Monday, November 17, 2014

Identifying forgoten cultural landscapes in Maun village: Community, Cultural Heritage and Development

Excerpt from seminar presented on 11th September 2014 at Okavango Research Institute (ORI) seminar room
The research presentation which was attended by about twenty (20) dikgosi was a follow up to a research that Dr Susan O. Keitumetse conducted among dikgosi to find out about Maun cultural landscapes from the past that are known to them. The dikgosi were selected because they are the custodians of the culture and the people and are the ones who may understand better on issues of cultural heritage conservation. The information collected included knowledge about various cultural landscapes and features in Maun. These were mapped using a Global Position System (GPS) and overlayed on a map of Maun to create a layer of cultural landscapes on Maun planned map.
The research found that Maun dikgotla, some of which have disappeared have cultural heritage value for both the people and the village. Collected together the dikgotla history make up the village cultural heritage that can be appealing to an international visitor. The cosmopolitan nature of the village was understood through the settlement pattern that is evident through the dikgotla placement.  For instance the grouped identities of the kgotla tell a story of the people’s heritage in the present. Main wards (Kgosing, Mabudutsa, Meno); dikgotla tsa basimane ba kgotla (Matomo, Lebodu, Mopako, Mhapha); dikgotla that were borne out of independent merafhe seeking to settle among the Tawana but being allowed to keep their own dikgotla (Boyei, Shashe, Borolong, Shagen, Bombadi, Kubung); dikgotla that were borne out of a communal need that is not necessarily traditional (Boseja, Sedie, Wenela, Riverside, Bombadi, Disana, etc). The histories that led to these dikgotla is composed of a lot of historical heritage that can be harnessed by the community as heritage product that they package to the tourists visiting the village and develop village cultural heritage trails.
One of the research findings showed that the village used to sustain itself agriculturally whereby masimo a kgosi were ploughed by all and the food deposited in the communal grain bins (matlole) which are now located at the Kgosing ward. The masimo a kgosing were located along the Thamalakane river behind the now Riley’s hotel as well as where Letsholathebe hospital is located. From these knowledges a community agricultural trail can be discerned whereby village tourism trails involving places of agricultural activities that can form tourism notes that stretch across the village towards dikgotla.
There are other landscapes that show the enterprising spirit of the pre-independence Maun whereby communities in the thick of the Okavango Delta came frequently to Maun as the inland village where battering took place. The items battered for included safety pins (dikopelo), beads, bottles, tins, wild animal biltong, lethaka, etc. A spot such as this one could be secured as a civic space by the community for future heritage development involving activities that used to take place there, with tourists paying to participate. A mokoro ride micmicking Yeyi coming out of the islands with goods to be battered is one activity. A build- up of a community restaurant and camping areas around the place is one way the community could develop the area. Also a marketplace could be in order to celebrate the identity of the cultural activities as they took place in the past.
The research findings also indicated that it is important for dikgosi to know of the Maun development plan and influence the direction of its development
The other way that the research highlighted as relevant findings is the development of a vocational curriculum that is informed by the cultural heritage knowledge provided from dikgosi. With the advent of Botswana Technical Education Programme (BTEP), it is becoming necessary to have curriculum based on indigenous skills knowledge framework. As part of capacitating this development, Dr Keitumetse, the research leader has initiated a Standard Setting Task Force for cultural heritage tourism with the former Botswana Training Authority (BOTA), which hopefully will form the basis for community initiatives along this line.
The research outcome will in future be used to advice the community via dikgosi (chiefs) on how to harness their village landscapes for community development deriving using a Community Based Cultural Heritage Resources Management (COBACHREM).

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