15 December 2017

Ethiopia: Focus On Conserving, Preserving Heritages!

Ethiopia is the home to various antiquities that make it unique in all spheres. To mention, but a few of them, the country is known for its own alphabet, time system, calendar... remarkable ancient architecture... that reflect the Land of Origins - which one could find them nowhere else. It has centuries old manuscripts which depict religious and historical teachings. Furthermore, historic places like Fasilides Castle in Gondar, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, Aksum obelisks, the fortified historic town of Harar - Jugol - and other ancient churches throughout the country are constructed long centuries ago and show indigenous construction wisdom of Ethiopians.

However, there are enormous monasteries, churches, and cave buildings which are endangered at this time. Having serving the society for several centuries, the magnificent churches which are found throughout the country need renovation works. Especially, Lalibela rock-hewn churches which are among the top tourist destinations of the nation should be given attention by government and other pertinent bodies. They should be furnished and conserved properly. Modern technology and skilled expertise are needed to save them from further destruction.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, several ancient churches, and artifacts they have embraced, throughout the country need to be renovated and refurbished in order to conserve and preserve the heritages and benefit from their socio-economic values as well as to hand them down to the coming generations.

Negligence in doing so would be a sign of failure in linking ourselves with the past wisdom which helps us develop a strong sense of national identity.

Approached by this reporter for comment, Ankober District Culture and Tourism Office Head Yohannes Nigatu said that established during the 12thcentury, Ankober is well-known with its ancient tangible and intangible heritages. The Town has served as an administrative center of the Shewa Kingdom in different times, Yohannes added.

He stated that his Office is working in coordination with stakeholders on preserving and conserving ancient heritages so as to empower local communities and inherit the tangible and intangible heritages to posterity.

Financial scarcity, lack of skilled human power, and lack of enough awareness among the community regarding conservation and preservation are the major bottlenecks the District is facing, Yohannes said.

"Renovating ancient heritages requires massive public mobilization, skilled personnel and sufficient budget. The Office has been undertaking heritage conservation and restoration activities with 300,000 Birr which is allocated by the Amhara State Tourism and Heritages Conservation Office."

He said ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Churches, various religious heritages, Menelik II palace, various natural and human made heritages are among the leading tourist attraction sites of Ankober that need due attention for their conservation.

Amazing churches and monasteries were constructed through carving rocks and shaping them into marvelous caves at Ankober--St. Mary, St. George and St. Teklehaimanot churches are few of them in this regard.

The churches were built during Menelik's grandfather King Sahilesilassie's time, Yohannes noted.

He further elaborated that due to various factors like; natural disasters, harsh weather conditions, illegal human activities, precipitation, sunlight and longevity of the heritages' have been hindering to sustain them safely.

Recently, the District Administration has inaugurated 4.2 million Birr worth modern museum through public mobilization activities and it has been working aggressively to collect ancient endangered heritages to keep them safe in the new museum, Yohannes said.

According to him, Ankober is know for its four agro-climatic zones; Wurch (cool), temperate, sub-tropical and tropical. Plus to this, meandering mountains of Ankober is the other version of jollification for hikers in Ankober.

Mentioning the increment of heritages' exposure to ruination following different factors, Amhara Regional State Culture and Tourism Bureau Heritage Conservation and Tourism Development Director Yeshewas Desalegn told The Ethiopian Herald that his office is endeavoring tirelessly to retrieve ancient heritages.

Yeshewas indicated that the regional state is known for its permanent and movable tangible heritages including; castles, palaces, ancient mysterious monasteries, churches as well as other important heritages. Thus, having developing commitment towards restoring and managing these important heritages through identifying their level of damage lays up on working jointly and needs due attention, he reaffirmed.

Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH) Public and International Relations Director Fanta Beyene for his part said that the authority has discussed with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Ministry of Education on ways of producing competent human power that can manage and renovate the country's heritages effectively. Moreover, the presence of more skilled expertise on heritage conservation would boost the country's heritages' life span, Fanta added.

He emphasized that respective Federal and State Culture and Tourism Offices and other concerned bodies should play pivotal role in registering, conserving and researching the heritages throughout the country.

"The authority has brought significant result in inspiring every segment of the society to conserve heritages. So far, we have already established a platform to conduct researches by local and international researchers in the sector."

Lots of works are expected from the country in heritage conservation and preservation by establishing museums in all states and city administrations, Fanta underlined.

The number of international visitors of the Ethiopian National Museum is increasing from time to time. For instance, in 2014, 188, 157; in 2015, 224, 313; in 2016, 174, 000 international visitors visited the museum the Director said.

Fanta has urged concerned bodies to step up efforts of preserving, restoring and renovating endangered international and national heritages.


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