Article

Online Workshop Strengthens Capacities for Underwater Cultural Heritage in Africa

A scene from the video of the Bongo Flava song “Bahari Yetu” from a case studies shared during the workshop on raising awareness on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage © Elgidius Ichumbaki

The UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa held a successful online capacity-building workshop in Underwater Cultural Heritage over three weeks in June 2021. With financial support from the Government of Japan (JFIT), and in partnership with ICOMOS International Committee on the Underwater Cultural Heritage (ICUCH) and the Rising from the Depths (RftD), the online workshop aimed to reinforce African capacities and knowledge concerning the safeguarding of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH). The workshop provided the necessary theoretical knowledge to understand the main concepts and processes around the research, management, and protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. 

Twenty participants and more than forty observers benefited from the workshop, which was delivered for six days over three weeks (16-17 June, 23-24 June, and 30 June-1st July 2021), with each day comprised of lectures and debates with the participants, and each session over a duration of 3.5 hours. The content and case studies presented focused on Africa, to ensure specific needs of the region in the research, management and protection of UCH were addressed.

The workshop is part of the project launched by the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa in 2019 titled “Building Capacity and Raising Awareness for Underwater Cultural Heritage Research in Africa.” This project aims to advance the ratification of the UNESCO 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in Africa, as well as to reinforce Member States’ capacities in the identification, research, management and protection of this resource.

We are very grateful for the generous support of the Japanese Government. Through this training, participants from East African countries have gained a deeper understanding of the UNESCO 2001 Convention as well as the protection and promotion of underwater cultural heritage. UNESCO Office for Eastern Africa will continue to provide support to member states to develop this vision.
Mrs. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Director of UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa

As a supplement to the online workshop, a physical workshop is planned by UNESCO in Mombasa, Kenya for practical training in the protection of underwater cultural heritage once the confinement measures are lifted and international travel is reinstated in the  countries benefitting from this project.

This course has demonstrated that, through collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches, the study and protection of the underwater cultural heritage in Africa need to involve local communities and narratives, multidirectional expertise, establish integrated management approaches and look into the wider connections of heritage within ecosystem-based lens.
Arturo Ray da Silva – Head trainer and Consultant in Underwater Cultural Heritage

The UNESCO training course consolidated the regional network of underwater cultural heritage experts in Africa, identifying regional assets and challenges, and showed how, through the appropriate research and management of the region’s marine cultural heritage, sustainable development is within reach.