THE US government on Tuesday presented a 170m/- (106,249 US dollars) grant to a non-governmental organization Uzima kwa Sanaa (UZIKWASA) for the preservation and restoration of the historic Bwanga House in Pangani.
US Ambassador Alfonso E. Lenhardt presented the grant to UZIKWASA Director, Dr Vera Pieroth at the American embassy. The grant was awarded under the US Department of State's Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) programme.
Mr Lenhardt said when presenting the grant, that the plans for the preservation of Bwanga house was brought by the citizens in Bangani who have a real stake in preserving the culture of their community. "Working in partnership with the government of Tanzania and UZIKWASA we are supporting the restoration of the 19th century Bwanga House which was a major coastal trade hub, into a mixed-use space for tourism and economic activity in Pangani," he said.
He observed that culture reminds each of us of our origins and that it is a source of pride when rediscovered, thus promoting that pride among Tanzanians culture must be preserved. The aim of the project is to fully restore and rehabilitate the Bwanga House while promoting tourism and raising local awareness on cultural preservation of Tanzania's national treasures.
"As I travel throughout all parts of this country, I never cease to be amazed at the history, culture, and people of Tanzania.
"That is why today's programme has special meaning for me, because the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation gives us opportunities to demonstrate the American peoples respect for Tanzania's unique cultural and historical treasures," he said.
Dr Pieroth thanked the US government for the grant, noting that the sum is the largest they have thus far received for the preservation and restoration of Bwanga House. She said that with the grant they are certain to start restoring the house soon so that it would also be used for handcraft training.
UZIKWASA has been working in Pangani for eight years with strong focus on empowering local communities to define and implement their own development priorities. One of these priorities is to respond to the threat to Pangani's unique culture and heritage.
The Bwanga house is an important heritage resource in Pangani town. Our aim is to fully restore it so that it can be used again to serve the Pangani community and contribute to development of local people and artisans, Dr Pieroth said. "Once the restoration works have been finalised, UZIKWASA intends to partner with GOIG, a training institution with special expertise in cultural vocational training for quality culture industry production," she added.
The Director of Antiquities Division in the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources, Mr Donatius Kamamba, also hailed the US ambassador saying that the grant is in line with government policy. Mr Kamamba said that the current culture policy allows private individuals and organizations to partake in restoring cultural heritages.
Since 2002, the American people have invested 1,090,000 US dollars in grants to preserve and support Tanzania's cultural heritage, including restoration of the 18th century Kizimkazi mosque in Zanzibar; the ruins of the ancient trade port of Kilwa Kisiwani; and the restoration of the Shumba and Micheweni historical mosques in Pemba, among many other projects throughout the country.
Meanwhile, Mr Lenhardt has hailed President Jakaya Kikwete and Muslim leaders in the country for condemning the violence against American diplomats in Libya and actions against religious beliefs, while calling for calm and peaceful dialogue.
The ambassador said in a statement yesterday that the United States is committed to the tradition of religious freedom.
"As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Friday, September 14, The United States Government had absolutely nothing to do with the inflammatory video circulating on the internet that has led to protests in a number of other countries. We absolutely reject its disgraceful content and hateful message," he said.