The effects and socio-economic contribution of Batonga Community Museum in Zimbabwe : an ethnographic field study

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Zimbabwean history is rooted in ethnic and cultural identities, inequalities, and injustices which the post-colonial government has sought to address since its national independence in 1980. Marginalisation of some ethnic groups has been one of the persistent problems in post-colonial Zimbabwe. Of particular significance to this thesis has been the marginalisation of the BaTonga people of north-western Zimbabwe. The marginalisation of the BaTonga people is historical with its roots traceable from the colonial era through the early years of national independence. Post-colonial Zimbabwe's emphasis on cultural identity and confirmation has, however, prompted the establishment of community museums such as the BaTonga Community Museum (BCM), to promote cultures of the local people. The establishment of cultural heritage sites such as the BCM has, however, impacted on the lives of the local people in various ways. This study critically examines the effects and socio-economic contribution of the BCM to the local communities, which ranges from generation of revenue to education training, environmental conservation and creation of employment in several sectors of the economy. On examining this topic, I draw extensively on the work of Kopytoff, who wrote about biographies of things. In his work, Kopytoff argues that all things, including cultural objects relate in a way that allows the analysis of relationships between persons and things as a process of social transformation that involves a series of changes in status. As Kopytoff (1986) insists, cultural biographical approach is culturally informed given that things are culturally constructed and reconstructed in much the same way people are culturally (re-)constructed through time. I draw on the work of Kopytoff in a critically sympathetic manner to delve into the effects and socio-economic contribution of the BCM to the local communities. I, nevertheless, bring to the fore the argument that although Kopytoff does not explicitly argue that things have life, his cultural biographical approach implies this and that by tracing a biography of a thing we recognise its agency as 7 well. It is through the careful analysis of agency of these things that I examine the effects and socio-economic contribution of the BCM to communities surrounding the site.