top of page

Shared Cultural Heritage Activities


Whilst the Netherlands use the term 'Mutual Cultural Heritage', not all of our priority countries interpret this term in the same way, or feel the same about this heritage. In South Africa it was expressed that the term 'Shared Cultural Heritage' was preferred and best suited their interpretation of the heritage in South Africa which is connected to the Dutch presence. Therefore CIE tries to be sensitive to this request and will use the term 'shared' instead of 'mutual' in reference to this heritage. 


Cultural Heritage Connections

Status: Complete

Duration: 2007-2013

Partners: Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science



This project was developed within the framework of shared cultural heritage. It was decided to establish an interactive online database regarding shared heritage cooperation with the priority countries. This would benefit current and future heritage cooperation through the provision of one central platform where information could be found detailing all past, current and proposed projects could be found, along with information about the experts and organisations involved. The users can share information and interact with the cultural heritage connections community, thereby creating a common resource tool. 


The platform aimed to unite expertise and knowledge of projects in one central location and was set up in close contact with experts and organisations who participate actively in determining the contents of the platform. It was designed by CIE to be a tool for the heritage field, for governments and researchers, allowing them to add information and search for heritage projects and potential partners. 


CIE made an inventory of the international heritage activities carried out abroad and within the Netherlands, which fell under the Dutch Mutual Cultural Heritage Policy. All the heritage projects within a specific country were inventoried and placed into a database, to be integrated into the platform. For each of the priority countries CIE organised two heritage days, one in the Netherlands and a counterpart day in the respective country, these were effective ways to not only raise the profile of the database and gather data but also to discuss the current state of heritage cooperation between the two countries and explore possibilities for the future. 



The Cultural Heritage Connections platform was developed and built by CIE and is now managed by Dutch Culture.


To visit the database please click here


In 2013 CIE finalised our research report as a summary of all our work surrounding the Cultural Heritage Connections programme. The report concentrates on defining the positive and the 'bottlenecks' in current cultural heritage cooperation, formulating conclusions and recommendations for the priority countries. 


The report was the final step in the completion of the information for the database, with conclusions highlighting the successes and areas for improvement, as well as an overview of the involved experts, organisations and projects within the Netherlands and the Priority Countries. 


Through this Cultural Heritage Connections Database CIE has had the opportunity to actively expand its network of contacts and partners for future cooperation. As a network organisation it was our mission to make this network available to an international field. CIE hopes that through this database we have further stimulated professionalism and international collaboration in the field of mutual heritage.



Cultural Heritage Connections Launch

Status: Complete

Duration: June 2011


In 2011 CIE organised an International Heritage Cooperation Event, which was attended by over 100 international and national heritage experts. The hightlight of the day was the launch of the Cultural Heritage Connections platform. It was officially launched by the Director of Cultural Heritage at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Coordinator of Culture, Sport and Development at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 


Representatives of international heritage organisations, museums, universities and national agencies discussed strategies and inspirational methods for international cooperation on cultural heritage. A panel of international and national heritage experts then discussed and debated if, or why, colonial heritage can become common ground for international cooperation. 


International Symposium 'Our Shared Heritage' 

Status: Complete

Duration: 2009

Partners: South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA), Iziko Museums of Cape Town, ICOM South Africa, ICOMOS South Africa, Department of Arts and Culture of the Republic of South Africa, Cape Town Heritage Trust. 



This symposium was organised by CIE at the Casteel de Goede Hoop in Cape Town, the counterpart meeting to the CIE South Africa Heritage Day held the previous year. 


All of our heritage days are organised at a location which relates to the shared heritage of the two countries in question. In this case, the castle was selected as it was the location where Jan van Riebeeck built the first Dutch fortified settlement in South Africa. This place does carry some negative associations relating to the Apartheid Regime and Colonial era, however South Africa is now looking forward to the future and creating new partnerships internationally. 


This event was organised to provide an opportunity for the South African heritage field to discuss and evaluate heritage cooperation with the Dutch heritage field and government institutions. The aim of our heritage days is to achieve better cooperation between heritage initiatives in South Africa and the Netherlands, creating sustainable programmes and projects for the future. 



During the meeting the South African experts contributed towards the diverse programme and gave presentations about heritage issues and projects in the country. A number of lectures, workshops and project presentations were made, providing the attendees with insight into the current diversity, priorities, opportunities and challeneges in the South African heritage field. The day was centred around five themes through which to discuss, explore and encourage future exchange:

1. Museum Cooperation

2. Built Environment and Cultural Landscapes

3. Archaeology

4. Archives

5. Language


During the meeting a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Iziko Museums Cape Town and the Museum Volkenkunde of the Netherlands as well as one between SAHRA and CIE. 






Heritage Day South Africa

Status: Complete

Duration: 2008

Partners: Rijksdienst voor Archaeologie, Cultuurlanschap en Monumenten (RACM)



In line with our work on Mutual Cultural Heritage, CIE organised a heritage day in Zeist, the Netherlands. It took place in the Hernhutter chapel of the Evangelical Brotherhood Community 1738. This was the first and oldest mission post to South Africa, to 'Genadendal' (Valley of Grace), which was established from the Hernhutter Missionary Movement. 


The aim of the day was to bring together those working within and with South Africa, creating an opportunity to meet and become inspired by each other, and to provide a platform in which to create more coherence between cultural heritage projects. 



The morning session was made up of presentations, followed by workshop sessions in the afternoon. The day was centred around five different themes: 

1. Built Heritage

2. Museum Collections

3. Archives, Photos and Books

4. The Mutuality of Mutual Heritage

5. Language


All of these themes were selected because they have shared background, relating to the legacy of Dutch-South African heritage. 



Built Heritage: The participants discussed the architecture of the Cape Dutch period, Boer era, Apartheid regime, VOC remains and structures designed by Dutch architects. The session recommendations called for more knowledge exchange between Dutch and South African experts. In South Africa there are not so many architects who specialise in Dutch architecture. 


The Dutch must also remember to tread carefully when attempting to work with built heritage, many of the monuments such as Castle Good Hope, have become symbols of colonialism and Apartheid. This can still be a very raw and painful history that South Africa is dealing with, and the Dutch should be sensitive to these associations and considerations when working with this heritage. 


Museums and Collections: There have been many new developments in South African museums in recent years; new media, focus on digitalisation and new exhibitions, resulting from a redefinition process in South Africa, challenging them to reflect the diversity of society. The role of the museum in South Africa's nation-building process was also a prominent aspect of the discussions. 


Archives, Books and Photos: Archives are a prominent source for the history of South Africa. Both South Africa and the Netherlands are invested in improving the conservation and access of VOC and anti-apartheid movement records in recent years, which should continue to allow maximum transparancy and openness in our cooperation. 


Mutuality of Mutual Heritage: Mutual Culturall Heritage is a Dutch policy term indicating the heritage overseas with Dutch connections. This heritage is not only a part of Dutch history and identity, but also that of the country in which the remains are located. Therefore it is often termed 'mutual heritage'. A central question of this session was whether South Africa also see this heritage in the same way? The VOC heritage is also tied up with the Apartheid memories. How does this influence the cooperation between the two countries? To what extent do we actually share common heritage? 


It became clear that we need to clarify between our terms; mutual, shared, common, joint heritage, not all of these are seen in the same way within our partner countries. South Africa for example prefers to use 'shared cultural heritage' instead of mutual. 


Language: Language is the bearer of culture; an important instrument for developing and maintaining identity. Afrikaans is part of the intangible heritage of South Africa, stemming from a mix of Dutch, Malayan and African languages. It is still spoken in South Africa and attitudes towards it have changed much over the last few decades. Its future therefore is uncertain. 




Programme book




Selection of Heritage Day Posters

Banners advertising the international symposium

Jonathon Sharfman of ACHA and CIE advisor speaking at the conference

Sibongile Van Damme of SAHRA and CIE Director Robert Parthesius signing a Memordandum of Understanding between the two organisations. 

bottom of page