Heritage-making at the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Tourism Centre, Northern Cape : an exploration.
This study explores practices of heritage-making at the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Tourism Centre in South Africa’s Northern Cape. The research is informed by an African cultural studies perspective, employing ethical reflexivity to populate the work with research participants rather than research objects. The !Xun and Khwe San groups are the hosts at Wildebeest Kuil. Historically, San peoples have been violently subdued while recent history has seen them incorporated into rhetoric of national unity, simultaneously placating competing nationalisms and legitimising a dominant ideology. Negotiations of representation, heritage valuation, challenges to community participation and custodial failings are explored in regard to the hosts’ engagement with the heritage resource at Wildebeest Kuil. The thesis responds to a call for critical thought into the uses of rock art sites within heritage and the dearth of research into heritage tourism in the developing world, knowledge of which is decidedly vital for heritage preservation and sustainable tourism. The qualitative study, conducted between 2010 and 2014 via regularised field trips, was indebted to relationships built over time with various stakeholders. Data collection included desktop research, interviews and participant observation within the ambit of an interpretive case study. Multivocality is widely endorsed as a panacea to complexities of identity and heritage politics. The thesis pursues principles for thinking about multivocality from a cultural studies perspective, through which critical questions are raised about heritage construction, mutability, democratic responsibility and counter-hegemonic responses. Challenges at Wildebeest Kuil were found to be indicative of socio-political concerns in the South African heritage sector. The thesis does not dismiss attempts at reformation in the sector; instead it engages with a pervading disquiet that necessitates continued criticism. Heritage is not autochthonous, nor is it harmonious, originally present, and outside of human constructedness. Findings of the study reiterate that heritage is made by social processes and historic developments. It is invented, assembled, mutable, emotionally and politically charged. When viewed as such, heritage narratives valorising national and elite agendas become open for critique.
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