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Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Projects


Cape Coast Oral History 'Whispers of the Sea'

Status: Ongoing

Duration: 2014-

Partners: South African Heritage Resource Centre (SAHRA), African Centre for Heritage Activities (ACHA)


The Eastern Cape is a melting pot of South African identities, where many of South Africa’s diverse cultures meet. This oral history project was designed in line with SAHRA’s larger Oral History Project which collects oral traditions bearing testimony to people’s historical relationships with water and carried out by CIE and ACHA. It brings together local perspectives through exploring mythology, historical accounts, archival records and research data. It is hoped that through this projects, more economically sustainable and community-driven heritage initiatives can be inspired and encouraged in the future. This project in particular aims to collect narratives from communities living between the areas of Port St. Johns and the Msikaba River Mouth.


As part of this oral history project Nautical Archaeology Society training was offered to 13 people living within the area, as well as 6 individuals from outside. This training provided the basics in identifying heritage sites, carrying out surveys, assessments and management of historical sites.The collection of these narratives from coastal societies by SAHRA aims to help inform heritage management strategies. It will further help in the identification of sites and demonstrate how local communities can facilitate improved heritage management. 


See more on ACHA's webpage


Youth Underwater Development Programme

Duration: 2012

Status: Complete

Partners: SAHRA


Together with our key partner within our Maritime Archaeology Development Programme, SAHRA, we developed a programme that was aimed at local youths to introduce them to various aspects of culture and heritage with a focus specifically on maritime and underwater archaeology. The programme took place at the Monwabisi Lifesaving Club in Cape Town, which offers lifesaving training to the young people in the local community. Therefore these individuals were already passionate about the oceans and waters. It was our aim to provide them with more context and inspiration about this environment in which they spend so much of their time. 


In total our course was attended by 31 learners, lifeguards and trainee-lifeguards. They completed a number of activities through which they could experience and practice archaeology. Each of them undertook a number of tasks, including locating, identifying and recording objects that had been buried beneath the sand. The young participants then presented their finds and made interpretations about why these artefacts could be significant to a shipwreck site. 


Establishment of the African Centre for Heritage Activities

Duration: 2012

Status: Complete

Partners: SAHRA- South African Heritage Resource Agency


It became clear that by 2012, the status of maritime and underwater cultural heritage (MUCH) in South Africa had evolved to a point where it was necessary to establish a new and independant body in order to implement the practical work which fell outside of SAHRA's mandate. Therefore the African Centre for Heritage Activities (ACHA) was born, a non-governmental organisation with a much wider scope towards maritime heritage related projects. This was one of the central goals to our maritime development programme with South Africa, a fantastic achievement for the project. It is our sincere hope that ACHA will go from strength to strength, coordinating maritime and underwater heritage projects both nationally and internationally for South Africa, and will continue to be a valuable partner for CIE. 


The website for ACHA can be found here. 

Africa World Heritage Fund (AWHF) Proposal


Status: Complete

Duration: 2010

Partners: Africa World Heritage Fund (AWHF)



In Southern Africa there is a clear need to increase the understanding of the value of cultural heritage amongst the local communities, particularly the richness that is underwater cultural heritage. Underwater and maritime sites have been very little explored, especially in Africa, yet they contain a wealth of knowledge on the past, such as the relationship with the coastal communities with the sea, which is at most times taken for granted. Africa has witnessed many voyages of discovery and trading activities, which have left thousands of shipwrecks on Africa’s coasts and formation of new cultures. Some of these trade routes were interlinked with the trade in human beings and the world merging of cultures, which subsequently redefined Africa and its coastal landscapes. 


Heritage Cooperation:

In 2010 CIE assisted South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia and Kenya in developing a project proposal to meet this need, which was submitted to the AWHF. The project involves the implementation of pilot investigations for regional cooperation and capacity building on Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage (MUCH), for countries that have ratified the UNESCO World Heritage Convention 1972. 


A number of World Heritage Sites including Lamu in Kenya, Zanzibar and Kilwa in Tanzania, Ilha de Mozambique, and Robben Island in South Africa, with related maritime and underwater cultural heritage sites will form the basis for investigation and development of strategic management plans within a local, national and regional context. 


The projects have begun to be implemented since 2011


Sub-Saharan Regional Collaboration

Status: Complete

Duration: 2010

Partners: South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), Robben Island Museum, Africa World Heritage Fund (AWHF), Departments of Arts and Culture (DAC) South Africa



A regional meeting on Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage (MUCH) was held at Robben Island in South Africa from 17th-19th February 2010. This international workshop had participants from Tanzania, South Africa, NamibiaMozambique and Kenya.  At this meeting it was decided to form a MUCH regional group, in order strengthen the collaboration in this area. The group formulated a number of goals and objectives for the group to pursue in the future. These were written down in the African Regional MUCH Agreement, signed by all participants at the Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island. 



This collaboration has resulted in a number of productive efforts. For example the group developed a grant application which was submitted to the African World Heritage Fund for a five year project focused upon capacity building around MUCH activities associated with the World Heritage Convention and World Heritage Sites in the participating countries. 


CIE as an organisation provides support to this group in their activities and proposals.

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