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Cultural Landscape Heritage in Sub-Saharan Africa

Dumbarton Oaks
May 10  –  11, 2013
Garden and Landscape Studies 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.

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.

Read the review in the American Society of Landscape Architect's blog The Dirt (05.14.13).


  • 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





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