Heritage Workshop for the Asante Traditional Buildings in Ghana

In May 2021, UNESCO attended the heritage workshop in Kumasi titled “Integrated management of a heritage site”. It was jointly organised by the Embassy of France in Ghana, the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board (GMMB) and the UNESCO Office in Accra within the framework of the Sankofa project funded by the Embassy of France in Ghana. The purpose was to create management guidelines for the World Heritage site, Asante Traditional Buildings, to be used by the local communities and GMMB, which would give an overview of the stakeholders to be involved in the integrated site management and their respective roles. The management guidelines are also aimed to facilitate long term management of the site and include a rapid response scheme in case of emergency, particularly degradation of a building due to climatic phenomenon or human activity.

Apart from the UNESCO Representative in Ghana, Mr. Abdourahamane Diallo, other participants included representatives of the Embassy of France; GMMB Offices in Accra and Kumasi; Ghana Commission for UNESCO; Grand Site de France; Ghana Tourism Federation; Ghana Tourism Authority; Kufuor Foundation; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology; University of Ghana; Ghana Culture Forum; Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism of Burkina Faso; Parliament for the Ejisu Constituency; Ejisu Municipal Assembly; Ghana Heritage Committee; Center for National Culture, traditional leaders, and custodians of the Asante Traditional Buildings.

The workshop started with a visit to four of the 10 traditional buildings, namely, Adarko Jachie, Asawase, Ejisu Besease and Edwenase. The visits enabled participants to see first-hand the different challenges in terms of management. The tour of the Edwenase Asante Traditional Building was held by the family custodian of the building, Mr. Nana Asare.

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The visits were followed by the opening session of the workshop at the Forestry Commission in Ejisu. The session allowed the participants to share their feedback on the site visits. The different issues that were discussed include lack of security, delineation and buffer zones, maintenance, oversight and involvement of the traditional leaders and local communities. The session concluded with the presentation of different values as guiding principles for heritage management, including the Outstanding Universal Value and local traditional values of the ATBs. The session as a whole allowed for, among other things, a reflection on how the local communities could take ownership of the heritage site from its perceived and potential value and history.

The second day of the workshop focused on integrated management in terms of community participation, legislation and institutional roles and responsibilities. The participants from the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism of Burkina Faso and Grand Site de France shared successful experiences of integrated management of heritage sites in the Burkina Faso and France with similar contexts to the Asante Traditional Buildings, such as the Ruins of Loropéni in Burkina Faso and Le marais de Brouage in France. UNESCO delivered a presentation on the different perspectives of the integrated management plan approach for the Asante Traditional Buildings. Other presentations brought up participative approaches and share of responsibilities as well as the main challenges faced in the management and governance of the Asante Traditional Buildings.

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The focus of the last day of the workshop in Ejisu was on approaches to effectively develop sustainable tourism involving local stakeholders. One of the presentations from the representative from the Asanteman Institute, Osei- Bonsu Safo-Kantanka, discussed how Awukudae, Akwasidae and other traditional ceremonies and festivals can boost tourism in the Asante Traditional Buildings. Good practices from France and Burkina Faso (World Heritage site Ancient Ferrous Metallurgy Sites of Burkina Faso) were shared, specifically on ideas of organising events linked to heritage sites and the sustainable tourism approach in the Grands Sites de France.

The closing session of the workshop was devoted to making conclusions and creating a roadmap towards the conservation and management for the Asante Traditional Buildings, cooperation and resource mobilization to safeguard the sites. Some of the recommendations mentioned by the participants were to clearly identify all stakeholders, involve the Ghana Education Service to a greater extent and preferably on a local level to organise visits from local schools, use informal methods of education and spreading awareness, abandon terminology with negative connotation and implement an integrated management approach that also embraces the intangible cultural heritage surrounding the Asante Traditional Buildings.

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The following day, there was an additional session at the French Residence in Accra with the purpose of providing feedback to a larger audience that was unable to be present at the workshop in Ejisu, including representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, National Folklore Board, Ghana Commission for UNESCO, Ghana Tourism Authority, Presidential Committee on Museums and Cultural Heritage, University of Ghana and heritage experts like Prof. Wellington. It was also an occasion for the announcement of the re-publication of a booklet on the Asante Traditional Buildings to educate the general public and growing number of tourists to the sites.

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