Matobo Hills gets global recognition

BULAWAYO – Matobo Hills Cultural Landscape, located in south-western Zimbabwe, has been listed on the 2018 World Monuments Watch List by the World Monuments Fund.

The site is one of 25 sites chosen from 170 nominated from all over the world to be placed on the World Monuments Fund for this year. Remarkably, it is one of two from Africa. The other is the Sukur Cultural Landscape in Nigeria.

The World Monuments Fund is the leading independent organisation devoted to saving the world’s treasured places. It does this by, among other activities, calling for international attention to threatened cultural heritage sites around the world.

The World Monuments Watch List provides an opportunity for sites and their nominators to raise public awareness, foster local participation, advance innovation and collaboration, and demonstrate effective solutions.

It aims to protect heritage sites by bringing these sites and their challenges to an international stage and identifying opportunities for local communities to collaborate with preservation agencies, governments, and corporate sponsors.

The Matobo Hills is a cultural landscape that was nominated to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2003 based on its numerous rock art sites associated with the Stone Age, Iron Age and colonial heritage as well as natural heritage.

The cultural landscape is also significant in that it is the major centre associated with African Traditional Religion in southern Africa. However, of late the cultural landscape has faced several challenges.

Population expansion coupled with the scarcity of natural resources has led to rapid degradation of the environment.

This in turn threatens the numerous rock paintings as their protective vegetation barriers are slowly disappearing, exposing them to the vagaries of weather such as direct sunlight, rain and dust.

While traditional and religious customs safeguard the authenticity of some areas by restricting passage, development or removal of vegetation, other areas and rock art are threatened by human activities such as deforestation, grazing, graffiti, and fires.

Inclusion of the Matobo Hills Cultural Landscape on the 2018 World Monuments Watch is therefore a call by National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe and various stakeholders to explore ways to engage local custodians in the protection and preservation of the site and its rock art.

Through partnerships with local communities, funders, and governments, World Monuments Fund seeks to inspire an enduring commitment to heritage stewardship for future generations.