The SAA Archaeological Record — September 2012, Volume 12, Number 4
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Working With Local Communities And Managing Cultural Heritage In Iringa Region, Tanzania
Katie M. Biittner And Pamela R. Willoughby

Katie M. Biittner and Pamela R. Willoughby are with the Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Since 2006, the Iringa Region Archaeological Project (IRAP) has been conducting field research on the rich archaeological and historic heritage of Iringa. IRAP is a rapidly growing team, composed of academics, researchers, and graduate students in Canada, the U.S., England, Australia, and Tanzania. The main goal is to investigate the Upper Pleistocene and later history, in relation to models of the African origins of Homo sapiens. Before our team arrives in Tanzania, extensive preparations are required including applying for research clearance from COSTECH (The Tanzanian Commission on Science and Technology). This is required for all participants, i.e., any individual who will be a part of our team regardless of nationality or position. We also notify the Director of the Division of Antiquities, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Government of Tanzania, of our intent to apply for COSTECH clearance. This is because Antiquities will review our file and provide our excavation license. Without COSTECH clearance we could not receive an excavation license and we will not receive COSTECH clearance without the approval of Antiquities, the division responsible for historic resources on the mainland of Tanzania. One of the requirements for receiving COSTECH clearance is that foreign researchers must work with a local collaborator, a Tanzanian national who “vouches” for the quality of your research and your character. This process of acquiring appropriate legal permissions to conduct archaeological fieldwork therefore necessitates successful (i. E., ethical and cordial) collaboration with local archaeologists, academics, and professionals. Once these two permits have been obtained we are assigned an Antiquities Officer who will accompany us for the duration of our field season and observe all aspects of our research.

Our official duties and obligations continue upon our arrival in the field research area. We spend days greeting local officials from every branch of government and within every community we visit to introduce ourselves and to explain our reasons for conducting research in their jurisdiction. At any time we could encounter resistance to our research and find ourselves unwelcome; our acute awareness of the distrust and suspicion faced by foreign researchers was one of the Main motivations behind developing a research program focused on communication and local collaboration.

Prior to IRAP’s investigations, little archaeological research had been undertaken in this region. In 2006, preliminary test excavations were undertaken at two rockshelters: Magubike and Mlambalasi. The purpose of this preliminary study was to determine the archaeological potential, artifact density, and stratification of rockshelter sites in the region (Biittner et al. 2007).Mlambalasi rockshelter is located next to the burial site of the nineteenth-century Uhehe Chief Mkwawa, a leader in the resistance against German colonial forces, and as such the site has important cultural and historic significance. Magubike rockshelter is located adjacent to the village from which the name is derived. Consequently, many local people visited the site on a daily basis while we were working and expressed a vested interest in what we were doing on their land and with their resources. Although from our perspective the field season was very productive and rewarding, it was clear that local communities had concerns about our presence and our motives.

In 2008, IRAP returned to undertake a large-scale regional survey documenting the distribution of sites and stone raw material sources. Surface materials were collected at 12 locations, including a number of previously unrecorded archaeological and heritage sites. Test excavation at Magubike rockshelter was continued to determine the extent of the archaeological deposits.

It was another successful field season but not just because of what we accomplished archaeologically. 2008 was the first time we brought along posters for distribution at local offices and museums. The posters were prepared in both English and Swahili, and described our research. Small handouts were also prepared of the posters to give out everywhere— offices, schools, museums, churches, and to anyone who asked who we were and what we were doing. The reception was astounding. We repeatedly heard comments like “many foreigner researchers promised to bring back the information they learned from working on our land, you are the first to actually do so.” Magubike village called a meeting and invited us to attend. At this meeting they indicated that they had previously been skeptical of what we were doing and why, but after taking the time to read the poster they now understood. We were formally invited to continue our work at the site and asked to continue to share our information with them. Many people commented on how they recognized us and our names from the posters. These posters marked our first huge step in earning the trust of the communities with which we hoped to collaborate.

