Sukur Cultural Landscape, Nigeria: Africa’s first World Heritage Site

If you decide on a quick survey of people who should know, hardly anyone would mention the Sukur Cultural Landscape as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nigeria. Most would only name the Oshogbo Sacred Grove in Osun state as the only World Heritage Site in the country.

How did Sukur Cultural Landscape fly so spectacularly beneath our radar in Nigeria? Is it because it is located in a remote North-eastern part of the country in Adamawa state, close to the border with Cameroon?

No matter where it is located, the fact that it is the first cultural landscape in Africa to receive the prestigious label of World Heritage Site should have been enough to make it one of the most visible places in Africa and Nigeria in particular.

Why Sukur Cultural Landscape is Important

Due to the effects of rampaging modernity on our cultures, traditions, and languages, it is common to hear concerned people talk about the preservation of our traditional heritage.

This is important in many ways. One of which is the fact that with a knowledge of our history (with proof of it too), it would be hard to be defined by the standards of other cultures.

Generations of Nigerians, and Africans too, have been fed the lie that our forefathers had no organized communities. That theirs was a primitive world where the only concerns were where to sleep, and how to get food savagely.

Places like the Sukur Cultural Landscape, tell a vastly different story to the ones peddled by the West. Places like this showed our forefathers were as intelligent as their peers in other climes in spite of the limitations of their environment.

The story of Sukur Cultural Landscape is the type of inspirational story that should make you stand tall and be proud of your African heritage.

History

The genealogy of the Sukur Cultural Landscape can be traced right back to the 17th century or even earlier. Extensive archaeological studies show that people in the area were the biggest suppliers of smelted iron for many of the communities in that part of the country for centuries.

Many of the iron-smelting furnaces can still be found in the area as evidence of a once thriving outpost.

But the area was not just about iron smelting alone. It was a complete community where all activities took place. There were hunters, farmers, artists, priests. Everything that a modern community required.

The impressive stone Palace of the king (known as the Hidi) of the people is a testament to the organized nature of the people. The stone Palace was situated on a hill overlooking the community.

Below the palace would have been the village where ordinary citizens live and did what people do in communities to survive every day. The most famous picture of this Heritage site is the Palace elevated above ground level.

Sadly though, tribal wars led to the collapse of this way of life. Many people were forced to migrate to the surrounding plains to eke out a living away from the dangers of wars.

Preserving a National Monument

Though the Sukur Cultural Landscape was made a National Monument in 1979 by the Federal Government in conjunction with the relevant local Authorities, it was only in 1998 that concrete steps were taken to preserve the place.

The National Commission for Museums and Monuments embarked on the actual preservation of the area along with educating the public on about its importance in 1998.

The Government of Adamawa State, Madagali Local Council where the site is located, and Sukur Development Associations agreed to be part of the project.

And in furtherance of the preservation of the site, 2010 saw the inauguration of a Management Committee by the federal government. From the committee’s work, a clear plan for the management and conservation of the area is now in place.

A visit to the area shows that all these efforts at preserving the site were worthwhile.

Visit a world Heritage site close to you

Now you know about the Sukur Cultural Landscape, would you pay it a visit anytime you are in the neighborhood? Going there would achieve a couple of things;

  • You get to be educated about the proud history of a Nigerian community
  • You would be taking direct action in preserving the culture and heritage of Africa.

A wise man once said, if you know your history, you can’t face the future boldly, or something like that. That is certainly true.

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