Tech & Preservation of Cultural Heritage in Africa

Africa is known for its rich culture and preservation of heritage. But technology has changed the way preservation of this has been done for ages, introducing new challenges to the Museums meant to preserve heritage across the world.

Africa Legal Tech Network held a conversation addressing this concerns and what the way forward would be in order to ensure that technology works best for the preservation of African heritage and not against. In partnership with African Digital Heritage and National Museums of Kenya, deliberations were made and solutions discussed.

Olasupo Shasore, SAN from Nigeria pointed out the historical legislation’s pertaining to cultural heritage in various African countries and the surprising absence of new legislation to match today’s digital disruption. The then laws did not include any digital interference that is being experienced now, and there are no new legislation being out in place to address the concerns being brought by technology.

Concerns

  • Copy right concerns. The case where the term “Kiondoo”, “Shuka”, and “Kikoi” were trademarked as NOT African. Kiondoo, Shuka not African after all.
  • Names have also been trademarked. Example, “Hakuna Matata” by Disney yet the term is ‘Swahili’.
  • The digitization process of cultural and heritage across Africa could lead to more copyright concerns as someone can create an exact replica of the artifact.
  • The development of urbanized towns not being very concerned about the cultural heritage of the are. One of the biggest cases sited by Emily Kinama from Katiba Institute was that of the Lapsset project

With some of the issues highlighted, Kenneth Muhangi an Intellectual Property specialist gave insights on what needs to be done to avoid some of this issues.

“Culture is fluid and to preserve it we need to break it down into different components, we don’t just approach it as a whole “

Kenneth Muhangi KTA Advocate Uganda

The use of blockchain in digitization of African heritage and culture was voiced out as a way to ensure that IP rights remain with creator of the content and manipulation of the information is not done. Although some heritage is communal, the IP rights then can remain with the responsible authorities for preservation of that information in this case being the museums.

Recently, Kenya national museums partners with Google Arts to digitize and preserve Kenyan culture and heritage. Although with concerns of why Kenya cannot digitize its own culture, this was seen as a positive move towards the digitization process of the African heritage.

To get more of this digitized content on Google, visit Utamaduni Wetu.

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