By Anastasia Paulus
WINDHOEK – The Mbanza Kongo in northwestern Zaire Province of Angola and the ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape, north of South Africa are the latest historical sites in Southern Africa, to be inducted into UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The World Heritage Committee following its 41th session held from 2-12 July in Poland inscribed three cultural sites in Angola, Eritrea and South Africa. It is the first entries for Angola and Eritrea to the World Heritage List.
The town of Mbanza Kongo, is the vestiges of the political and spiritual capital of the Kingdom of Kongo from the 14th to 19thcenturies. According to UNESCO, the historical area grew around the royal residence, the customary court and the holy tree, as well as the royal funeral places.
“When the Portuguese arrived in the 15th century they added stone buildings constructed in accordance with European methods to the existing urban conurbation built in local materials.
“Mbanza Kongo illustrates, more than anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, the profound changes caused by the introduction of Christianity and the arrival of the Portuguese into Central Africa,” said the UN cultural agency.
The ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape is located at the border with Botswana and Namibia in the northern part of South Africa, coinciding with the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. The large expanse of sand contains evidence of human occupation from the Stone Age to the present and is associated with the culture of the formally nomadic ǂKhomani San people.
“They developed a specific ethnobotanical knowledge, cultural practices and a worldview related to the geographical features of their environment. The ǂKhomani Cultural Landscape bears testimony to the way of life that prevailed in the region and shaped the site over thousands of years,” UNESCO noted.
UNESCO has inscribed the Eritrean capital, Asmara, which developed from the 1890’s onwards as a military outpost for the Italian colonial power.
There are tens of cultural and natural sites across the region in the World Heritage Site list.
These includes the Victoria Falls (Zambia/Zimbabwe); Maloti-Drakensberg Park (Lesotho/South Africa); Great Zimbabwe National Monument and Matobo Hills (Zimbabwe); Okavango Delta (Botswana); Namib Sand Sea and Twyfelfontein (Namibia).
Others are Mapungumbwe Cultural Landscape (South Africa); Kandoa Rock-Art Sites (Tanzania) as well as Island of Mozambique.