Namibian Cultural Heritage Project

Cardiff University Phoenix Heritage, Namibian Heritage Council, University of Namibia
Summary by Dr Scott Williams on the Cardiff University Team

Challenges within Namibian Heritage

Within developing countries, such as Namibia, the challenges of identifying, managing, protecting, and sustaining Heritage Assets are substantial. However, without good baseline data this potential cannot be realised.  Namibia has a small, diverse population of 2.3 million people, comprising of more than 11 ethnic groups, spread over a country forty times the size of Wales. Throughout the land, Namibia’s diverse heritage—both tangible and intangible, natural and cultural—needs to be safeguarded and celebrated. However, assets often remain under-recognised, under-reported and at risk. 

This requirement is expressed in the Namibian sustainable development goal to cultivate good public administration and is further enshrined in the emerging Namibian National Heritage Council (NHC) Sustainable Development plan. The latter includes goals to preserve “our heritage and history, protect our traditional knowledge, and develop our language, creative and cultural endeavours as well as a series of aspirations to develop sustainable tourism”.  To do this, the NHC is seeking to enhance and extend the existing National Inventories of Heritage Assets (NIHA) geographically, culturally, and diachronically, to increase public awareness of Heritage, to monitor and control damage, and to develop Heritage focused training. 

The Phoenix Heritage Project

The Phoenix Heritage Project—generously funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund—is co-developing and co-refining existing UK best practice in heritage research and management for use within Namibia.  Working with our established partner institutions—the University of Namibia (UNAM), the National Heritage Council, the Phoenix Project, and Cadw—a team of UK and Namibian heritage academics, professionals, stakeholders, and students will work together to enhance knowledge of the existing archaeological and cultural resource to:

  • implement a sustainable asset management system to host Heritage Asset information
  • co-create a new heritage data standard list of classifications for Namibia
  • develop new strategies and skills for heritage recording and access
  • co-deliver cultural heritage training to NHC staff and UNAM students.

Whilst it has been necessary to redesign the work package—owing to the restrictions put in place due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic—and the delivery of some intended features of the project have been delayed, the international team members have continued to work together using digital collaborative methods. Through ongoing collaborative discussions, the team have identified structural, technical, and training limitations within the present system. The construction of a cultural heritage training resource is underway that is intended to be delivered as a digital e-learning module to address issues raised thus far. The module is directed towards accessible training of both heritage professionals from the NHC and UNAM students. Additional to this, a new and robust online Heritage Data Management System is being investigated which will enable the National Heritage Council to administer and manage their portfolio of heritage assets. Further collaboration is intended through new academic research and community projects which will aim to build upon this sustainable resource.

Key Staff and Stakeholders

This important international project comprises a collaboration between three key institutions—the University of Namibia (UNAM), the National Heritage Council of Namibia (NHC), and Cardiff University (CU).

Key Cardiff University staff

  • Professor Jacqui Mulville
  • Dr Steve Mills
  • Dr Scott Williams

Key University of Namibia staff

  • Dr Gwasira Goodman

With support from Drs Amukwaya and Mufeti

Key Stakeholders

  • Ms Agnes Shiningayamwe (NHC)
  • Dr Ffion Reynolds (CADW)

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