Our maritime heritage, like all other types of heritage (including political and socio-economic) in previously colonised societies, needs to be approached from an unashamedly anti-colonialist stance. From this standpoint, going forward, the view and process should/must be the decolonialisation of our maritime heritage.

The South African Maritime Heritage awareness intervention is not “a nice to have” at this time, against the backdrop that:

Colonialism has sought successfully to ignore and deliberately render as non-existent the role and contribution of indigenous populations to exploration and utilisation of the maritime sphere for national development.

Colonialists paraded themselves as having been the pioneers and sole knowledge-bearers about everything maritime. 

As it were, it passes as incontrovertible fact that Africans' encounter with the maritime space in southern Africa began in the 17th century with the arrival of Vasco da Gama and Jan van Riebeeck, completely ignoring the documented history of Africans in the region having traded with earlier explorers/traders and nationals as far back as the 14OOs. To name but just a few: in Kruger National Park’s Thulamela, Chinese Ming Dynasty porcelain has been found; at Watervaal Boven, Indian-type ore smelters have been discovered.

Thus, accounts of the use of the seas and related maritime resources by indigenous people for trade, military, culture and related fields are insurrectionally buried deep in the annals of colonial history, much to the continued deprivation of South Africans of their maritime heritage. This negates meaningful expansion of education in South Africa about our maritime heritage.

Maritime heritage is not divorced from but is closely and intensely interlinked with the current government programme of maritime economic development under Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) and central to which is transformation and integration of the sector into the country's mainstream economy.

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