There’s more to SA than its natural heritage

2014-04-21 10:00

April 18 was World Heritage Day and I wondered what collective heritage the world had to celebrate.

On doing some research, I found that World Heritage Day was about historic monuments and sites. This made much more sense.

While sites or natural settings are important, I don’t think it’s fitting to lump them with World Heritage Day.

Rather create an Earth Heritage Day that celebrates the earth’s natural beauty and resources, and the fact that it currently is the only planet in our galaxy that sustains life.

I looked up the world’s most important memorial sites, including the Taj Mahal in India, Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Great Sphinx of Giza. The Cape of Good Hope and Table Mountain were featured in “the top 50 most important sites in the world”.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) lists recommended sites to visit on World Heritage Day in every nation. The local list includes the Fossil Hominid Sites, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Robben Island, Maloti-Drakensberg Park, Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, Cape Floral Region, Vredefort Dome and Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape.

Robben Island is the only physically built place to visit that captures human history. The rest are natural landscapes that are part of the earth’s make-up, not the world’s heritage.

By focusing on our natural settings, the impression is created that our history is not good or important enough to feature in the history of the world.

Maybe next year, Unesco should look at South Africa more closely. We have a lot more to offer than pretty flowers and big animals.

Denita is a BPhil student at Stellenbosch University

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