UNESCO World Heritage Mozambique Island: Restoration and Awareness
The Mozambique Island Conservation Office restored ten traditional houses on Mozambique Island and trained local craftsmen in the sustainable use of natural building materials. Various educational activities accompanied the renovation in order to raise awareness among the local communities for the protection of the unique architecture.
The aim of #SOSAfricanHeritage is to contribute to preserving independent and sustainable organisational structures at African World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves with the participation of civil society as well as to secure spaces dedicated to education for global citizenship, sustainability and cultural diversity.
Mozambique Island is a limestone coral reef located four kilometers from the mainland of the Republic of Mozambique. The island is home to the fortified town of Mozambique, a former Portuguese trading post on the way to India from which the East African country takes its name. Two different types of dwellings can be found there: the stone and limestone city with Swahili, Arab and European influences in the northern half, and the Macuti city (city of covered palm leaves) with traditional African architecture in the south. The two parts of the city owe their remarkable architectural unity to the consistent use of the same construction techniques, building materials and decorative principles since the 16th century.
Restrictions due to the pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the already precarious financial situation of the inhabitants of Macuti City. The lack of income from tourism made it almost impossible for many families to invest in the preservation of their traditional Swahili houses. This situation was intensified by the pandemic-induced increase in the price of building materials. In addition, community associations had to use their few existing resources to cover at least the basic needs for food of the local population. Measures to preserve cultural heritage and raise awareness among the local population therefore had to be suspended after the outbreak of the pandemic.
Remedy through sustainable restoration
In 2020, the Mozambique Island Conservation Office (GACIM) had already established a digital communication network for better World Heritage management within the scope of #SOSAfricanHeritage. In a second project, the organisation has now renovated ten Macuti houses. The beneficiary inhabitants were actively involved in the process in order to ensure their ownership for the long-term protection of the unique architecture. The traditional construction of the houses requires the use of natural building materials. Local craftsmen were trained to use these resources in a sustainably way.
The renovation work was accompanied by events to educate the local communities about the importance of the World Heritage Site. In addition, information material has been provided and a photo exhibition documenting the project established. On the one hand, these measures were intended to promote tourism on the island, which is an important source of income for the residents. On the other hand, the Mozambique Island Conservation Office wanted to make the local people aware of the value of the World Heritage Site in order to strengthen their sense of ownership and thus sustainably preserve the city’s unity and authenticity.
On the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut, an International Relief Fund was set up in summer 2020 to provide rapid support to cultural and educational organisations abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic. With its special support programme #SOSAfricanHeritage, the German Commission for UNESCO is part of the Relief Fund consortium.
- Site: Mozambique Island
- Country: Mozambique
- Type of Site: UNESCO World Heritage (cultural heritage)
- Year of inscription: 1991