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On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X

Historia vol.53 n.2 Durban  2008


Creating an African tourist experience at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site


Die Skep van 'n Afrika toeristebelewenis by die Wieg van die Mensdom Wêreld Erfenisterrein



Maheshvari Naidu

Ms Maheshvari Naidu lectures in Anthropology at the School of Anthropology, Gender and Historical Studies, University of KwaZulu Natal. Her research interests include Anthropology of Tourism, Cultural Heritage and Identity, Issues of Alterity and the Tourist Experience. She was recently awarded a SAASTA grant and designed and co-ordinated an African Origins Project that focused on African identity and palaeo-heritage




This article considers the example of palaeo-heritage tourism at Sterkfontein Cave, situated in a geographic area designated the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, or Cradle for short. The article looks at how a particular "African" tourist experience is constructed through the architectural vocabulary and the narrative built around the Sterkfontein Cave, which, with the adept use of a particular theory of human origins, allows the visitor to identify with a trajectory of a shared prehistory and shared humanity. These appear to be constructed in an attempt to redefine the visitor's image of himself or herself in terms of a shared African history. This sense of a shared history is attempted through the architectural design of the interpretive centre, the virile narrative contained in the logo of the centre, and the process of appropriating seminal fossil artefacts found here. The constructed tourist experience is itself fed by a larger emerging discourse to rearticulate the identity of the African.

Sleutelwoorde: Afrika; argitektuur; kommodifikasie; erfenis; fossiele; identiteit; logo; narratief; paleo-antropologie; paleo-toerisme; toeristebelewenis; tumulus; voorstelling


Hierdie artikel handel oor die voorbeeld van paleo-erfenis toerisme wat by die Sterkfonteingrotte in 'n geografiese gebied bekend as die Wieg van die Mensdom Wêreld Erfenisterrein, of kortweg die Wieg, aangetref word. Die artikel ondersoek hoe 'n spesifieke "Afrika" toeristebelewenis gekonstrueer word deur die gebruik van n argitektoniese woordeskat en die relaas gebou om die Sterkfonteingrotte, wat deur die vaardige gebruik van n bepaalde teorie oor die oorsprong van die mens, die besoeker lei om te identifiseer met n trajek van n gedeelde voorgeskiedenis en gedeelde menslikheid. Skynbaar word dit gekonstrueer as poging om die besoeker se beeld van hom- of haarself te herdefinieer volgens n gemeenskaplike Afrikageskiedenis. Hierdie sin van n gedeelde geskiedenis word geskep deur die argitektoniese ontwerp van die besoekersentrum, die kragtige narratief opgesluit in die logo van die sentrum, en die proses waardeur die uiters belangrike fossiele wat hier aangetref is, toegeëien word. Die gekonstrueerde toeristebelewenis word verder aangevul deur n groter opkomende diskoers oor die herdefinisie van die identiteit van die Afrikaan.

Key words: African; architecture; commoditisation; fossils; heritage; identity; logo; narrative; palaeo-anthropology; palaeo-tourism; representation; tourist experience; tumulus



 Full text available only in PDF format.


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65. This specimen was not discovered in Sterkfontein, but in the Makapans Valley at Taung, hence the name. See: Tobias, Wang & Cormack, "The Establishment of Palaeo-anthropology".
66. This specimen is now accepted as an adolescent male specimen. Originally named Mrs Ples, as it was thought to be a female, it is now Master Ples, but the popular name has stuck.
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70. Communicated to me on 11 September 2007, when I was interviewing him for a video documentary I was making as part of an African Origins Project. The video funded by a grant from the South African Association for Advancement of Science and Technology (SAASTA), was designed as a virtual tour of Sterkfontein and Maropeng and was eventually made available to Anthropology students.
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