Are we prioritising our monuments?


I VISITED Paris recently and I made it a point to visit the Eiffel Tower at the earliest opportunity.
It is physically imposing as it defiantly stabs the sky way above every other edifice.
It dominates the landscape, it’s there, its massive, it has this force of presence.
The work of one Gustav Alexandre Eiffel.
Initially built for an exhibition and to express French industrial prowess, it was a centennial celebration of an event, that changed the course of European history in 1789: the French Revolution.
It is a symbol, an icon, its height and domination is more than physical, its also cultural, historical, economic – everything.
It dwarfs buildings, business activity.
It is the ultimate image of Paris, the capital of France.
You cannot say you have been to Paris and fail to visit the Eiffel Tower, a permanent symbol of Paris.
As a great tourist attraction it is ‘a romantic place to propose marriage’.
It is a big historical symbol, a cultural statement, part of a whole heritage.
It is now of great economic value, a powerful tourist centrepiece.
It generates so much money for so many, from UNESCO staff with its headquarters living in its shadows, to the Somali vendor at its foot selling trinkets of the monument.
The Eiffel Tower dominates the cultural and economic landscape.
Images of the tower range from the icon to the symbolic.
I saw replicas, pictures, paintings, cups, brandy bottles, perfumes, bags, clothing and chocolates.
The Eiffel Tower is a tourist brand and it sells well.
These reflections set me thinking of the significance and value of our own architecture and monuments.
The conical tower at Great Zimbabwe looms large.
It is a symbol of our own past, of our achievements.
It has this permanent imprint on the southern African landscape.
Have we given it full recognition as a symbol of our own industrial prowess, our history as people, our achievements?
Do we see replicas, trinkets of it as symbols of our glorious pre-colonial past?
Can we fully exploit it as a tourist attraction so that its local community and the nation by extension benefit from it and as well as from other national monuments in our country.
As I wandered about the tower, many things struck me.
I will mention just three.
First, the prevalence of vendors from foreign countries doing running battles with the police.
This was a familiar scene.
The second is how these people are proud of their identities and their pasts.
There are two commemorative statues one of Eiffel himself and a general who modernised communications technology in the French army.
Third, where are our statues?
How do we preserve our pasts, our identities?
You cannot talk of Paris and fail to mention the Eiffel Tower.
We must also come to a point whereby everyone in this world cannot talk about Zimbabwe without mentioning Great Zimbabwe, Khami and other monuments scattered around the country.
We must be a people proud of their past and it begins by prioritising our heritage everyday.


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