In Memoriam - Dawson Munjeri (1949-2024)

Dawson MunjeriICOMOS is sad to hear about the passing of Professor Dawson Munjeri. With a long, illustrious, and fruitful national and international career, he is regarded as a key contributor to the conservation and promotion of African tangible and intangible cultural heritage. His role in the inscription of Zimbabwean sites on the World Heritage List makes him a leading authority in the country's cultural heritage protection.

Professor Dawson Munjeri, former Vice-President of ICOMOS (1999-2002), passed away on the 29 April 2024 in Harare (Zimbabwe). He held a Ph.D. in International Relations and Diplomacy, his doctoral thesis focusing on the subject of international laws governing the protection of cultural heritage in the specific case of restitution and repatriation of African cultural heritage looted during colonial times. He had an extensive career at ICOMOS - of which he was a member since 1993 - and UNESCO, as a Deputy Permanent Delegate of Zimbabwe (2002-2017) and member of the Executive Board (2009-2013). He also worked as the Executive Director of the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) for five years (1993-2002) and as a professor at Midlands State University (2012-2024) and the Great Zimbabwe University (2018-2024).

He represented ICOMOS in the UNESCO World Heritage Committee between 1997 and 2003 and was an advocate for the inclusion of African values in World Heritage listing. He is widely regarded as a contributor to the recognition of intangible cultural elements in World Heritage inscriptions and as a pivotal figure in the safeguarding of Zimbabwe’s cultural heritage.

Under his directorship of the NMMZ in the Southern Region, the Great Zimbabwe National Monument was nominated and inscribed on the World Heritage List. This paved the way for other Zimbabwean and African sites to be added and safeguarded through professional and systematic conservation approaches that followed international best practice and local conservation values. He often challenged the application of Eurocentric approaches in heritage conservation and the widespread application of European guidelines, such as the Venice Charter and the NARA document, which opened up new perspectives based on African standards and principles.

As a prolific scholar, he holds a record of over 60 publications covering a variety of heritage-related disciplines, such as museology, tangible and intangible heritage, legal frameworks on heritage, and sustainable development. Dawson Munjeri left a considerable mark in the training of heritage experts in Zimbabwe and beyond, and will be deeply missed by the international heritage community.

This obituary was curated in partnership with Professor Munyaradzi Manyanga of Great Zimbabwe University, Professor Shadreck Chirikure of Oxford University, and Dr Pascall Taruvinga of Rhodes University.


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 Read UNESCO's tributePicto doigt

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