The Silence of Great Zimbabwe

Contested Landscapes and the Power of Heritage

Joost Fontein



This book examines the politics of landscape and heritage by focusing on the example of Great Zimbabwe National Monument in southern Zimbabwe. The controversy that surrounded the site in the early part of the 20th century, between colonial antiquarians and professional archaeologists, is well reported in the published literature. Based on long term ethnographic field work around Great Zimbabwe, as well as archival research in NMMZ, in the National Archives of Zimbabwe, and several months of research at the World Heritage Centre in Paris, this new book represents an important step beyond that controversy over origins, to focus on the site's position in local contests between, and among individuals within, the Nemanwa, Charumbira and Mugabe clans over land, power and authority.


[Fontein] has written an important book about the roles that Great Zimbabwe plays in Zimbabwe, the controversies that still swirl around it, and the way in which communities in the area see this place-not merely as an archaeological site, but as a place of continuing religious and historical significance. - American Antiquity


Joost Fontein is an Africanist and social anthropologist interested in the political imbrications of landscapes, things and materialities. He is director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa.