Heritage Workshop - Bayreuth (18-19 January 2023)
What is Heritage? How can heritage management be Africanized? How can we assess heritage assets' cultural, physical, product and experiential values? How does the commodification of heritage affect its value? These and many more questions were raised in the African (digital) Heritage Workshop, held at Iwalewahaus, Bayreuth, on the 18th and 19th of January. What a way to welcome the new year! Academics and practitioners gathered together to discuss, brainstorm, criticise, and share experiences on African heritage and heritage practices. The workshop was held and attended in a hybrid format and featured keynotes, project presentations, round table and panel discussions. The invited guests included Dr. Aaron Yankholmes, Dr. Emmanuel Adu-Ampong, Sabelo Mcinziba, Flower Manse, Dr. Lee Watkins, Dr. Tom Mboya, and Dr. Markus Coester, among others. Making inputs from a broad range of experiences and diverse perspectives and disciplines, questions on cultural tourism and the commodification of heritage and tourism activities were raised and discussed.
Heritage was examined in two main forms: Heritage as that which is passed on from one generation to another; and heritage as that which is left behind (from what has been taken away). According to Mr. Mcinziba, "Africa's heritage is, in a sense, disinheritance. The question of Africa's heritage needs to be understood in the context of history, with the present [in terms of management] in mind." The idea of heritage as future-making was shared during the panel discussion, as well as the value of incorporating scholarship with activism, thus challenging universities as the sole producers of knowledge. In line with the larger goal of reconfiguring African Studies, this workshop successfully created a space where academics and practitioners gathered together to (co)produce knowledge - a significant departure from the unidirectional focus on disciplines, for which Gordon (2006) recommends "undisciplining" as a way to reimagine thought processes and decolonize knowledge.
The workshop also featured an open mic session on the first day's evening, welcoming poetry from all attendants. Social issues and the themes of love, loss and pain rang through as attendants took to the stage to share poetic lines. An atmosphere filled with music, laughter and excitement was created, encouraging interactions and exchanges, which we can only hope helped to establish networks that would potentially lead to fruitful and productive academic and social exchanges and collaborations.