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Sonwabile Mancotywa, National Heritage Council CEO

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The world celebrates International Monuments and Sites Day on 18 April 2014 under the theme, Heritage of Commemoration.

This day was traditionally known as the World Heritage Day.

The co-naming of the day which is more inclusive was suggested by the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in 1982 at their meeting in Tunisia and approved by UNESCO in 1983. It is now celebrated the world over.
The National Heritage Council (NHC) encourages citizens to take note of the significance of monuments and heritage sites that surrounds them in their communities.

The latest addition to the international monuments in South Africa is the towering statue of President Nelson Mandela at the historic Union Buildings in the capital city Pretoria.

“Monuments and sites, including those more complex and diversified forms of heritage places such as living landscapes, are tangible carriers of the memory of a part of the human experience. Thus, through their authenticity and integrity, they contribute, in their way, to the commemoration and transmission of values which include history,” says ICOMOS.

“We have discovered that this important feature of our country’s heritage has policy deficiencies that require correction. There is currently no regulatory policy on the determination of necessity, authenticity, construction, symbolism, historic value, community participation and several other dimensions of how we as a nation should go about establishing monuments. This applies to both in and outside of South Africa. We are half-way through a comprehensive position paper that recommends policy considerations to the Minister of Arts and Culture.”

In South Africa, many museums and heritage sites celebrate the day by offering free entry or hosting special activities. This year is different because it coincides with the Good Friday religious holiday. The public is urged to call the heritage institution before they travel to the sites and check if they are open for visits. Other sites like the Union Buildings in Pretoria are in open spaces where people can visit at any time.

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