We returned in 2010 for more fieldwork and brought more posters. This time we created three posters: a regional one similar to that distributed in 2008 (Figure 1), an East African culture history overview (Figure 2), and one focused entirely on Magubike rockshelter (Figure 3). The East African Culture History poster was developed after recognizing that we were using terminology with which many local people were unfamiliar. We prepared this instructional tool particularly for the secondary school in Magubike, using images taken of artifacts, fossils, and skeletal specimens at the University of Alberta, photographs taken by Biittner of sites, or open source materials. We focused on Magubike rockshelter for another poster to continue to build a trusting and collaborative relationship with the village of Magubike. The poster emphasized the importance of Magubike rockshelter from the perspective Of human evolution, East African culture history, and, for the first time, cultural heritage management. The school children, in particular, were so excited by this poster of “their site.” At the ceremony where we handed over these posters to the school, the headmistress, teachers, and students all spoke about the sense of pride they all felt knowing they had such an important part of human heritage in their backyard.

From Posters to Management: Cultural Heritage in Iringa Research Program (CHIRP)

The posters have proved to be only one small, but important, step in engaging local communities. Since we began our poster “campaign” we have been approached by various community members and groups asking for support and assistance in education and economic development. Our response to this request was to form the Cultural Heritage in Iringa Research Program (CHIRP). CHIRP is a long-term program which will involve the direct engagement of local communities using interviews, public meetings, and workshops at schools in the region towards the collective and collaborative management of cultural heritage.

Through CHIRP we intend to:

1. Provide support to local archaeologists, cultural, and antiquities officers (including access to resources for the development of professional and conservation skills);

2. Improve public awareness regarding conservation of movable and immovable cultural resources;

3. Educate and work with local communities in fields related to cultural heritage and cultural tourism;

4. Work with local communities in developing, documenting, and presenting their own local histories; and

5. Work with educators to develop relevant curriculum connecting local archaeology with key events in human evolution.

We will continue to prepare and provide posters based on information generated from both consultation with local peoples and the result of our ongoing archaeological research projects. We hope to expand our translations beyond English and Swahili to include local, threatened languages like Kihehe.

As Magubike rockshelter is located so close to the secondary school (you can see it from the classroom), it provides an excellent opportunity to give students hands on experience doing archaeology including laboratory analysis and interpretation. This means the people who have a vested interest in the information produced by our research will play a direct role in constructing the narrative (what does it mean, what are the implications of our findings) and in disseminating the results. We hope to work closely with local people to find more culturally relevant or appropriate ways of disseminating our results. Illiteracy is an issue in Iringa, which means our posters are not the best long term solution for outreach. We must make all aspects of our research and our discipline accessible.

In the long term we will continue to document the historic and archaeological potential of Iringa, to improve conditions on heritage sites and in collections, and to alleviate poverty by supporting the cultural tourism industry in Iringa. By partnering with local artisans and tour operators, we can help to bring money into the local economy. A number of Magubike villagers commented that they could not understand why, if the sites in Iringa are so important, tourists are Not flocking to Iringa as they do to Arusha (the starting point for safaris to Olduvai and the Serengeti). Much of the damage to existing sites across Tanzania can be attributed to poverty. Local villagers now regularly report looting activity stating that they understand the intellectual and cultural value of sites and their potential to draw tourists to the region because of our posters. Our posters are only the beginning of what we hope will be a successful outreach program to engage local people.

Acknowledgments: Pamela Willoughby’s IRAP research has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), by a Post-PhD research grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation and by a Killam Research Grant from the Vice-President (Research), University of Alberta. Katie Biittner’s research has been funded by a Doctoral Fellowship from SSHRC, and by a Dissertation Fellowship from the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research, University of Alberta. We thank COSTECH and the Division of Antiquities, Government of Tanzania, and the people of the villages of Magubike, Kalenga, Wenda, Lupalama, Kibebe, and Iringa town for their continued support of both IRAP and CHIRP. Finally, we would like to thank our IRAP team members Pastory Bushozi, Ben Collins, Katherine Alexander, Jennifer Miller, Elizabeth Sawchuk, Frank Masele, Chris Stringer, and Anne Skinner for their ongoing contributions to the project. Asante sana.

References Cited

Biittner, Katie M., P.M. Bushozi, and Pam Willoughby

2007 The Middle Stone Age of Iringa Region, Tanzania. Nyame Akuma 68:62–73.
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