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Never too late to start caring about urban heritage?

On Friday 1st of April we had the pleasure to present our project Ng’ambo Tuitakayo alongside renown scholars and urban activists as Hannah Le Roux, Johan Lagae, Joy Mboya and Iain Jackson (only to mention a few) at the Simulizi Mijini symposium on Urban Heritage in Dar Es Salaam.

The symposium was jointly organized by DARCH and the TU Berlin. It started with a session on urban heritage in an international African context and gradually narrowed down its focus towards Tanzania and Zanzibar to end up with a discussion on built legacy and cultural heritage in Dar Es Salaam.

Many issues related to the topic of urban heritage were raised along the way which later on led to interesting discussions on the political nature of heritage, the contested and highly problematic notion of shared heritage in the postcolonial context and the overall difficulty of defining the term heritage in relation to the multi-layered nature of cities.

On a more practical note we also discussed various methods of engaging with local communities and stimulating a more conscious approach to urban heritage. Here a special thanks to Joy Mboya for sharing some insights from the incredibly inspiring annual festival Nai Ni Who? taking place in Nairobi.

Despite the considerable length of the symposium the topic in itself appears to be close enough to everyone’s heart to keep the public engaged until the end. While no one dared to come with a definition of heritage, it seemed like the majority of people in the room would agree on the fluid and mutable nature of heritage and the importance of a more holistic approach to urban heritage.

The day ended with a reception on the rooftop of the Old Boma, itself a listed monument, and the future quarters of DARCH. The choice of venue seemed only appropriate in the context of the discussions that had taken place earlier that day. Especially, when regarding the setting of the Old Boma, literary dwarfed by the surrounding high-rise buildings, and pondering one of the last remarks of the symposium that it is never too late to start caring about urban heritage. It’s needless to add that in that particular physical context, the sub-title of the symposium Reconfiguring Urban Heritage From Below took upon a whole new meaning.

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