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HERITAGE AS SOCIOCULTURAL PROCESS: THE CASE OF ADI MA’AR AND ITS SURROUNDINGS [Abstract ID: 0101-08]
The idea of heritage as a sociocultural process of communication, value and meaning making indeed as an experience is at odds with professional discourses that privileges expert values and knowledge about the past and its material manifestations. Those professional discourses largely reflect the Western idea of cultural heritage which links heritage authenticity with measurable attributes such as age, monumentality and aesthetic values. Non-Western societies, including indigenous communities, are questioning the dominant Eurocentric perceptions of heritage, and the consequences that the dominance of these perceptions have had on their ability to define the values and maintain dynamic and continuous relationships with objects and sites deemed to be culturally significant. Objects and sites on their own cannot have intrinsic values independent from the people and their history; as the source of emotions, identities and values they help a community develop shared experience thus strengthening social bonds, networks and relationships in a meaningful way. To illustrate the strong sense community that was created around values emanating from heritage site I want to present in this paper the case of Adi Ma’ar village and the surrounding regions. Located about 26 km to the north of the town of Mekelle, Adi Ma’ar village and its surrounding is a place where we find a strong oral tradition that link the locality and its archaeological sites to religious figures, Abune Yeasa’y and Abune Ewostatewos. The authenticity of the account has never been studied by “professionals”, making it difficult for the community to get assistance from state for the maintenance of the sites, nevertheless their upkeep is assured by the community who by continually using the heritage for religious and social occasions, ensures the preservation of both sites and their shared communal values.