Understanding Culture And Heritage: Part Three …more hints for curricula reviewers and policymakers


CULTURE and development are two words which have not always gone together, or been worked upon within the same context.
In recent years however, we come across new elements, instruments and ideas which place increasing emphasis on this pair of concepts.
At present United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) also promotes the understanding of culture as a continuous, malleable and evolving process and indicates cultural diversity as an essential condition for peace and sustainable development.
Along this path, UNESCO held many inter-governmental meetings and prepared reports and proposals which converted culture into one of the central priority themes in the new development model.
The most important contribution from the UNESCO Declaration was without doubt the defence of the equal dignity of all cultures in its Article One that articulates:
1. Each culture has a dignity and value which must be respected and preserved.
2. Every people ha[ve] the right and the duty to develop its culture.
3. In their rich variety and diversity, and in the reciprocal influences they exert on one another, all cultures form part of the common heritage belonging to all mankind.
This Declaration provides insights which will have wide repercussions throughout the international work on the issue of culture: ‘development of culture’, ‘cultural diversity’, ‘common heritage of mankind’, among others. It also offers the first definition of international cultural co-operation which is established as a right and a duty for all peoples and all nations, which should share with one another their knowledge and skills.
Culture and the nation’s all-round development
To think of culture in economic terms is to understate its value.
Culture, in its broadest sense, is a pillar for national pride and identity.
Properly leveraged on, it provides the most reliable and sustainable building block for social and economic development.
China, Japan, South East Asia and India are examples that quickly come to mind.
Increasingly, nations are recognising the contribution of culture to sense of place, quality of life as well as community and economic prosperity through a process called ‘cultural planning’.
Cultural planning is led by local governments and involves broad community engagement to identify and leverage a community’s cultural resources, strengthen the management of those resources and integrate them in all facets of local planning and decision-making.
The process is part of a global trend towards more place-based approaches to planning and development that take into account four inter-dependent pillars of community sustainability; economic prosperity, social equity, environmental responsibility and cultural vitality. The latter helps create the environment for culture to flourish.
M. A. Brennan in his paper, The Importance of Incorporating Local Culture into Community Development argues:
“The inclusion of culture into community and economic development models can take many shapes and forms. Culture can serve as the central focus. Included would be tourism and other efforts that focus largely on the promotion, preservation or enhancement of local or regional cultures. Culture can also be a factor that needs to be addressed to determine its impact on new or existing development programmes (resource management, environmental protection). In facing development, the programmes that communities are willing to accept and embrace are likely to depend largely on cultural factors. It is therefore vital that problems and potential solutions be defined in a manner consistent with the local culture.”
He adds: “Regional or local culture can serve as a basis for development. Such efforts can serve to promote the local identity, regional languages, and minority cultures. Efforts can focus on preservation or promotion of a culture, but can also use culture to mobilise the local population. Examples of cultural preservation or efforts focusing solely on a culture are often seen in relation to tourism and conservation efforts. Included are renovation of villages (architectural rehabilitation, among others), highlighting the architectural heritage of an area (restoring historic sites to serve as a focal point for tourists), cultural venues (local heritage centres, traditional cultural events), traditional craft and artistic skills (development of industry and employment based on the production of items which are symbolic of the local culture), and cultural based entertainment and cultural dissemination (organisation of cultural activities, festivals, permanent exhibitions). Equally important is the environmental aspects of culture, where traditional uses of natural resources or events symbolise local cultural ties to environmental processes (solstice festivals, harvest festivals, agriculture progress days).These efforts serve as a basis for development, but also serve to maintain cultural traditions and ways of life. Furthermore, such forms of development highlight the importance of rural cultures and identify their role in shaping wider society. Finally, through such development, community and cultural identities are reinforced and collective identities strengthened. Such interaction can lead to an improved state of community and social well-being.”
Zimbabwe, because of its historical evolution, is blessed with a beautiful diversity of culture which has been weaved into a wonderful tapestry and is continuing to build on this wonderful foundation to fashion its national culture which is still relatively young.
However, as a nation, we have an uphill task to guard against cultural penetration which increasingly seeks to dominate developing countries in another form of imperialism through the electronic media.
And this could pose a severe threat to the preservation and development of our national culture.
One needs not overstress the threat posed by, especially, social media platforms.
For the record, let it be acknowledged that the role of media in Zimbabwe is not generically different from the role of media elsewhere.
Traditionally, when one comes across the word ‘media’ the general tendency is to think of newspapers, radio, television and the internet (multi-media forms).
However, more recently, the tendency has shifted to the social web platforms such as e-mail, twitter, chat-rooms, facebook and WhatsApp, among others.
The prime purpose of any media is information dissemination — a role that can be put to either good or bad use. This should be interpreted as how the media preserves public order or how the media fuels public disorder. Public order is achieved through responsible reporting.
Public disorder is achieved through irresponsible reporting.
And the point must be made that; whatever outcome derives from the editorial policy and objectives of the media-house or whatever ideological and cultural orientation of whatever individual originator.
For that reason, it is imperative that we revisit the direction our cultural development is taking to ensure it is going along the right path and to take the necessary remedial measures to correct the deficiencies.


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