Columnists

Poor documentation culture eroding our heritage

EMELDA Musonda.

Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA
I WAS recently in my home town – Livingstone on a mission to trace the history of some townships.
My focus was mainly on three townships namely Kashitu, Cold Storage and Zambezi Sawmills better known as Somili by locals.
In my fact finding mission, I interacted with residents who have lived in the townships for a long time, community leaders and the city council officials among others.
My interactions with various sources revealed that we have a serious challenge in documenting and tracking where we are coming from.
There is no doubt that residents who have lived in these townships are an invaluable source because they have first-hand information on the various aspects of these communities. It is however important to note that as the natural order of God takes its course, the older generations are diminishing and so is the rich history and knowledge in their custody.
As reservoirs of our rich history and culture, older generations are going to the graves loaded with information that should ordinarily be reserved and passed on to future generations.
However, because most of this information is locked up in the memories of our older citizens who have been around for a much longer period, when they die they go with it to the graves causing the country to lose its memory.
And as people age, their memory also tends to fade unless in exceptional cases, making it difficult for them to recollect all past events in a more precise manner when they reach an advanced age.
For instance, on the establishment of the townships, some residents who have lived there long enough, most of whom are senior citizens were giving different years.
Some of them only gave estimates because they could not remember the exact years. This is expected and understood because most of these are old folks who did not have an opportunity to attain an education.
It is also true that as senior citizens, their memories are slowly fading and as such cannot remember precise details such as dates.
Cold Storage in particular being a small township, it was difficult to find elderly people who understand the history very well.
For instance, one resident talked to, Daniel Sililo, who was born there in 1968, shared that if this author had gone there a few years earlier, before his father died, she would have gotten much more information on the township.
He claimed he could only remember as far as the age of 7.
According to Mr Sililo, many elderly people who understood the history of the township have since passed on.
What is even more saddening in the case of townships’ information is that even the city councils do not to have adequate and properly documented information.
One would have thought information on townships and cities will be sitting somewhere in some department under the city council.
Unfortunately this is not the case. My inquiry with the Livingstone City Council only produced titbits of information on townships.
The public relations officer, Melvin Mukela, admitted that there was a gap in the documentation of information on townships and their development trends by the local authority which needs to be closed.
Sadly, this is the state of affairs not only for townships but many aspects of our society.
As things are we risk having future generations who have no clue where we are coming from to appreciate where they are and where they are going.
The history of a society is part of its heritage which needs to be preserved for posterity.
It is therefore important to ensure that we document every stage of our development journey and heritage.
While the elderly generations may not have the capacity to put their knowledge in written form, the younger generation must take it upon itself to extract such information and document it.
During my tour of duty, I met a former curator at the Zambia Railways Museum, Kusiyalike Nasilele, who is writing a book on the history of the city.
Such initiatives should be encouraged if the rich history of our society is to be preserved.
Zambia Daily Mail also deserves commendation for its initiative to come up with ‘Township Trail’, a column which focuses on the history, economic, political and social development trends of townships across the country.
Through the column, Zambia Daily Mail is contributing to the documentation of our heritage embedded in townships.
Besides print, our rich history can be preserved through audio, video and picture form.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.

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