‘Cultural heritage essential to a nation’s sense of identity’


- Chair of Monument and Relics Commission

April 21, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie 

Chairperson of the Monument and Relics Commission yesterday opined that cultural heritage was essential to a nation’s sense of identity, self-confidence and stability as well as its ability to foster social cohesion and resilience in multicultural communities.

Speaking during the signing of a contract to review and revise the Monuments and Relics Act, Madam Isatu Smith reckoned that cultural heritage can be a bridge to peace-building and a vehicle for socio-economic development, as it is a non-renewable resource that must be managed, conserved and cared for.

“Today’s signing ceremony has been preceded by a rigorous selection process and the Center for Museums, Heritage and Material Culture Studies at the University of London has been appointed to assist the ministry and my commission in the review of the Act. We regard the review as a first step to strengthen the commission’s mandate,” she said.

According to Ms. Smith, the country’s cultural heritage encompasses a wide range of phenomena, including moveable objects, documents and images, monuments and archaeological sites and performing arts and ritual practices, among others.

She described the occasion as a history making event for the ministry and her commission as they move toward a thorough review of the Act, which was originally passed in 1962 and subsequently amended in 1967 and 1973 respectively.

She explained that the review would make provision both for the country’s heritage laws to be in line with international standards and to develop new models, particularly in community-based approaches to heritage management and stewardship.

Ms. Smith concluded by disclosing that the review project would be led by Professor Paul Basu of the Institute of Archaeology, University of London, who will be assisted by Michael Abu Sam, lecturer at Fourah Bay College, an expert in the history, culture and laws of Sierra Leone.

Also, acting Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Khadija O. Sesay, stressed the need for Sierra Leoneans to realize and appreciate the country’s rich culture so that it could filter down to future generations.

She said the Tourism Ministry had been neglected by successive governments, with some calling it a moribund institution, but added that they were now keeping abreast with modern issues and international best practices.

According to her, the review of the aforementioned Act was overdue and would help revamp the country’s rich cultural heritage.

“People don’t even know or recognize their culture,” she averred.

Member of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Cultural Affairs, Hon. Mohamed Tholley, also emphasized the need for Sierra Leoneans to respect their culture and added, “We have neglected and abused our rich culture over the years and live it to go down the drain.”