On museums and intangible heritage

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Chapter one presented the introduction to the study. This chapter provides the literature review. Literature on language, knowledge and culture as separate yet related entities will be reviewed. Literature on intangible heritage issues will be evaluated. Related literature on language, language planning and educational policy in Africa and in Zimbabwe will be analysed as well before the closure of the chapter with a review of what various scholars say about globalisation and its predecessors, imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism and internationalisation.
It is hoped the reviewed literature will establish the thesis’ point of departure. It hopes to provide the rationale for embarking on this area as a field worth researching on. However, it will also show how this related literature, though different in a way from the thesis’s focus, will be used to strengthen the research’s argument.
At the inception of this research not much study had been done on the place of intangible heritage in a globalising environment. Past research had dwelt on the preservation of tangible heritage and on culture in general. As a result much of the work ended up romanticising a past cultural heritage lost as a result of western encroachment. Not many scholars have endeavoured to assess the enduring nature of Zimbabwean intangible heritage in a globalising environment in spite of the odds associated with its preservation. No research as well has sought to establish the inseparable relationship between the Shona language and other forms of intangible Zimbabwean heritages within it. Many people have underrated the influence that the Shona language has on the thought systems of its speakers. This is the subject of this thesis. No research so far has endeavoured to link intangible heritage preservation to language preservation and to language planning and policy. No research has also argued for an ecological approach to language planning and policy in Zimbabwe as a way of preserving and promoting linguistic and cultural diversity. The centring of indigenous languages in all language planning and policy implementation is an argument that is not receiving the attention it deserves.

Heritage from a cultural perspective

No research is completely independent of others in academic circles. There are scholars who have done some work on tangible and intangible heritages in Zimbabwe but these have been handled as separate entities. However, their findings will be used to enhance and authenticate the findings of this research despite the differences in focus.
Ellert (1993, 2002) has work on tangible Zimbabwean heritage items like axes, knives, stools, rock-paintings, knobkerries and other Zimbabwean items that provide clues about the people who made them and their historical origins. He highlights that these cultural ornaments are rich sources of the historical information on the people who made them. Clive (1997) has collected samples of essays by prominent Zimbabwean writers on the Shona customs. The articles in his collection pay special attention to witches and witchcraft, traditional ceremonies, legends, myths, marriage practices and lobola. These articles will be useful in this study because they handle some of the traditional Shona practices that persist in this environment threatened with cultural homogeneity wrought into the world by globalisation.
Hadebe and Vambe (2001) have an article titled, ‘The role of orature in the nationalist struggle in Zimbabwe.’ In this article he views the Zimbabwean struggle as a struggle for cultural identity. He looks at the significance of the land in both the first and second wars of national liberation. In the same volume he edited, Vambe has also written on ‘spirit possession in the Zimbabwean Black Novel in English.’ In this article he re-evaluates Shona culture by invoking themes, motifs and oral stories which deal with traditional Shona ceremonies of spirit possession. He also analyses Mutswairo’s works that revive Shona cultural heritage and history in the persons of mythical figures like Nehanda and Chaminuka.
Chiwome’s article titled ‘The interface of orality and literacy in the Zimbabwean novel’ (in Research in African Literatures 1998, Volume 29, No. 2) analyses how a Zimbabwean writer, Solomon Mutswairo employs myths and legends to reconstruct past Zimbabwean history. He views orature as a rich source of historical information that has been documented today.
