This project rests at the intersection of efforts to rethink African liberation heritage and debates surrounding how and who should undertake these efforts and who should directly benefit. The project maps the complex relationships between Tanzania and South Africa, specifically women’s contributions, in preparing for liberation and post-apartheid South Africa. Most of this history is only now being fully explored, and still widely unavailable and much still undocumented. While the 50th anniversary of Tanzania’s independence has sparked an eruption of exhibitions, books, and events, a close look at the materials and content of events reveals a continued hegemony in regards to what counts as worthy of telling, whose stories matter. The project specifically examines visual and textual representations of women political activists in Tanzania, including female anti-apartheid and liberation activists living in exile in Tanzania, both during and after the struggle against apartheid and colonialism. Specifically, we examine the extent to which women's participation in the struggle for democracy is expressed, represented and remembered, and in many cases forgotten, in contemporary Tanzanian contexts, visual culture and commemorative sites. In the context of urgent and ongoing debates about national transformation and development, the rich textual and visual rhetoric that once helped create political identities and recognition for women has now largely disappeared.
Given that women in several transforming countries continue to struggle to make the dynamics of gender salient, the account of experiences of women involved in the liberation struggle in Tanzania may very well have relevance for other contemporary contexts.
Heritage and cultural tourism in South Africa has increased significantly since 1994 and is now used as a tool for urban planning and regeneration. Targeting foreign special interest visitors has meant the adoption of new heritage policies that weren’t always beneficial to local township residents. Township tourism has grown in popularity and is a widely accepted mechanism for stimulating local economic development. Unfortunately few communities have the training or necessary skills to promote their unique heritage in ways that might provide sustainable long-term economic benefits. After visiting numerous sites across South Africa’s townships it became apparent that few of these heritage resources were ever placed within the broader regional, national, or international contexts of the resistance movement to end apartheid. By linking the shared experiences of Tanzania and South Africa a viable model for responsible community development through public history is possible.