman (facilitator & director of ACHA), Heather Wares (trainer-in-training and project historian). The team is also joined by a number of people from SAHRA, Sophie Winton (co-facilitator), Stephanie-Ann Barnardt, Shawn Berry, Dumisani Sibayi and Nkosazana Machete.

The training will last for a week, take place in a hut close to the ocean and involve a mixed group of participants from the area! This includes people from KwaNdengane village (Sao Bento wreck), KwaRhole village (Grosvenor wreck), Cuthwini (another coastal village in the same region), Mbotyi (coastal village) and Port St Johns. As part of the training process, participants will be developing something to contribute to the project Exhibition, “Whispers of the Sea” being held at the beginning of June in Cape Town. Stay tuned to find out more about the training programme from Lusanda’s blog!