Support for the Cultural Heritage Inventory Project in Gabon
Gabon ratified the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in December 1986. To date, it has two properties inscribed on the World Heritage List, the Ecosystem and Relict Cultural Landscape Lopé - Okanda and the Ivindo National Park, inscribed in 2021 at the 44th enlarged session of the World Heritage Committee (Fuzhou, China). The country's tentative list includes six properties, only one of which is a cultural property, the Old Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné.
The lack of human resources and expertise in the preparation of Tentative Lists and nominations having been pointed out by African experts as a probable cause of the low representativity of cultural properties on the Tentative Lists, UNESCO, through the Chinese Government's Fund for Capacity Building and Cooperation for World Heritage in Africa, and in collaboration with the Institut de Recherches en Sciences Humaines (IRSH), has supported the cultural heritage inventory project in Gabon.
The realization of a pilot inventory of cultural and mixed sites in Gabon and the organization of a workshop to update the cultural properties on the Tentative List were the main objectives of this project. To this end, a joint team of researchers from the IRSH and experts from the Ministry of Culture and Arts was formed, and various working sessions were held in February 2021 to review and select sites that could benefit from a field survey.
A training workshop on the validation of cultural properties was then held in March 2021 at the National Museum of Arts and Traditions. The workshop identified four (4) properties that could be the subject of an immediate pilot inventory: the Empress Falls (Ngounié); the Bongolo Caves (Ngounié) and the Catholic Missions of Saint-Martin des Apindji and Notre Dame des Trois épis.
This was followed by the deployment of a team of investigators in the field, the processing and entry of the data collected, a mapping of the sites concerned, and the drafting of reports and inventory sheets for each site. Following this inventory project, Gabon's tentative list will be updated in December 2021.
Chaired by the Director of the Institute of Research in Human Sciences, a closing ceremony was held in March 2021, during which the President expressed his satisfaction with the collaboration between the various partners and expressed the wish that this association would continue, particularly in the context of a future program aimed at identifying and documenting as many cultural properties as possible in the Gabon territory.
The recommendations of the project merge with the decisions taken to document the four main sites selected for the pilot survey and documentary reviews. Stakeholders emphasized the need to urgently mobilize more financial resources to increase the number of pilot surveys in order to achieve a more substantial and appreciable revision of Gabon's tentative list.
This project is part of the same dynamic that allowed last July the inscription of the Ivindo National Park, the second site of Gabon on the World Heritage List, a country whose 85% of the surface is covered by forests, that is to say nearly 22 million hectares, abounding in an immense and unique wealth.