1996 and 2014 World Monuments Watch
Surrounded by rocky coastline and small sand beaches, Mozambique is a coral-reef barrier island in the Indian Ocean off the African coast. In the sixteenth century the Portuguese built a trading center, called the City of Stone or Stone Town, at the north end of the island. The city was planned around a grid system with narrow streets and courtyards. Throughout the island, villages are linked by small boat transportation networks and characterized by age-old building techniques. Limestone was quarried in the southern part of the island in order to provide construction materials. Structures were built from coral, lime, clay, ironwood, mangrove poles, bamboo, and palm leaves, and they display architectural influences from Africa, Asia, and Europe.
A majority of the island’s historic architectural fabric has deteriorated and requires repair and reconstruction work. The Island of Mozambique was included on the 1996 World Monuments Watch after the destruction caused by Typhoon Nadia. In the years that followed, numerous improvements were systematically implemented, thanks to Mozambique’s collaboration with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the UNESCO Office in Maputo. In addition to developing conservation, tourism and management plans for Mozambique, several restoration projects took place including the restoration of San Sebastian Fort. However, the anticipated growth of tourism on the island threatened to negatively affect its cultural and natural heritage, and it was included on the Watch again in 2014. Sustainable approaches to Mozambique’s heritage issues must be encouraged in order to sensitively integrate new development into both the social and built fabric of the country. Balancing heritage conservation and urban growth will be imperative to maintaining quality of life for the local population. The way in which Mozambique negotiates the environmental, economic, and social costs and benefits of development could serve as an important model to sites around the world facing similar challenges.
Watch Day was held at Mozambique’s Slave Memorial Garden on the tenth anniversary of the African World Heritage Fund’s establishment in May 2016. Local officials, schoolchildren, and many local residents enjoyed cultural performances throughout the event.