Mair (1984), Weinrich (1982) and Olson and Defrain (1994) have all studied African marriages under capitalism. They have evaluated the impact of Christianity and other agents of change on these marriages. They have all come to conclude that the Christian marriage principles of monogamy are imperialist values that are the core essence of capitalism. Kayongo-Male (1986) has studied ‘the sociology of the African family’ paying special attention to the significance of the institution of marriage. Beattie (1980:138) has researched on conflict in western interpretations of African marriage systems. He argues that marriages “can only be understood if they are considered in the context of the societies and cultures in which they occur.” This means that one has to view them, as their practitioners perceive them. He believes that the cash economy has reoriented the Africans’ understanding of the significance of marriage.
Rukuni (2007) acknowledges that the African cultural heritage has succumbed to Western encroachment. He further asserts that the roots of Africa’s problems; economic stagnation or cultural erosion, conflicts and ethnicity are all creations by the West. This fact is supported by Olowabi (2003:86) when he says “ethnicity was invented in Africa by European elites, the initiators and beneficiaries of the exploitation of colonialism and further sustained in post-colonial Africa by their counterparts, the African elites.” Despite all this, Rukuni (2007:22) is of the opinion that the hope of an African cultural renaissance lies in the reclamation and recreating of the social bonds of old that made life worth living. For him these bonds are premised on the family, the extended family and the community that used to be the custodians of the people’s “education, culture, religion, conflict resolution, justice system, gathering of knowledge and sharing it, politics, and self-government.” Olowabi (2003:88) disagrees with him when he says, “all forms of social identities originate out of a reaction to the so-called problem of the ‘other’” and he wants this label removed to pave way for a truly African renaissance. This research differs in its perceptions from the findings of these researchers in that it attributes Africa’s problems, be they economic, political, social or cultural to the loss of its indigenous languages that used to embody all other forms of intangible heritages of old. It therefore sees Africa’s hopes of a better future in the reclamation of its indigenous languages. However ideas raised by Rukuni and Olowabi though different in a way will help illuminate this argument.
Mararike (2001:4) is of the strong opinion that Africa’s cultural renaissance lies in the reclamation of a lost heritage; the land misappropriated by colonialism and is still under its control in post-colonial Africa. He is of the conviction that a “people without assets of their own or who lack control of assets are prone to domination by those with assets or are in control of other people’s assets.” For him history has proved that “no nation has succeeded without taking full control of its tangible and intangible assets,” a notion to which this thesis subscribes. The tangible and intangible assets are subsumed within one another, as the former is an emblem of the other. According to Mararike then, the land as a tangible heritage is an expression of the intangible assets of the Zimbabwean people. The concept of intangible assets for him refers to “ritual knowledge and the names of the dead and their relationships with their living descendants” (Mararike 2001:16). His idea of intangible heritage is religious. He believes that the appropriation of the Zimbabwean land by the colonial Rhodesian regime through the Land Apportionment of 1932 has had adverse effects on the form and future of Zimbabwe’s intangible cultural heritage. Mararike does not talk of the language factor in his discussion. However, this research will endeavour to establish the impact of the appropriation of the land by the white settlers on the living standards of the Zimbabwean people that then led to the denigration of the Shona language and in turn of the other Zimbabwean intangible values.

