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Landscape of Power: Mapping the Cultural Landscape at Great Zimbabwe through Narratives

October 6, 2020, 7:00–8:30 p.m. ET on Zoom | Ashton Sinamai

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Great Enclosure (Imbahuru) at Great Zimbabwe, 2016 (photo: Ashton Sinamai)

There is a collective social process in telling a story: geographies, events, personalities, and resources are loaded into stories people tell about land. In oral societies, narratives are important not only in recording histories but also in mapping the cultural landscape. The loss of such narratives can also mean the loss of cultural and environmental knowledge about a place. Sinamai’s presentation examines how communities around Great Zimbabwe map and relate to this sacred landscape and how perceptions from these knowledge systems can enrich mainstream disciplines like archaeology and architecture. Using Great Zimbabwe, Sinamai shows how communities living around it map their landscape through stories that have been passed from generation to generation and how these stories preserve not only the monumental heritage but also memories of climate and environments as well as the landscape’s own memory. A reading of these stories brings out the extent of the cultural landscape at Great Zimbabwe and enriches archaeological narratives through insights into what creates ontological security for communities.

Ashton Sinamai is an archaeologist with experience in Zimbabwe, Namibia, the United Kingdom, and Australia. He has a PhD in cultural heritage and museum studies from Deakin University and currently works as a heritage consultant for Ecology and Heritage Partners. Previously he has worked as an archaeologist at Great Zimbabwe, chief curator at the National Museum of Namibia, and lecturer at the Midlands State University, Zimbabwe. After receiving his PhD, he worked for two years at the University of York as a Marie Curie Experienced Fellow. Ashton is also an honorary associate of La Trobe University and an expert representative on UNESCO’s Roster for Culture in Emergencies. His most recent book, Memory and Cultural Landscape at the Khami World Heritage Site, Zimbabwe: An Uninherited Past, was published by Routledge in 2019.