Harare, November 8, 2013: The United States Embassy has awarded over $64,000 to the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) to restore the collapsed walls of Naletale National Monuments in Matabeleland South province. The support was made possible through a U.S. Department of State initiative, the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.
On November 13th, U.S. Ambassador Bruce Wharton will join senior NMMZ officials in Gweru for a tour of the monument and the official handover of the grant.
“This project acknowledges the importance of Zimbabwe’s pre-colonial history and demonstrates the deep respect the United States has for Zimbabwe’s rich cultural heritage,” said Bruce Wharton, U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe. “The involvement of students at Midlands State University – whose logo incorporates the Naletale monuments – in this restoration project exemplifies the kinds of cross-cutting partnerships we strive for, and also ensures that Naletale will be appreciated and monitored by future generations.”
The restoration of the collapsed walls and conservation of the deteriorating structure of Naletale will ensure its architectural, historical, aesthetic, educational, scientific and religious integrity are maintained. The Naletale National Monument was placed on UNESCO’s 2012 World’s Monument Watch list. This site is known to have the greatest variety of traditional Zimbabwe culture decorations and patterns, displaying the highest level of craftsmanship of pre-colonial Shona civilizations. Archaeologists believe the total collapse of the remaining walls would render the patterns irrecoverable.
The funding will also see the restoration of an interpretive learning center and enable NMMZ to acquire equipment such as a Global Positioning System (GPS), theodolite, cameras, and veneer calipers — all vital tools for professional archeological work. The NMMZ will work with a specialist in dry stone wall conservation and management who will assist in the execution of the project as well as train and develop local experts in stone-wall monument management.
Dr. Godfrey Mahachi, Director of NMMZ, hailed the U.S. government for its support. “NMMZ is grateful to the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation for the financial assistance given for Naletale Monument’s restoration. This project will go a long way in contributing to the national development strategy as restored monuments become important assets of the Tourism Industry. Restoration and Conservation are the scientific and technological basis for Heritage Management. To this end, the project will be vital in the development of local expertise in the science and technology of conservation particularly in the field of traditional dry stone masonry.”
Mahachi added that Naletale can be developed as well-marketed foci for both domestic and foreign tourists within the Midlands region, thus strengthening the link between NMMZ and the local community living near these sites. “It is our hope that this cooperation will not end with the Nalatale Monuments but is a pointer of fruitious cultural cooperation between our Institutions for the betterment of global heritage management and for the benefit of humanity,” Mahachi stated.
In 2008, the United States Embassy provided funding for the installation of surveillance and security equipment at the Great Zimbabwe Museum to curb theft of valuable historical artifacts and cultural resources at Great Zimbabwe in Masvingo province. The funding enabled the NMMZ to procure CCTV systems, battery backups, computer equipment, alarm and fire detection systems and provided training to staff on the use of the new equipment. The Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation assists individuals and organizations to preserve museum collections, ancient and historic sites, and traditional forms of expression, and thereby helping to reinforce cultural identity and community solidarity (ZimPAS)