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On museums and intangible heritage

Allan (1982) argues that change is an inevitable constant in human experience and that endeavouring to preserve culture is pointless. He views culture change from a western perspective. For him positive change in cultural practices must emanate from the West. Baghli (ICOM NEWS 2004) shares the same sentiments in his article titled ‘The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and New Perspectives for the Museum’ when he asserts that it would be foolhardy for anyone to waste time and resources in a futile exercise of endeavouring to preserve intangible heritage as we are in an era of globalisation where cultural diversity should be promoted. He says, “I in no way advocate attempting to stand in the way of the globalisation we are currently experiencing, for good and for ill” (ICOM NEWS 2004: 17). His argument is that we are living in a world that is constantly changing, and change, according to him is an inherent aspect of nature. Objects, humans, traditions and everything in this world is subjected to this universal law of nature. These are some of the Eurocentric perceptions of African cultural practices that this research will attempt to deconstruct. It argues for change that is natural, change that is not forcibly imposed on a people by another for his own benefit. It will show the link between globalisation and the other facets of imperialism bent on engulfing the weaker cultures of the world. The research will as well show the Eurocentric nature of globalisation as it impacts negatively on Zimbabwean intangible heritage. However Baghli views museums as the best equipped institutions so far to preserve intangible heritage as they are both “the memory and consciousness of society” (ICOM NEWS 2004:16).
Lee (ICOM NEWS 2004) observes that since the bygone ages, people have always shown a lot of interest in material things, in objects and not in the minds that make them. According to him this is the reason why museums are full of objects or artefacts made by men and these have become the subjects of most researchers. He views the role of museums as that of complementing communities in the safeguarding of intangible heritage. They are custodians of the minds of generations that have gone by. Their weakness in this regards is that people end up being obsessed and fascinated by the objects they house and not by the minds behind their composition. He cautions that “unless we actually place the intangible assets in an institution that we call museum, and store them in a special glass incubator that we call evaluation, categorisation or contextualisation, they will disappear altogether in the present globalised world”(ICOM NEWS 2004:6). He goes on to say that museums are oxygen masks that help sustain the intangible heritage that is slowly suffocating to death as globalisation takes its toll.
Lee therefore urges researchers to shift their attention “from tangible to intangible cultural assets; that is, from objects on display into the minds of those who make them” (ICOM NEWS 2004: 5). He has observed that despite the fact that Korea has been dogged by seemingly endless wars that have ravaged its cultural heritage, its unique culture has been maintained “because of the intangible cultural force, spirit and soul, handed down over thousands of years, which cannot be destroyed or taken away by weapons” (ICOM NEWS 2004:5). The research therefore hopes to establish why intangible cultural heritage is a force to reckon with in the preservation and sustenance of national identities threatened by globalisation.
Yim’s article (ICOM NEWS 2004:11) titled ‘Living Human Treasures and the protection of intangible Cultural Heritage: Experiences and Challenges’ further informs us on how the Korean intangible heritage has remained intact to this day in spite of the threat posed by globalisation. He says that in 1962, the Korean Government passed ‘The Cultural Heritage Protection Act’ that facilitated the protection of both its intangible and tangible heritage from extinction. The government then went on to identify individuals who were extremely knowledgeable and skilled in certain areas of intangible art like “music, dance, drama, games, ceremonies, martial arts and crafts, as well as the production techniques for food and other kinds of daily needs that historically, academically, and artistically had great value.” It then encouraged them to pass on their art to the youths through training. The government met all the costs incurred in the whole exercise and put these trainers whom they termed ‘Living Treasures’ on monthly salaries, medical aid schemes and a whole lot of innumerable benefits as incentives to keep the exercise going. Trainees who excelled in particular art forms were also given government incentives like scholarships to further perfect their skills in institutions of higher learning. These were as well encouraged to transmit this intangible heritage to future generations. The exercise is said to be still going on even today. Yim attributes the survival of the Korean culture to this exercise despite the threats posed by globalisation. Ideas raised in articles of this nature will go a long way in helping the researcher to locate new paths that help conserve Zimbabwean intangible heritage in an era of Western/American oriented change.
Kurin’s article titled “Museums and Intangible Heritage: Culture Dead or Alive?’ (ICOM NEWS 2004:7) as well, questions the role of museums as custodians of a people’s intangible heritage. His argument is that museums are for the storage of dead objects yet intangible heritage is living, and is within communities, therefore it cannot be caged in museums. He therefore asserts that “in order to deal with intangible cultural heritage, museums must have an extensive, fully engaged, substantive dialogue and partnership with the people who hold the heritage. Though conceding that museums are poor custodians of intangible heritage, Kurin claims that there is no rightful method to do so right now.

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Chapter 1 Introduction 
1.1 Preamble
1.2 What intangible cultural heritage is
1.3 An Historical overview of the Language and Intangible heritage situation in Zimbabwe
1.4 Statement of the problem
1.5 Aim of the study
1.6 Objectives of the study
1.7 Research questions
1.8 Assumptions
1.9 Justification
1.10 Limitations of the Study
1.11 Delimitations of the Study
1.12 Definition and explanation of terms
1.13 Conclusion
Chapter 2 Literature review 
2.0 Introduction
2.1 Heritage from a cultural perspective
2.2 On museums and intangible heritage
2.3 On Indigenous languages and language policies
2.4 On globalisation
2.5 Point of departure
2.6 Conclusion
Chapter 3 Theoretical framework 
3.0 Introduction
3.1 Theoretical framework
3.2 Conclusion
Chapter 4 Research methodology 
4.0 Introduction
4.1 Research design
4.2 Research methodology
4.3 Research techniques
4.4 Population and sampling
4.5 Conclusion
Chapter 5 Data presentation
5.0 Introduction
5.1 Data presentation
5.2 Conclusion
Chapter 6 Data analysis and discussion 
6.0 Introduction
6.1Analysis and discussion
6.2 Conclusion
Chapter 7 Summary, conclusion and recommendations
7.0 Summary and conclusion
7.1 Recommendations

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