Ethiopia: Retrieving and Managing Heritages in Ethiopia –

by Zelalem

Ethiopians gives due priority to protecting heritages and bequeathing them to the coming generations. Losing heritages means losing invaluable wealth of the society and successors. Accordingly, forefathers commonly pass down their precious and expensive properties to their careful children. This shows how in entrusting their children with responsibilities aging parents value the behaviour their children demonstrated in the past. The child charged with the responsibility of administering the inheritance, in his /her turn, bequeath the precious property to his/her careful child. But, frankly speaking some heritages across the country face the danger of mismanagement.

The same holds true to the process of national heritage maintenance in the country. But following continuous awareness creation programmes staged the level of citizens awareness about heritage is deepening.

This writer tries to throw light on the situation heritages are in and the public’s attitude towards heritage. It touches upon the stewardship sentiment among the general public when it comes to heritages.

“Currently the state of Ethiopian heritages has two manifestations. The primary and the significant one is the expansion of such higher education institutions and colleges, opening new departments to train individuals on heritage maintenance and conservation. Those universities, including the legendary Addis Ababa University, Makalle, Aksum and other higher education institutions of the nation are stepping up the heritage conservation process and rendering it well promising.

As a second manifestation huge infrastructural expansions works are afoot. Though commendable, they are casting a shadow on nation’s cultural heritages. Road and housing construction activities are necessitating moving heritages from their permanent locations to other places. This could negatively impact effective heritage management due to the mass excavation along road construction routes of permanent projects. This situation is mostly manifested related with archaeological heritages site protection and management.”

The aforementioned remark is taken from the speech of Addis Ababa University Department of Archaeology and Heritage Management Head Tekle Hagos. He was relating his experience regarding heritage maintenance. The department is doing its level best to improve heritage maintenance and conservation system in the country by communicating with the sector practitioners and stakeholders. Being committed to stand against any natural and man made disastrous helps ensure heritage’s sustainability.

He advises that heritage and environmental impact assessment has to be done before the actual starting of infrastructural construction to safeguard the heritages from danger and extinction.

The Ethiopian heritage preservation and protection culture is still at its embryonic stage. Furthermore, whole rounded and participatory awareness training and communication mechanism should be organized.

One of the drawbacks of the nation’s heritage conservation system is the unavailability of professional practitioners.

Thus the nation’s higher education institutions and other heritage related sectors have a social responsibility of doing more to arouse and strengthen the heritage preservation and protection system.

It is not possible to compare and contrast one heritage with the other to designate or group as important and less important. Equal attention should be given to each heritages. But to tell the truth, tangible heritages need due focus than the intangible ones. This is because the intangible ones could not be easily damaged. Intangible heritages might not be easily damaged with some sort of natural or man made hazardous incidents. It takes a due process or longer period of time to be partially or fully changed. On the contrary, the tangible ones have a grater chance of being disappearing easily with some sort of natural or man-made disastrous. Thus in keeping the tangible heritages sensitizing the public to be more vigilant is highly necessary.

Every activity regarding heritage conservation seeks the following steps. The primary one is all about discovery. It is taking the account of locating heritage sites to preserve them from extinction. The second is registration of a discovered heritage and researching on it. The third is repairing and preserving the heritage against destruction. The final step is generating benefits from the heritage in terms of tourism.

Registration of the heritages is more important to secure them. While one knows the heritage one has, one can better protect and keep it.

Putting the heritage in a museum and securing its safety is not the ultimate goal of heritage conservation. The main objective is discovering the secret behind the heritage, understanding about its identity as well as conveying its immense benefit to the world.

Addis Ababa University (AAU) gives heritage management courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. It works in coordination with public and private organizations regarding facilitating the nation’s historical and cultural heritages betterment.

Currently, Ethiopia has nine world heritages listed and about four tentative list properties. The authority is focused on preemptive measures — prevention of the heritages from possible risks or before actual degradation. In addition, the authority gives priority to boosting the number of UNESCO registered heritages of the country in the future.

Nowadays, there are more than 981 World Heritage Sites located in 160 states that are registered by UNESCO. Of these, 759 are cultural, 193 are natural and 29 are mixed world properties.

World countries with the most world heritage sites are: Italy 51, China 44 and Spain 42.

Ethiopia has joined UNESCO since 1955. The nation had registered its first world heritages with the Rock-Hewen Churches of Lalibela as a cultural heritage and Semien National Park as a natural heritage in 1978. After this, the nation had got registered the Gondar Fasil Castel (1979), Aksum Oblisk, Tiya, Lower Valley of the Awash and Omo rivers (1980), as well the Harar Jugol, the Fortified Historic Town by 2006 and The Konso Cultural Landscape in 2011. In addition to this, under UNESCO, the nation has managed to get registered heritages like that of the colorful Ethiopian Meskel Festival and the traditional Fiche Chambalala new year festival.

The Ethiopian Epiphany and the Lake Tanna Churches and Monasteries are also in the pipeline to be registered as the world intangible and tangible properties incorporated on the tentative list respectively.

Ethiopia is doing its level best to safeguard the principal monuments and sites of national heritages.

Regarding the country’s achievements and activities in heritage conservation, this writer had approached Heritage Protection and Conservation Directorate Director Hailu Zeleke, under Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage.

The director said that the dearth of human power shortage, financial problem as well as the public awareness regarding heritage are the main difficulties of the sector.

He emphasized the need to coordinated mutual communicating effectiveness to enhance the public to provide its share to protecting heritages from danger. To this end, developing a good culture of heritage maintenance is linked with taking the public on board to be aware and alert in the area. Citizens should be beneficiaries from heritages in terms of opening tourist serving centres around the heritage sites and be involved in the heritage preservation task.

According to the authority’s public and international relations department, the authority has performed tremendous works regarding repairing and restoring the nation’s heritages in this fiscal year.

The registration of one heritage with UNESCO is helpful to mobilize fund and acquire swift expertise to restore heritages. In addition to this, the registration of the heritage is much more important to facilitate tourism and convince tourists to visit the world acclaimed heritages.

One of the Ethiopian huge natural heritages Semein Mountain National Park is incorporated under UNESCO’s list of world heritages in danger. That was due to mounting deforestation and the risk of flora and fauna extinction on the area. The endemic wild animal Walia is only found in Semein National Park. The park is grouped with the 55 properties, which the World Heritage Committee has decided to include on the List of World Heritage in danger in accordance with Article 11(4) of the Convention.

Heritage conservation is all about conserving the tangible and intangible properties as well as the natural heritage gifts from any natural or man made hazardous occurrences.

Failure to retrieve the park will result in the extinction of world’s endemic animal from the earth -Walia, Red Fox and Chelada Baboon.

Thus to retrieve Semein Mountain National Park the nation is working prioritizing on motivating members of the local community to partake and participate actively with in the conservation process.

Every individuals should gain a reward for doing conservation activities. Gaining the feeling of ownership and facilitating the task mutually will be a preferable way to save the park from extinction.

To sum up, still more works have to be done regarding inducing the public to be vigilant in taking active involvement on and responsiveness regarding with heritage conservation. The present generation has a social and moral responsibility to ensure heritages preservation and sustenance to be inherited to the next generations. Everyone owns national heritages equally. No one could take more responsibility and the other one take lower. Doing the assignment equally will enhance gaining the social and moral satisfaction equally as well as winning the gratitude of coming generation.

Finally, every stakeholder, public and private organization as well as any sector practitioners and individuals should cooperate with the task force engaged in heritage conservation activities.

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