Last Updated
Friday 02 October 2015, 18:00 pm.
Botswana against illicit trafficking of cultural properties

Botswana is scheduled to host a UNESCO workshop on prevention and fight against illicit traffic of cultural goods in Southern Africa.
By Staff Writer Sun 04 Oct 2015, 18:59 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Botswana against illicit trafficking of cultural properties

This workshop will be held at the Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) from November 5-7.Participants will include various stakeholders involved in management and preservation of heritage. Heritage professionals and various law enforcement professionals from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe are expected to meet and address issues of illicit traffic of cultural goods and their restitution in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).The workshop is a follow-up of a strategic plan that was drawn by Southern Africa member states at a meeting held in Windhoek, Namibia, in September last year.

The objectives of this workshop include strengthening securities of museums and institutions where cultural materials are preserved as well as finding means through which cooperation can be consolidated between cultural heritage institutions and law enforcement agencies. This is considered as a key way of creating an effective platform to help address issues of illicit traffic of cultural material. Sharing of information on missing objects, creation of collaborative efforts in collection, documentation and even exhibition of retrieved cultural material also form part of the aims of this workshop. As a long-term effort towards protection of cultural properties in the region, member states are advocating ratification and implementation of the 1970 and 1995 UNESCO conventions. The 1970 convention deals with means of "prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property". The 1995 UNIDROIT convention on the other hand, deals with "stolen or illegally exported cultural objects". Botswana has not yet ratified these two important conventions.

Botswana National Museum together with regional museums, Department of Arts and Culture as well as SADC Heritage Association, through the help of UNESCO Harare and Windhoek cluster offices, are the principal organising partners of this workshop. Representatives of UNIDROIT, Interpol, Italian Carabinieri Unit for Protection of Cultural Heritage (TPC) and UNESCO are expected to facilitate to ensure that the workshop becomes a success.At the end of this workshop, member states are expected to have identified means through which they can successfully fight against illicit trafficking of cultural properties and ensure return of properties stolen out of their countries in the past.

The month of November 2012 marks the 42nd anniversary of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. This convention addresses a rapidly evolving subject that is attracting a significant amount of political, media, diplomatic, and legal attention the world over. It is in fact through the use of this convention that the international community forced the remains of an African popularly known as El Negro to be returned for reburial in Africa after 170 years. El Negro is an African of Tswana origin who died in 1830 and was displayed in Spain for 170 years.

Historians agree that his body was taken from Africa to France in 1830 by two brothers, Jules and Eduoard Verraux, who stole the body from its grave on the night after it was buried. The body was later on displayed in a Paris shop of the Verraux brothers. After that, it was sold to a certain Francesc Darder who later bequeathed the remains to the town of Banyoles, north of Barcelona, in Spain.

In 1992 Arcelin, a Spanish national of Haitian origin, drew the attention of Africa and the world to the display of El Negro in a Banyoles museum in Spain. This drew the attention of the international community and five years later, the then Organisation of African Unity called for the repatriation of the body to Africa for reburial. Botswana was chosen as the final resting place of El Negro. His remains arrived in Gaborone on October 4, 2000

and were buried a day later at Tsholofelo Park in Broadhurst, Gaborone. His grave is gazetted by the Botswana National Museum as a National Monument.

Museums all over the world serve as centres for conservation, study and reflection of heritage and culture. A museum's primary role is to safeguard and preserve the heritage in its entirety. Heritage or museum professionals are tasked with the responsibility to carry out scientific studies which help to enhance our understanding of the meaning and significance of cultural and even natural heritage properties they conserve.Museums, therefore, help in the preparation of a global ethic based on practice for the conservation, protection and diffusion of cultural heritage values. Museums are also mandated to contribute towards development of social communities whose testimonies it conserves. As such, they are purposefully turned towards the public so that they function as a mirror of our society. Community museums play a particularly important role in that they are attentive to social and cultural change and thereby help us to present our identity and diversity in an ever-changing world.

In Botswana, there are several community museums, which play an important role of preserving cultural heritage of various ethnic groups found in the country. Kgosi Sechele Museum in Molepolole is housed in the former police station for the town and features displays of traditional houses, as well as paintings and photos of the people of Kweneng District. Highlights of exhibitions found in this museum include memorabilia associated with the legendary medical doctor, explorer and missionary, Dr David Livingstone, who worked among the Bakwena during historic times. Phuthadikobo Museum is situated within a building that served as the Bakgatla National School during the 1920s.This building was developed into a museum in the 1970s through efforts of Sandy Grant and other Bakgatla. This museum houses local crafts, a collection of photographs depicting sociopolitical aspects of Bakgatla people documented by early writers like Professor Isasac Schapera, Duggan Cronin and Grant, among others.

And Khama III Memorial Museum in Serowe was opened in the 1980s with an aim to promote cultural awareness in the area. The main building houses exhibitions which cover the prehistory of the area, the history of the Bangwato and their outstanding leaders such as Khama III and Tshekedi Khama. Other attractions here include the Bessie Head collection. Nhabe Museum is located in Maun and serves as a depository centre of cultural material of the northwestern part of Botswana. Of particular interest, Nhabe Museum provides an excellent opportunity for one to learn about the history and cultures of the Okavango Delta region. Its collection ranges from wildlife exhibits to traditional craftwork and includes fine art and photographic collections. The building in which it is housed was built by the British Army and served as a military post during the Second World War.
Supa Ngwao Museum serves as the only community museum in the northeastern part of Botswana. It features a wide variety of exhibits, which depict the heritage of Bakalanga people and the history of Francistown. The museum also exhibits pictures and traditional craftwork. Collections of farming equipment and musical instruments from the local area are also found here. Kuru Museum and Cultural Centre
is found at D'Kar in the north-western part of Botswana, near Ghanzi. Kuru Museum is a major attraction museum and offers an interesting permanent exhibition of the culture of the local Basarwa people. Built both to inform visitors and to promote local culture within the community, the cultural centre focuses on traditional dance, music and production of crafts like ostrich eggshell beads. Kgosi Bathoen II Museum is found in Kanye and houses photographic and cultural artefacts of Bangwaketse and surrounding areas.

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