Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Spirit of Ubuntu

International Institutions in particular International Council of Museums that govern museums feel that its the beginning of times that museums and tourism use heritage, in the form of cultural tourism to help communities benefit from their heritage and as such they propose that the theme for the International Museum Day for 2009 be museum and tourism. I am glad that ICOM has used the phrase "ethical cultural" tourism just to rubber stamp and acknowledge that much of cultural tourism is exploitative and unethical in a lot ways.At Botswana National Museum we celebrate this day on the 19th May in a small village called Mogonye in the Southern region.

From research that I carried out in 2006-2007, entitled Appropriation of Culture in Tourism at whose benefits? just as many researchers that have investigated the nature of tourism in relation to culture and heritage, I am as well deeply perturbed by how communities traditional knowledge systems and cultures are used, utilized in tourism at no costs really.In essence I was investigating how tourism as an industry appropriates, utilizes and promotes local traditional knowledge versus the economic benefits of those who posses that knowledge.The findings are rather sad for while tourism use some samples of cultural forms as touristic products, it has become evident that those that relive and reenact those cultural forms are less paid and less valued.Poignant is some people who have been employed in some lodges to showcase and perform some of their traditional lifestyles to tourists. I feel these people should be treated as consultants for they are providing so much expertise to lodges.

At the moment it appears museums only act as live feeds to tourism when we know for a fact that tourism in Botswana and elsewhere in Africa, by and large is in the hands of large tourism enterprises.This virtually means ownership and control of tourism is in the hands of a few.Folks when we talk of tourism we are talking about accommodation, transportation, travel and tour etc.On the one hand National Museum and I suppose and elsewhere is pretty occupied among other things with helping communities manage their cultural and natural resources.Some beautiful gorges with some small sporadic waterfalls surround a samll village of Mogonye and here the Museum intends to mobilize this community to manage these so that they can in the long run benefit.My point is that therefore museum and tourism mandates do not share a common value.The thing is to what extent does tourism engage local communities?As it stands tourism has not updated its policy to seriously address issues of cultural tourism. Therefore museums should jealously safeguard monumental sites for the benefit of the people by the community of the community at all times. Museums should not merely act as live feeds for tourism but the two should be seen working together if we seriously and genuinely want to serve poverty alleviation. For instance to what extent can the museum protect the taking over of Mogonye gorges to individuals who maybe interested in building hotels at these sites?That is why Adopt a Monument Strategy or Campaign, the daily buzz at the museum should be looked into on a very serous note.To live and rubber stamp the ongoing argument, how long should a business owner, an individual, an non governmental organization take over the monument?Is it in a form of Madona Banda adoption(that is which lasts for ever) or Mafisa Adoption which is richly temporary. What are the implications of adopting.Another challenge is that we don't leave communities in the lutch, therefore there has to be clear communications of these issues to communities who are endowed with such monumental sites. The prevailing economic crunch serves as a lesson that we regulate anything that involves money so that we all benefit.

I suggest the government do the following and please add on to the list:

* Involve and engage communities as owners, part owners or shareholders

*Instead of giving one person/persons a private game park, give it to communities or aleast provide a genuine livable wage

*Assist with marketing

* Finance the project

*Apply tax incentives or strategic debt reduction

In the same vein I must also lament my disappointments in the way in which communities manage these resources for how they administer these sites leave much to be desired.First they mismanage money and thereby leave their own communities in debt and poverty.The Archeology department ran workshops and seminars for a recently formed Trust called MmaMotshwane Trust on how they should run, manage gorges for the benefit of the community.The mood there is quite exhilarating so much that the residents there feel that the momentum, enthusiasm and the zeal of the Museum Campaign should be sustained for they fear that this might be another government project initiative which will fail for most have fallen by because of financial management.

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