Heritage professionals trained by ICOMOS to create a national heritage inventory for the DRC
This workshop was initiated by the National Advisory Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of the Democratic Republic of Congo (CCN), and was funded by the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH).
It aims to support heritage professionals in developing a comprehensive inventory of the country's tangible cultural heritage, a crucial step in heritage preservation. To meet this challenge, ICOMOS President Dr Teresa Patrício and Secretary General Dr Mario Santana Quintero travelled to Kinshasa and Central Kongo for three weeks.
This project was carried out in three phases: a diagnostic mission, a capacity building workshop including courses in methodologies, tools, approaches and strategies around heritage inventory, followed by exercises and field work, and a final phase of restitution with the preparation of detailed recommendations concerning inventory policies to be put in place in the DRC. The trainees thus benefited from a basic transversal training on the different types of inventories available, their use as operational and management tools, the sources and types of heritage documentation available, as well as various site documentation techniques.
The workshop focused on tangible heritage: architectural buildings; archaeological sites; urban and rural ensembles; protected areas; parks and cultural landscapes. During the theoretical classes, the experts introduced the trainees to the national and international legislative framework, as well as the historical context related to the inventory of heritage properties, and the different inventory systems. A visit to the archives and to the library of the University of Kinshasa allowed the participants to become familiar with documentary sources and documentation systems for built cultural heritage. An introductory session on the concepts of safeguarding, transmission and cultural significance was also given. With Dr Santana Quintero, the trainees were introduced to graphic and photographic architectural documentation techniques using cameras and a drone, manual survey techniques such as sketching, as well as the taking of geographical coordinates of sites using a GPS.
During the practical application of the acquired skills, 10 inventory sheets were produced on Congolese heritage sites from the 20th century architecture of the colonial era, such as the Sacré-Coeur Church, the High Court, or the Noki 2 Elementary School of Central Kongo.
"In 6 days of fieldwork, we managed to produce 10 inventory sheets", said the trainees at the closing ceremony of the workshop. "That is to say that during 3 weeks, the trainees were equipped, not only to face the stakes of making an inventory of the built heritage of the country, but also as pioneers who can pass on the knowledge they benefited from to other heritage professionals and thus initiate a synergy covering the whole Congolese territory. Certainly, the challenges are vast, but this first workshop, a collaboration between ALIPH, ICOMOS and the DRC, ushers in a new era, that of the inventory of the heritage of built cultural properties in the DRC!".
Dr Patrício also praised the results of this project. "The success of this first capacity building workshop on a heritage inventory is an undeniable reality, both in terms of the enthusiasm of professionals from different institutions that participated, as well as the concrete results of the work", she said during the closing ceremony. "The 29 trainees, divided into 5 multidisciplinary groups, learned to observe, understand, research and evaluate the tangible heritage of the DRC. The proof of their excellent work is the 10 inventory sheets that they produced".
At the end of the workshop, recommendations were made for the effective implementation of the said general inventory of the country's tangible heritage. Indeed, the 29 professionals trained will now be able to assist the CCN in undertaking the inventory, and in defining conservation and management strategies to preserve the cultural heritage of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Dr Teresa Patrício encourages the creation of "new heritage policies, innovative in Africa, recognized as scientific by the international community and that will certainly nourish, preserve and transmit the cultural identity of the DRC".
Thanks to the support of ALIPH
Photo credits © Mario Santana Quintero
Dr Teresa Patricio training heritage professionals
Noki 2 School, Mbanza Ngungu
Notre-Dame de la Sagesse Church, Kinshasa
Dr Mario Santana Quintero with heritage professionals
Group picture in front of the adminstrative building of Kinshasa University