Underwater Cultural Heritage - Traces of Human Existence

Friday, March 08, 2019

Lamin Jarju, senior program manager, National Commission for UNESCO (NATCOM) has pointed out that Underwater Cultural Heritage encompasses all traces of human existence that lie underwater and has a cultural or historical character. Such heritage, he said, provides testimony to various periods and aspects of our shared history. “For example, the barbarity of the slave trade, the violence of war, the impact of natural disasters, traces of sacred ceremonies and beliefs and the peaceful exchange and intercultural dialogue between separate regions of the globe.”

He disclosed that in contact with the outside world, The Gambia has had vessels sail from the Atlantic Ocean on the River Gambia, navigating to the interior. So also, the famous story of Mungo Park’s expedition on the River Gambia is common knowledge, the voyages of Alviso Cadamosto and many others are all too prominent to ignore or leave to obscurity, he added.

It worth knowing that Underwater Cultural Heritage is an essential factor for tourism, cultural identity and national pride and “37% of global tourism is culture-related and many possibilities remained untapped,” an urgent need to mainstream cultural heritage studies in all its forms into the curricula at The Gambia national higher education institutions.

Jarju explained that present statistics show that of the 61 State Parties that have ratified the 2001 Convention, only 15 are from Africa, a “poor rate of ratification compared to other conventions.” He therefore commended and congratulated the National Centre for Arts and Culture on the initiative taken to raise awareness about the UCH Convention and their start to explore the possibilities of discovering UCH sites in The Gambia.

Meanwhile, Underwater Cultural Heritage means “traces of human existence having a cultural, historical or archaeological character, which has been partially or totally under water, periodically or continuously, for at least 100 years.” 

Author: Yunus S Saliu