Heritage preservation has become a global cult and a global script in transferring knowledge and experience from past periods of history, and the strengthening of national originality and cultural authenticity.
The care for our own historical memorial sites in Rwanda will reveal the degree of civilisation and morality in our country.
Preserving, conserving and protecting our cultural heritage sites across the country, simply because of their cultural, scientific and general human values, is in the state’s interest and the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR) undoubtedly to protect and preserve cultural heritage sites.
Rwanda’s culture has emerged from her colonial past by asserting her own identity, healing the survivors who bear the wounds of post-conflict era that forced many into exile and the most recent, the tragedy of 1994 Genocide against the Genocide that claimed over a million innocent souls.
But today as we speak, our fate and fortunes are linked like never before due to our shared history. To ensure this continued identity, Rwanda’s history has to be taught, researched on and exhibited for improved public consumption and understanding to create better citizens.
Kaddu Wasswa John narrates in his book, “Archives” that, “usually people do not write their own history, some people are given a history that is not really theirs, but who can oppose and prove otherwise?”
For Rwanda, we can, and I am very sure do all it takes to protect our heritage sites for a history that is clearly ours and distinct and rich in our own cultural values.
Rwanda’s cultural heritage sites constitute among others; “Nkotsi na Bikara”, “ku rya Murari”, “Ngarama”, Bumbogo and the Kivu Belt, among others.
The cultural memories surrounding these heritage sites are of paramount significance to cultural memory that gives Rwandans a sense of belonging and help in restoring normalcy and progress.
Material cultural heritage is a symbolic necessity that gives meaning to our lives by connecting the past, present and the future.
Until recently, little research existed on the role of culture in healing not only the survivors who bear the wounds of post-conflicts in Rwanda, including the Genocide.
It is sad but one recurrently has to explain why culture is important because without it we will lose our main source of self-expression and by extension, self realisation.
Scholars now acknowledge the role of culture in one way or the other, be taken into account when analyzing conflict –affected societies.
Throughout recorded history, cultural heritage has suffered damage and destruction in times of conflict and damaging not only human lives but also the world’s contemporary heritage.
This has had long term and wide ranging consequences to notions of memory and identity that in the end affects relations between individuals and societies internationally.
When cultural heritage is destroyed, people suffer a fundamental loss making life more than survival.
This psychological survival through our cultural heritage sites is paramount in restoring a sense of normality, enforcing identity and feeling of belonging.
We believe that power comes from within; though international cultural agencies such as Unesco have played a proactive role in this by initiating a major shift in the ideological orientations of national cultural institutions, it’s upon us Rwandans and museums in particular to come at the mercy, rescue to offer the protection of these cultural heritage sites and cultural objects preservation across the country.
The 19th meeting of its general assembly in 1998, the Unesco-backed International Council of Museums (ICOM) passed a resolution concerning museums and cultural diversity, advocating for the development of museums and sites for the promotion of heritage values of significance to all peoples through cross cultural dialog (Silverman &Fairchild R 2007:6).
Museums are tasked to play a brokering role in reconciling national societies with diversity in their midst, a social issue perceived as urgent in today’s interconnected world and raising threat of intercultural conflicts and disharmony.
Our world is troubled in many ways today and peace is often threatened due to lack of cultural memory in that people no longer understand their neighbours and what comes next is war.
For people to live in peace and happiness there must be unity and this unity can be cited when there is a shared historical memory that links people to others and their environment throughout time.
This is the centrality of culture in a post –conflict disaster reconstruction.
Only the dead have seen the end of war. The struggle continues for Rwanda museums in protecting cultural sites as a human creation to inform.
The writer is an analyst on cultural heritage