Tanzania's mainland and islands have played a pivotal role in the trade between Africa, Europe and the East for over a millennia. Trading empires built on slaves, gold and ivory have risen and fallen over the ages. Fortune seekers, traders, captives and rulers have brought with them new customs and lifestyles to this East African Coast, blending with the local traditions and culutre.
Many of these influences that have shaped Tanzania are linked to maritime activities. Evidence for which can be found in the tangible remains of sunken ships and submerged sites, but also in the intangible stories and folklore around the coast. These combined features as a whole make up Tanzania's maritime and underwater cultural heritage. Tanzania gained its independance in 1964. The name results from merging the areas of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which were renamed as the United Republic of Tanzania.
Tanzania and the East African coast have historically received little attention in the discipline of maritime and underwater cultural heritage. For many of these inland communities, maritime heritage has often been associated negatively with the history of colonialism, and thus neglected. Treasure hunters and looters have often been interfering with these sites, contributing toward the misleading perceptions and promotion of this negative perspective of this heritage for their own gains. Tanzania's coastal areas contain a unique representation of a melting pot of cultures; influences from Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Far East. Representing centuries of global contact.
The Tanzanian government have been working towards the ratification of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001, since 2008. CIE has been working on improving the capacity in maritime heritage in Tanzania since 2008. We aim through our project to increase and improve awareness and understanding of the significance of maritime and underwater cultural heritage amongst the communities. Our project comes under our core themes of: