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Cultural Tourism - Tourism of Memory

Cultural Tourism - Tourism of Memory
  • Haiti. Mélodie in front of the Sans-Soucis Palace © K.-M. Pagé

The remembrance of slavery and the slave trade relates closely to the conservation of tangible and intangible heritage. As such, a joint cultural programme concerning the slave route was organized by UNESCO and the World Tourism Organization (WTO). It was launched for the African continent in Accra (Ghana) in April 1995, for the Caribbean in St-Croix, the American Virgin Islands in 1999, and was recently extended to the Indian Ocean region.

The objective of this programme is to identify, restore and promote sites, buildings and places of memory linked to the slave trade and located along slave routes. This joint program attempts to provide opportunities for genuine reflection on issues surrounding memory, while also integrating economical, historical and ethical dimensions of tourism. Furthermore, the programme strives to emphasize remembrance beyond memory strictly associated to Africa. It simultaneously highlights the interactions and contributions generated by the slave trade in music, dance, food, crafts, religious traditions, etc., which clearly underscore the contributions generated on the continent to the memory of humanity as a whole.

Restoration of Sites Associated with the Slave Trade
Thanks to the financial contribution of the Norwegian Agency for Development and Cooperation (NORAD), assistance missions have been undertaken by UNESCO. In the first phase, from 1997 to 1999, assistance missions were carried out in the countries of the four priority pilot areas identified at the 1996 session of the OMT Commission for Africa at Yamoussoukro:

  • Area 1: Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Sierra Leone
  • Area 2: Ghana, Benin, Nigeria
  • Area 3: Angola, Central African Republic, Congo
  • Area 4: Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi

In the second phase, from 1999 to 2001, the missions were extended to all the states concerned, in order to establish an exhaustive catalogue of the existing sites and to draw up a map of the sites linked to the slave trade.

The reports produced by these missions at the WTO (World Tourism Organization) and UNESCO were submitted to the countries concerned. They provide the following information:

  • a brief presentation by country of the possibilities of developing cultural tourism within the framework of the Slave Route Project
  • a global synthesis and marketing approach for the programme
  • elements for a regional programme for the development of cultural tourism within the framework of the Slave Route Project

The programme is being pursued in collaboration with:

  • the School of African Heritage (EPA, Ecole du Patrimoine Africain) in Burkina Faso, Togo, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo, Chad, and Mali
  • the Museum Development Program in Africa (MDPA) in Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra-Leone, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe
  • the Portuguese National Committee of the Slave Route Project in Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe
  • the Museums Association of the Caribbean (MAC)

The programme was strongly supported by the States involved, and has achieved significant results: the listing of all the sites and places of memory of the slave trade, country by country. The 41st meeting of the Commission of the World Tourism Organization for Africa in May 2004 in Mahé (Seychelles Islands) acknowledged the progress achieved.

For more information consult the Inventory of Sites of Memory in the Indian Ocean Region.

Tourist Routes

There are also plans to establish tourist routes linking sites between Europe, the Americas and West Africa. The fact that one can visit sites such as Gorée in Senegal, Elmina Castle in Ghana, Feydeau Island, the slave quarters of 18th century Nantes and the plantations of Christiansted and Fredriksted in St Croix, Virgin Islands, is an essential factor in improving knowledge of the slave trade and slavery.

Museums and exhibitions

In many countries, there is a growing interest in "reconstructing" the memory of the slave trade.

In response to this challenge, UNESCO, with the help of the Norwegian Agency for Development and Cooperation (NORAD), coordinated feasibility studies in 1999, to consider possible museum development in Angola, Benin, Ghana, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Madagascar, Mauritius, Senegal, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania and the Virgin Islands. 

Moreover, in an effort to supplement collections and exhibitions, UNESCO, in collaboration with the Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture (New York), has set up the Traveling Exhibition "Lest We Forget: Triumph over Slavery" in several countries.

  • Start Date: 19-04-1995   End Date: 19-08-1995

  • Lead Organization / Sector / Office: UNESCO