Dear Louis & Linda
I found your paper to be sensitive to and critical of the way in which cultural heritage was defined and maintained during the apartheid years. In this regard your article reiterates how our political dispensation is mirrored across all facets of our living. I have to however also agree with your brief allusion to the idealism of your position. While our post-apartheid dispensation ensures an increased awareness of how we include and exclude groups within our society, this in itself at times can obscure our attentiveness from what it is that we currently construct and create. Good intentions need not result in good outcomes for all.
The curiosities evoked for me on reading this paper center less around doubting the desire from those concerned not to repeat the exclusions of the past, and more in terms of what it is that we now stand to construct in terms of culture and heritage. Who, for example, practically implements the local and international criteria and how are the implementers situated socially? What is the relationship between the international standards promulgated in ‘first world western societies’, and the unique circumstances operating within the South African context? I think here in particular of the meanings and real effects that have been attached to land and property rights in South Africa. The decided “expropriation of property” to ensure that a site which fits with first world westernized standards of heritage, could be another way of disguising colonialism and gets uncomfortably close to reminders of forced removals.
What are the ramifications of attaching a market value to cultural heritage objects and land? In addition you use the past tense when referring to the exploitation that occurred through the regulation of cultural heritage resources. To what extent are the same features still operative and ‘new avenues’ of exploitation opened up under the new dispensation?
I agree with your concluding comments that we need to be mindful of not only what obstructs progress towards the well-intentioned goals you mention in the article, but also of what meanings we are preserving for future generations. In this regard Micheal Benton’s comment in his paper of these proceedings comes to mind:
“…we must always be aware of the invisible power of defining sociocultural systems, especially when one social group has the power to define another’s ‘own terms’”