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Exhibition Heritage Heroes at the 39th Session in Bonn


Heritage Heroes – Tanzania

Mwajuma Mbalawa & Rehema Hatibu

Hatibu and Mbalawa in front of the Gereza Fortress.
Photography: Bozica Babic

Workers in front of the Great Domed Mosque

Unskilled workers in front of the Great Domed Mosque.
Photography:Bozica Babic

Tanzania, Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara
(Cultural World Heritage *1981; World Heritage in Danger: 2004 - 2014)

Magofu haya yana umuhimu sana kwa kisiwa hiki. Sio tu kwamba yanatupa historia ya zamani lakini pia uwepo wa magofu haya yanasaidia kwa upande wa uchumi wetu.
"The ruins are the greatest treasure of this island. Not only do they tell us about the island’s past but they also offer us an economic perspective." (Saidi Mbimbi)

The inhabitants Mwajuma Mbalawa and Rehema Hatibu have stood up for the preservation of the ruins on their island of Kilwa Kisiwani since 2002.

The fortresses, palaces and mosques from the 13th and 14th centuries are reminiscent of the formerly flourishing trading hub between the East African Swahili culture, Arabia, India and China. Over the course of the centuries, the buildings have weathered and collapsed. Moreover, the growing settlements of the island‘s inhabitants have moved closer so that the ruins were considered as endangered in

In 2002, Mwajuma Mbalawa and Rehema Hatibu started as unskilled labourers with the conservation of the site by carrying mortar and coral stone to the building area. Only later they acquired detailed knowledge about the traditional construction method through the corresponding training so that they were able to contribute to the professional conservation work.

Thanks to their commitment they have become role-models and managed to gain almost all of the villagers’ support to the restoration measures over time.

The inhabitants have developed a new perception of the history of the island and the ruins. They jointly contributed to the removal of Kilwa Kisiwani from the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2014.