Ivhu rinotsamwa: Landscape Memory and Cultural Landscapes in Zimbabwe and Tropical Africa





cultural landscape, landscape memory, cultural heritage, archaeology, material anthropology, tropical Africa, Zimbabwe


Perceptions of the various cultural landscapes of tropical Africa continue to be overdetermined by western philosophies. This is, of course, a legacy of colonialism and the neo-colonial global politics that dictate types of knowledge, and direct flows of knowledge. Knowledges of the communities of former colonised countries are seen as ancillary at best, and at worst, irrational. However, such ‘indigenous knowledge’ systems contain information that could transform how we think about cultural landscapes, cultural heritage, and the conception of 'intangible heritage’. In many non-western societies, the landscape shapes culture; rather than human culture shaping the landscape – which is the notion that continues to inform heritage. Such a human-centric experience of landscape and heritage displaces the ability to experience the sensorial landscape. This paper outlines how landscapes are perceived in tropical Africa, with an example from Zimbabwe, and how this perception can be used to enrich mainstream archaeology, anthropology, and cultural heritage studies. Landscapes have a memory of their own, which plays a part in creating the ‘ruins’ we research or visit. Such landscape memory determines the preservation of heritage as well as human memory. The paper thus advocates for the inclusion of ‘indigenous knowledge’ systems in the widening of the theoretical base of archaeology, anthropology, and heritage studies.

Author Biography

Ashton Sinamai, La Trobe University, Australia

Dr Ashton Sinamai is an archaeologist with experience from Zimbabwe, Namibia, United Kingdom, and Australia. He has a PhD in Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies from Deakin University and currently works in Australia as a heritage consultant in the private sector. Previously he has worked as an archaeologist at Great Zimbabwe, Chief Curator at the National Museum of Namibia, and as a lecturer at the Midlands State University, Zimbabwe. After his PhD, he worked at the University of York (UK) as a Marie Curie Experienced Incoming Fellow. Currently he is working as Advisor, Heritage Approvals for Rio Tinto, Perth, Australia. Ashton is also a Research Associate with La Trobe University, Melbourne, and is an Expert Representative on UNESCO’s Roster for Cultural Emergencies. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage and a co-editor for the Journal of African Cultural Heritage Studies. His research focuses on the cultural landscapes and their perceptions through indigenous knowledge and philosophies. His most recent book, Memory and Cultural Landscape at the Khami World Heritage Site, Zimbabwe: An Uninherited Past was published by Routledge in 2019.


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How to Cite

Sinamai, A. (2022). Ivhu rinotsamwa: Landscape Memory and Cultural Landscapes in Zimbabwe and Tropical Africa. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 21(1), 51–69. https://doi.org/10.25120/etropic.21.1.2022.3836