Friday, 15 September 2017

On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Botswana Museums Act, Mike Brook recently launched his seventh book about Botswana in as many years. 

The new release is titled Botswana’s Monuments and Museums, and it is extremely important for the preservation of culture and heritage and also contributes significantly to the economy of the country through enhancing tourism says a press release.

Monuments come in many different shapes and sizes, from beautiful scenic landscapes to archaeological sites going back to the Stone Age. To date, there are 12 museums across the country, covering different aspects of heritage and culture, varying from Philately to Diamond Mining, but with generally a strong focus on cultural heritage and tradition.

Before 1966, Botswana was under colonial rule under the Bechuanaland Protectorate; there were a number of proclamations made to protect heritage, including the Bushman Relics and Ancient Ruins Protection Proclamation of 1911, the year in which the Livingstone memorial was proclaimed, the first ever monument to be given such protection in the country. 

This Proclamation prohibited the removal of the protected relics and ancient ruins without the written permission of the Resident Commissioner. “In 1968, following the 1967 Act to establish a National Museum and Art Gallery, the National Museum based in the capital, Gaborone, commenced under the management of a Board of Directors, chaired by Kgosi Bathoen II and was officially opened by the then Acting President, Hon Quett Masire, in September 1968,” the release says.

Botswana has adopted the word monument to describe in-situ examples of Botswana’s heritage, history and culture. Botswana has over 2500 National Monuments and relics sites, of which 100 have been gazetted by way of statutory instrument No. 58 of 2006 (Declaration of National Monuments Order, 2006). The National Monuments and Relics Act of 2001 ensures that the sites are adequately protected.

“The day to day management of these sites, where possible, has been shifted to the level of the community, often through the founding of a trust, so that local people are given the opportunity to be able to benefit directly from the resources of the area where they live,” it says.

In 2001, the Tsodilo Hills, located in the Ngamiland District, North – West Botswana, became Botswana’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and is also a protected area. It contains over 4,500 rock paintings in an area of approximately 10 km² within the Kalahari Desert. The second UNESCO World Heritage Site to be developed in Botswana, the Okavango Delta, was proclaimed UNESCO’s 1000th site on 22nd June, 2014, in Doha, Qatar, for its exceptional beauty and aesthetic importance, outstanding ecological biodiversity and hydrological processes and for the protection of threatened and endangered species.

 The press release also points out that there are now plans in place to get approval for more UNESCO World Heritage Sites; at least seven more sites have been proposed. The Botswana Department of National Museum and Monuments (DNMM) has already embarked on heritage tourism at some monuments, forming part of the 100 monuments project. 

“They include Tsodilo Hills, Gcwihaba Caves, Mogonye Gorge, Moremi Gorge, Old Palapye, Mamumo, Lekhubu Island, Domboshaba, Majojo, Kolobeng and Matsieng Footprints. These sites are economically viable and the surrounding communities have benefited in terms of jobs, improved livelihoods, training, capacity building and learning new skills. Most of the sites have taken a long time to reach their goals and still continue to strive to achieve more,” it explains. The establishment and ultimate launching of the gazetted 100 monuments in 2006 for heritage tourism is in line with the DNMM’s ultimate vision of the sustainable management and conservation of these sites.  In June 2012, a declaration of National Monuments Order, established an additional nine national monuments.  “The latter part of the book documents the history, development and current status of Botswana’s twelve museums, including the National Museum and Art Gallery, which is where everything started 50 years ago, with the proclamation of the National Museum and Art Gallery Act of September 1967,” it highlights. 

The book is available at Exclusive Books and Botswana Craft shops. 


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