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“Cultural Landscape Heritage in Sub-Saharan Africa”

2013 Garden and Landscape Studies Symposium, May 10–11
“Cultural Landscape Heritage in Sub-Saharan Africa”

Great Zimbabwe, 11th Century AD. Image courtesy of Innocent Pikirayi.

In forty years of symposia, the Garden and Landscape Studies program at Dumbarton Oaks has addressed a nearly global range of cultures, epochs and subjects. But one region is conspicuously absent: sub-Saharan Africa. This omission is particularly glaring, given that the subcontinent is one of the oldest inhabited landscapes on earth, with a staggering range of geographies, cultures, histories and patterns of settlement.

Addressing this gap in scholarship, the symposium will focus primarily on cultural landscape heritage: what we know—or think we know—of pre-colonial landscapes; how they were read and misread in the colonial era; and how they are being reinterpreted in the present for various purposes, including conservation, economic development, education and the creation of national identity. The subcontinent offers a rich array of places for study by landscape scholars and designers: World Heritage sites such as Great Zimbabwe, or Djenne and Timbuktu in Mali; massive earthworks and palace grounds in Benin; anthropogenic forests and forest shrines; contested wildlife parks and ecological reserves; village compounds and seemingly chaotic contemporary urban settlements; and official and unofficial memorials to the struggles against colonialism. The characteristics and complexities of such sites are only now beginning to be understood in the context of landscape studies.

Click here for the symposium program and further information.

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