Cultural heritage: Our legacy, our unique adventure

By Elizabeth Duve Dziva

Most people have probably heard or read about cultural heritage but just brushed it aside as one of those old-fashioned topics which are of little or no importance in the process of making money.

As a matter of fact, the subject of cultural heritage plays a pivotal role in politics, society and even in the economy hence the idea of ‘making money’ encompassed. Literally, cultural heritage is the legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a people that is inherited over generations.

It is not a new word in our vocabulary, not even in our everyday life yet it is so sad that we do not notice it either because of ignorance or reluctance. Consequently if something is not done, our Zimbabwean cultural heritage faces the threat of extinction.

Today, because of aspects like enculturation and the seemingly busy and modern lifestyle that almost everyone wants to adopt, it is almost impossible for people to discuss the subject in question at family level or even at gatherings. Yet it is an essential aspect which makes one’s life complete.

Even more heartbreaking is to note that the present generation disregards the essence of cultural heritage claiming it is outdated and does not have ‘swag’ (modern charisma). This perspective is even worsened by the new churches that have sprouted everywhere like mushrooms and their ‘Papas’ (self-proclaimed prophets) that denounce almost everything cultural as demonic yet they claim to groom and raise great people.

What they do not understand is that questions of identity, meaning of cultural heritage, language and religion are like a hand and glove. They are closely-related hence the need for the present generation to treat the subject with the importance it deserves.

We say thumbs up to the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education for introducing the New Curriculum which encompasses such subjects as heritage and cultural studies. Hopefully, the Ministry is going to consider making the subjects core since they are equally important or even carry more value than all others declared and recommended as core subjects in the curriculum (subject for another day).

All the same, it is disappointing that this generation seems to value and work towards the achievement of academic qualifications on paper rather than practically applying the acquired theoretical knowledge. They learn and study to pass but do not put the learnt ideas into practice. The late Vice President Simon Mzenda once said Zimbabwe needed to be a nation of thinkers and doers, a nation of people who integrate ideas and action. The impact of separating oneself from cultural heritage goes directly to the heart that pumps life in us, it is impossible for one to live life to the fullest without cultural heritage.

For our generation to appreciate and accept cultural heritage, it is essential to start by defining cultural heritage and make individuals understand what it is and how we have been benefactors of our cultural heritage yet victims of our cultural narrowness.We might think it takes a sophisticated and skilled academia to identify, define and perpetuate cultural heritage, yet we see, touch and benefit from it everyday.

Join me next week, on the journey to define and identify the tangible and intangible Zimbabwean cultural heritage

The writer is an Archaeological and Cultural Heritage practitioner. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization. Email:


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