By Stephen Ssenkaaba
The First Lady and minister for Karamoja, Janet Museveni has decried poor documentation and the continued desecration of Uganda’s heritage sites.
“It is sad to note that some of our cultural heritage sites have either remained undocumented or are at the risk of disappearance due to human interference including economic activity or outright vandalism,” she said on Monday in a speech read by Barbara Nekesa Oundo, the minister of state for Karamoja affairs.
This was at a function held at the Uganda museum to launch a newly published book on rock art sites of the Lake Victoria region.
The book entitled: “Uganda Rock Art Sites; a Vanishing heritage of Lake Victoria” is the work of a team of experts from the Italian universities of Tuscia and Florence led by Italian professor, Barbara Turchetta and comprising Ugandan archeologist, Jacline Nyiracyiza and the staff of Uganda’s Ministry of tourism wildlife and antiquities’ department of Museums and Monuments.
The First Lady said that as a country that is richly endowed with natural resources, more should be done to preserve our cultural heritage sites.
Proper documentation, she said is key to effective protection of these sites. “Before meaningful conservation measures can be put in place, it is essential to have good records of the sites and their state of preservation.”
She thanked the team that compiled the research which resulted into a detailed study on the vanishing rock art sites of the Lake Victoria region.
She expressed optimism that the documentation of sites in Karamoja “will widen the tourism potential in the area and impact on the socio-economic advancement of the people there.”
The book documents more than 25 sites in Uganda in what Prof. Turchetta said was “the first step for conservation and management projects to start.”
The investigated area, she said, covers Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga areas and Karamoja, including among others the famous Nyero sites in Eastern Uganda, Lolwe/Dwole islands on Lake Victoria and the Dambos Landscape of Lake Kyoga.
The study she said involved geological, geo-chronological, semiotic and chemical analyses on landscape and rock art pigments.
Some of the covered sites in Karamoja and Soroti, she said, had never been investigated before.
Prof. Turchetta said that the findings in this research helped to shed a new light on the interpretation and possible functions of sites showing rock art in Lake Victoria region.
The research also corrected earlier misconceptions about the history, culture and ways of life of people in these areas.
She said that many of the sites under study were under threat of vanishing due to extensive human activity and needed close protection.
“In some cases people have disturbed the natural environment, surrounding the paintings by stone quarrying. These activities she said pose a big threat to the paintings nearby and the archeology around the sites.
The Italian ambassador to Uganda, Stefano Dejak said that cultural heritage sites form an important part of a nation’s identity and that Ugandans ought to appreciate and protect them.
“The desecration of such heritage sites should be avoided at all costs as they form an important part of your country’s history,” Dejak said.
“As Uganda matures it will have to understand that the importance of its own history as the beginning of a nation’s development.”
Rose Nkaale Mwanja, the commissioner for museums and monuments said that more work will still be done to preserve whatever remains of the rock art sites and plans are already underway to have them presented to the United Nations Scientific and Cultral Organisation(UNESCO) for consideration as a world heritage site.