Preserving Africa’s rich liberation history


The trans-continental Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route will allow the continent to reclaim its history from its colonisers.

“We will also work to rediscover and claim African heritage, for the benefit especially of our young generations,” Minister Nathi Mthethwa. (Image: Department of Arts and Culture)

Sulaiman Philip

A continent-wide Resisitance and Liberation Heritage Route offers Africa the opportunity to remember and reflect on its often tortuous road to independence.

The Department of Arts and Culture hosted a summit recently to get input from government, non-governmental organisations and civil society on the African Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route.

The route offers Africa the opportunity to commemorate, conserve and remember its road to independence, Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa explained in his keynote address. “This is an opportunity for Africans to write our own history. Africa tell us about yourself. Tell us in Namibia how did you gain your freedom. Tell us in Ghana, how did you gain your freedom.”

The Resistance and Liberation Heritage Route is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) project supported by the African Union (AU). The project consists of a series of sites connected to Africa’s liberation and resistance history. Angola has identified two sites, the Fortress of São Francisco do Penedo in Luanda and the site of the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale. As Dr Ziva Domingos, of the National Directorate of Museums of Angola, pointed out: “Africa has a rich liberation history that led us to independence. We need to preserve this history.”


A shared history

In his opening remarks, Arts and Culture Director General, Vusumuzi Mkhize, spoke of a need for Africa’s history to be written by Africans. The trans-continental route will allow the continent to reclaim its history from its colonisers. “It is an opportunity to write our history; to embed our liberation heritage in hearts and minds.”

To this end, the AU has approved the establishment of a multimedia centre and archive in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. From the archive – which will include a research library, cinema and theatre – the AU will help national heritage chapters identify and propose local sites for inclusion on Unesco’s heritage list.

Tanzania was chosen for its history of housing liberation movements from Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. As the Permanent Secretary of the Tanzanian Ministry of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Susan Malawi, explained: “We need to acknowledge the importance of continental liberation movements. Until we collect, document and make this history available to the public we will never breach the information and knowledge gap.”

Professor Muxe Nkondo, who drafted the South African Framework of the Liberation Heritage Route, said the route was just a small part of the African Renaissance. He told the audience that this heritage project was one small step in improving awareness of Africa’s rich history.

It would also, he said, “lead to the development of centres of industrialisation and tourism. We learn about ourselves through the things we make together”. Most importantly it was an opportunity to look beyond a past where Africans were dehumanised and, instead, build an indivisible future.

Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material.