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“Cultural Landscape Heritage in Sub-Saharan Africa”

Posted On May 01, 2013 | 14:43 pm | by noahm | Permalink
2013 Garden and Landscape Studies Symposium, May 10–11

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.