The University of Liverpool is launching a fundraising appeal to conserve the heritage of a rural African community and enable future African students to study their past in Liverpool.
The University’s School of Classics, Archaeology and Egyptology plans to build a heritage and research centre in the Luangwa Valley, Zambia, which will enable local people to preserve aspects of their heritage threatened with extinction and to nurture traditional skills before they are lost. It will also showcase the area’s abundant natural history and allow Liverpool’s archaeologists to display the results of their research in the valley.
The University has a long history of archaeological research in Africa and for the last six years Professor Larry Barham has led research in the Luangwa Valley, uncovering evidence of humans in the area going back at least two million years. The systematic sampling of the south Luangwa’s archaeological treasures has produced a wealth of artefacts, from early stone tools to pottery just a few hundred years old.
As well as providing a much-needed display and storage facility for this material, the heritage centre will be equipped with labs and used as a base for archaeological and other academic research. The building will serve the local community as an educational and economic resource, offering a chance for children to learn about their past with the added benefit of access to educational technology. The centre aims to give people of all ages a chance to use their traditional skills by developing a market for hand-crafted goods.
The funds raised will also allow Zambian and other African students to study archaeology at Liverpool. The one-year masters degree scholarships – each worth £15,000 – will support students with their tuition fees and accommodation in the city. Archaeology students at Liverpool will also be able to apply for bursaries to undertake fieldwork in Africa.
Professor Barham said: “I’ve been working in Zambia for nearly 15 years and I can see how quickly the heritage of the local peoples is vanishing. Metal and plastic containers are replacing traditional pots; plastic bags take the place of baskets and second-hand clothing from the UK being sold at local markets is undermining the indigenous textile industry. The centre aims to save some of this rural area’s precious history for future generations and growing numbers of tourists to enjoy.
“While there are plenty of organisations protecting the future of endangered animals, no-one is helping to record and conserve the rapidly disappearing heritage of the valley’s human inhabitants.
“This venture will, I hope, help the Kunda and Bisa peoples educate their children about their past, give them a sense of pride with which to face the future and an opportunity to earn a regular income to help fight poverty and disease. We need to raise one million pounds over the next two years to make this vision a reality. We hope that by building lasting links between the University and African students, both communities can benefit.”