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Antropology and aetnoestetic of the landscape of the Mountains of the Moon

Reference: prof. Ivan Bargna

Theme of the research

Objectives of this study, suggested by Prof. Ivan Bargna of Bicocca University, Milan, are:

  • to integrate the geologic and naturalistic approach to the knowledge of the places with a social and cultural one that could put in evidence the local knowledge;
  • to consider the possibility that useful information for scientific research can be drawn from the local knowledge; in fact if the idea of a “physical environment” or “natural environment” is often for the African populations a distant scientific abstraction, as the places acquire a concrete identity only in reference to an oral tradition providing a “meaning map” to social relationships and to cosmological-religious representations, there is anyway an experiential component of knowledge of places that has an empirical and pragmatic value;
  • to assess the possibilities and modalities for the local communities to use the research results “useful at a modern valorisation of the land”. The point is to put in relation the scientific acquisitions with the finalities, the life styles, the representations, the beliefs and the use of the land of the local population in order to realize a fecund and culturally compatible coupling (comprehensible and shared);
  • to understand the effects and the modalities of the encounter with “modernity” in the area of Rwenzori, for assessing the impact and the effects, locally considered positive or negative, on the environment as well as on its representation, the emerging of new needs, etc;
  • to consider the results of the activity of conservation of Rwenzori Natural Park landscape and also the practicability and effects of other possible strategies and projects of environment preservation, ecotourism etc., introduced from outside in a direct way or in a collaborative modality;
  • to conduct a research under an etnoaesthetic view on the preparation and perception of the sites. The aesthetic dimension will be considered in the double meaning of the term: as sensible dimension of experience and as appreciation and judgement on “beauty”. In both cases the issue of the cultural and historical modelling of the natural dimension will be posed: for example some sites become sacred places (often not accessible to most of the people) or “places of memory”.

It is a key issue as it points out the problem of the compatibility between the landscaping vision of the western people, in terms of sceneries or nice views, and the perception of the sites the local people have (where often the significant determinants are not visible). On this regard it is enough to think to how much our perception of the space in terms of “landscape” owe to paintings, literature, photography and cinema, and on the other way to the fact that the landscape painting in Africa is traditionally absent, deriving totally from the colonial and tourist gaze.
The point will be then on one side to understand the salient characteristics of the traditional places, the ones allowing to emerge as distinct units, and on the other to try to understand how eventually photography, cinema and television could have contributed to reshape the local construction and perception of the sites.