Bahari Yetu, Urithi Wetu (Our Ocean, Our Heritage)

Project Description

The coast around Bagamoyo, Tanzania, is alive with a sight rarely seen elsewhere in the world today: locally built wooden watercraft, powered by sail and engaged in economic activity. Their aesthetic has been readily incorporated into global representations of Tanzania’s coastal beauty and monetised for touristic and social-media profit. For the Bagamoyo communities who build and use these craft, however, economic development—urban expansion, the planned SEZ and tourism—is pressuring ‘traditional’ lifeways and threatening the practises that build these iconic craft. Maritime communities face displacement and loss of access to traditional fish landings, markets and construction areas, while coping with overfishing and disruption to traditional timber supplies. The project contends that the living heritage of Bagamoyo’s maritime communities is undervalued, under-recorded and under threat, while community perspectives are overlooked. This 12-month project will explore, through collaborative community engagement, the value of maritime heritage as perceived by the communities of Bagamoyo region, and will document endangered material culture, craft and fishing practise and connectivity with maritime space. Based at the major boatbuilding centre of Mlingotoni, it aims to establish the MMCHA as a community maritime heritage hub that promotes traditional boatbuilding as a tourist attraction and facilitates training, ideas exchange, and the articulation of concerns surrounding traditional maritime practice. The project will also train early-career heritage workers in methodologies of maritime heritage appraisal, recording and protection. It will promote MMCHA through community engagement activities including a launch event comprising a grass-roots exhibition, talking-heads video presentation of fieldwork results, schools participation and a workshop, as well as through social media and academic publication. Finally, it will formulate a coastal heritage strategy briefing for municipal planning, tourism and heritage agencies. The project is a collaboration between maritime/heritage academics from UDSM, UoE and UoS, Tanzanian NGOs (UW and WAUTO-Kaole) and the government’s DoA.


Location: Tanzania

PI: John Cooper (University of Exeter)

Co-Is: Elgidius Ichumbaki (University of Dar es Salaam), Lucy Blue (University of Southampton)

Size: Large