Conservation of Liberation Heritage as National Symbols of Pride and Identity

Nathan Muchemwa

Independent Museums and Culture Centres in Colonial and Post-colonial Zimbabwe present case studies that grapple with the issue of ‘decolonising practice’ in privately owned museums and cultural centers in Zimbabwe.

The contributions from academics and practitioners concerning cultural institutions and highlights have been sources of information about their existence and practice, until recently. The recent resurgence of museums, which are not usually obliged to endorse official narratives of the central Government, points to some desire to decolonise and indigenise museums. There have been contributors, exploring approaches that have been used to reconfigure such colonially inherited institutions to suit the post-colonial terrain.

 National museums can tap into or contribute to current conversations on decoloniality that encourage reflexivity, inclusivity, de-patriarchy, multivocality, community participation, and agency. Exploring the motives and purpose of such institutions, they can be used in the conservation of Liberation Heritage.

National museums and other independent Museums and Culture Centers in Colonial and Post-colonial Zimbabwe demonstrate that post-colonial African museums have become an arena for negotiating history, legacies, and identities.

Liberation heritage have been constructed and institutionalised in Zimbabwe, and how this has elicited responses from local communities. While most treatises on liberation heritage have focused on the politics of election of heroes and heroines or the contested meanings and symbolism of sites, archives or objects associated with liberation heritage,

In the Zimbabwean context, there have been different strategies used to frame ideas and practices around liberation heritage. Practices around burials became a way of renewing the legitimacy of the state in and strengthening the conservation of Liberation Heritage which fosters national identity.

The selected curatorial projects and state sponsored commemorations or rituals, show that the conferment of official heritage status to spaces, sites, routes or personalities associated with liberation wars provides space for public performance of the state’s narrative of the past, conferring it with an accentuated visibility in the public sphere.

 The language used to entrench the liberation war narrative as part of official heritage, all choreographed and performed at burials, visitations, rituals and other commemorative practices. While the configuration of the war past as official heritage confers visibility to the state.

Emphasis when it comes to heritage preservation and conservation has been largely directed towards drystone walled monuments and rock art sites in Zimbabwe. This in itself has a limitation as these two forms of heritage do not articulate to all forms of heritage that are found within Zimbabwe. The liberation struggle was of significance to the nation yet this form of heritage has received little to no attention in the recent past. With the exceptions of mortuary studies of Chibondo in Mt. Darwin and Butcher site in Rusape, liberation heritage has more to tell if explored to full potential. Prominent individuals enlisted in the nation’s history left a mark in the landscape which deserves equal recognition through conservative efforts. Fort Mhondoro and Fort Martin in Mhondoro Mubayira serve as liberation heritage symbols that were marked by the first war encounters during the first Chimurenga.

Of significance is the settlement cave of Sekuru Kaguvi which contains numerous artefacts such as his stone chair which is not known by many yet it is a valuable heritage resource which needs to be conserved. Against this back draw, conservation measures towards liberation heritage resources becomes key as a means of enhancing the physical remains of the historical past in this case focusing on  heritage resources in Mhondoro Mubayira.