Saturday, July 13, 2013

The greatest asset in humankind

Sibongile Mpofu (Zimbabwe)

I learnt a great lesson today, that history is one of greatest assets for human identity and it connects people to their nature and creates a sense of belonging and a positive view for the future within a community.
Every society has deep-seated wounds, but very little stories about those wounds are told. The process of self-discovery through telling historical stories that I saw today in the Little Cities of Black Diamonds is proof that history can build a nation.
Most communities are not aware of their rich histories and it is only in the past 15 or so years in Zimbabwe that ecological and cultural tourism, for example, has been explored on a big scale and identified as one development tool for historically- endowed communities.
The ‘Moonshine Project’, which is a historical heritage here, reminded me of the illicit beer my maternal great-grand mother used to brew and how this beer would be secretly delivered to the nearest mining communities. This beer was also the economic lifeline of the people in the village, who had no other source of income, and it enabled them to build homes and access roads. So, this illicit beer was, in a way, some form of heritage for this small community, because it defines that community’s history.
The Little Cities of Black Diamonds in Ohio is a good example of history giving people a sense of life and belonging following years of derelict and poverty, after the only economic source in the region – the coal mines closed in 1925.
For over a decade, people in the region have been working to rediscover and collect local history and share it in an effort to understand the past and determine how best to re-develop the area.
It is mazing how dedicated community members, through the Sunday Creek Associates have collected and, document the history of the region, and are now using it as a marketing tool to economically transform and develop the area, for their future generations.
Already, there are two volumes of history books, and an annual festival as part of the reconstruction phase.
The four counties are not only home to Ohio’s only national forest, but boasts of a number of arts venues; that include visual arts, music and dance; theatre and film; galleries, shops, and heritage sites such as Robinson’s cave.
Above all, there are intriguing and yet interesting stories that makes any traveller to the region marvel. People here have the passion to see their region regain its fortunes.
This region’s restoration programme, no doubt gives an inspiration as to how people could turn round their fortunes and develop their community, with very minimal resources but their history and heritage.
Lesson learnt here is that history shapes the way we view the present and that we are inspired by our history to make a better tomorrow for generations to come.
This should inspire many wounded communities in all parts of the world that, reflecting and cherishing histories, and supporting each other, can HEAL.

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