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Cultural Landscape Heritage in Sub-Saharan Africa

2013 Garden and Landscape Symposium

In 40 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.

“Fuli Town along the River Gambia” Travels into the Inland Parts of Africa, Francis Moore, 1745

Dumbarton Oaks is planning a symposium that will begin to address this gap in scholarship. The symposium will focus particularly 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.







  • Suzanne Blier, Harvard University
  • Lazare Eloundou, UNESCO World Heritage Center;
  • Joost Fontein, University of Edinburgh
  • Jeremy Foster, Cornell University
  • Grey Gundaker, William and Mary
  • Charlotte Joy, University of London
  • Paul Lane, University of York
  • Neil Norman, William and Mary
  • Akin Ogundiran, UNC Charlotte
  • Ikem Okoye, University of Delaware
  • Innocent Pikirayi, University of Pretoria
  • Maano Ramutsindela, University of Cape Town
  • Gemma Rodrigues, UCLA
  • Michael Sheridan, Middlebury College






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