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12. Cultural heritage and histories of the Northern Namibhistorical and oral history observations for the Draft Management Plan, Skeleton Coast National Park 2021/2022-2030/2031

Sian Sullivan

November 2021


This report shares documented information for indigenous cultural heritage and histories associated with the Northern Namib, designated since 1971 as the Skeleton Coast National Park. The paper draws on two principal sources of information: 1) historical documents stretching back to the late 1800s; and 2) oral history research with now elderly people who have direct and familial memories of using and living in areas now within the Park boundary. The research shared herein affirms that localities and resources now included within the Park were used by local people in historical times, their access linked with the availability of valued foods, especially !nara (Acanthosicyos horridus) melons and marine foods such as mussels. Memories about these localities, resources and heritage concerns such as graves of family members remain alive for some individuals and their families today. These concerns retain cultural resonance in the contemporary moment, despite significant access constraints over the last several decades. Some suggestions are made for foregrounding an understanding of the Northern Namib as a remembered cultural landscape as well as an area of high conservation value, and for protecting and perhaps restoring some access to sites that may be considered of significant cultural heritage value. Such sites include graves of known ancestors and named and remembered former dwelling places. The material shared here may contribute to a diversified recognition of values for the Skeleton Coast National Park for the new Management Plan that will shape ecological and heritage conservation practice and visitor experiences over the next 10 years.


Key words. Northern Namib; on-site oral history; cultural landscapes; Khoekhoegowab; !nara (Acanthosicyos horridus); Skeleton Coast National Park; Namibia

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