Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the longest occupied and least studied landscapes on earth. While scholarship has been attentive to images of nature made by the region’s explorers and settlers and to landscapes of the colonial era—public parks and game preserves, botanical gardens and urban plans—surprisingly little attention has been paid to spaces created by and for Africans themselves, from the precolonial era to the present.
This book is a contribution to a small but growing effort to address this oversight. Its essays present a range of landscapes: pathways and cairns used by nomadic peoples to navigate through and mark significant places; anthropogenic or managed forests consecrated to ritual purposes of various kinds; tombs or palaces with significant landscape orientations and components; even monumental ceremonial and urban spaces, as at Great Zimbabwe or Djenne. They explore what we know of precolonial and later indigenous designed landscapes, how these landscapes were understood in the colonial era, and how they are being recuperated today for nation building, identity formation, and cultural affirmation. Contributors engage with the most critical issues in preservation today, from the conflicts between cultural heritage and biodiversity protection to the competition between local and international heritage agendas.