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Cultural dialogue and heritage - Three questions to Webber Ndoro

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Cultural diversity provides an opportunity for intellectual openness and growth. In light of globalization and the need for mutual understanding, it is crucial to nurture and give voice to each region’s specific qualities.

Operating in 130 countries and representing more than 150 nationalities, Total knows that maintaining dialogue between diverse cultures is key to encouraging a sense of community. Emphasizing the value of the Group’s host communities and regions is central to its initiative.

And because culture is a source of local pride and vitality, Total Foundation is committed to preserving and passing on cultural heritage, supporting creative young people and promoting education in the arts for everyone. The program prioritizes initiatives that involve young people, for whom culture is a source of empowerment.


3 questions for Webber Ndoro

Managing Director of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM).

A native of Zimbabwe, Webber Ndoro is a historian and archaeologist by training. He has spearheaded several major cultural heritage conservation programs in Africa, in particular when he was at the head of the African World Heritage Fund, making a lasting impact on a whole generation of young professionals. He is therefore keenly aware of the importance of getting young people involved in the preservation of cultural assets, for an inclusive development in Africa.


What role should cultural heritage play in Africa?

It is common to focus on its contribution to economic growth and job creation through tourism, craft production, creative industries or agriculture. What we see less often is the recognition of the crucial role it has to play in harmony, social cohesion and tolerance by its ability to build bridges between generations, communities and nations. Cultural heritage is a melting-pot of identity and reconciliation. Now, at a time when the continent faces a number of challenges, this heritage can inspire development by giving meaning and bringing people together around a common project.


Why should young people be involved in its conservation?

Africa has the world’s youngest population, heavily impacted by unemployment and forced migration. Alongside climate change, the loss of traditions and the ageing of the cultural staff, these situations pose a threat to heritage conservation. And yet African cultural heritage is both a vector of commitment and a source of economic opportunities. Putting young people in charge of its resources can make a difference. By taking ownership of their heritage, they can better understand their history and identity. It is a key issue for a sustainable change on the continent. And by becoming actors of the preservation of this heritage, they will also be able to free up its potential.


How can we inspire young Africans to get involved in safeguarding the continent’s cultural heritage?

By making it more attractive. We need to put this heritage at the heart of the message, enable and promote discussion about its identity in light of decolonization and also take a new look at the role museums have to play in the current rapid urbanization of Africa. This type of initiative involves intergenerational exchanges that take into account the ingenuity and innovation of young people, while drawing lessons from the experience and wisdom of the elders. But for young people to participate, they must be given the freedom to design, implement and promote their own programs. Above all, the older generations must not tell them what to do. Several solutions are available to them: through a network of African universities, civil society, creative industries, innovative start-ups... I believe projects that combine heritage with digital and the inventive work of technology incubators hold a great deal of promise. It is by cultivating their spirit of initiative that these young people will become committed players who are proud of their heritage.