Re-negotiating Identities, Knowledges and Natures Across Difference - Collaborative conservation through the lens of Macassar Dunes Heritage Week, Cape Town, South Africa (16313)
Macassar Dunes Conservation Area is a high biodiversity yet spatially fragmented protected area, located on the geographical periphery of the city of Cape Town, South Africa. The conservation area is hemmed in by apartheid-planned townships and post-apartheid informal settlements, which remain largely racially segregated in the post-apartheid era. The municipal nature conservation authority engages local township and informal settlement residents in collaborative conservation activities such as alien vegetation removal, conservation education, and community awareness-raising activities about the biodiversity of the dunes. These collaborations have proven contentious over their long and fragmented history, with emergent racial tensions, and differing perceptions of nature and how nature should be used and valued coming to the fore.
This article explores one other very specific collaborative conservation activity called 'Macassar Dunes Heritage Week'. Heritage Week is an annual event organised by on-ground conservators so that collaborative conservation participants from diverse social and racial backgrounds might share personal and cultural relationships to nature. Heritage Week involves local school groups coming to the reserve to learn about diverse relationships to nature, as well as a three-day overnight camp in the dunes. At the camp collaborative conservation participants sleep, eat, walk and talk together, actively sharing and learning about each others' cultures, natures, places and lives.
Based on semi-structured interviews and participant observations at Heritage Week in 2012, I interpret the ways that historical and political processes which sought to impose racialised identities are being challenged through these sharing activities, and have resulted in the emergence of new relationships to nature and to each other. Heritage Week is also serving to produce knowledge claims that challenge what is viewed as ‘legitimate’ knowledge for understanding urban nature conservation. This analysis of Heritage Week and the emergent identity and knowledge claims indicates the limitations and potentialities of informal sharing practices as transformative processes in post-colonial conservation practice.