Rock art sites in Namibia vandalised

16 Apr 2015 09:10am
WINDHOEK, 16 APR (NAMPA) - An archaeologist at the National Heritage Council of Namibia says many rock art sites around the country are being vandalised and this is a serious situation.
Alma Nankela on Wednesday gave a presentation on the conservation of Namibia’s rock art at the Cultural Heritage and Creative Arts National Conference underway in the capital.
She said tourism related activities are some of the culprits in the vandalism of historic sites because some tour guides don’t have proper training and allow vandalism to happen.
“Growing tourism stretches scarce resources and push heritage institutions away from protection and conservation efforts. Therefore, a portion of tourism revenue must remain in the community as a means of fostering local protection, conservation and restoration efforts,” she noted.
Nankela said helicopters that fly over the works of rock art such as at Brandberg, spill diesel on the rocks while livestock, off road vehicles, fire, graffiti, theft, uncontrolled tourism, illegal camping, littering, hiking and mining activities exacerbate damage.
Rock art sites at Spitzkoppe in the Erongo Region have also been badly vandalised due to the mining of granite.
She said there is therefore a great need to impose heritage impact assessments to evaluate the impact that any proposed development or site alternation will have on the cultural heritage resources.
Nankela said current legislation does not recognise the local means of management and conservation of heritage sites, considering that rock art sites existed long before written laws. This means that there is wide disparity in the existence, awareness and effectiveness of heritage legislation within Namibia.
According to the archaeologist, sites with historical ties enjoy better protection and conservation than other heritage sites in Namibia, saying that no archaeological sites have been declared since independence.
She added that the complete absence of a heritage conservation fund at a heritage institution makes it difficult if not impossible to effectively conserve the rock art heritage.
She also called on the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture to integrate heritage studies into schools, as to create awareness and promotion of cultural heritage from local to global levels.
The current internal heritage register on paintings and engravings is at 62 000 figures found at more than 1 200 sites around the country.
Of the 1 200 sites, only eight have been proclaimed as national heritage sites under the Historical Monuments Commission (HMS) for South West Africa and the National Monument Council.
Of the eight proclaimed rock art sites only one, Twyfelfontein, is inscribed as a United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, while the Brandberg National Monument is on the UNESCO Tentative List since 2002.