Accepted Paper:

has pdf download Safeguarding African cultural heritage on postage stamps against further colonization efforts  


Maria Libera (Progress Market Research)

Paper Short Abstract:

The cultural heritage of Africa is promoted visually worldwide through postage stamps since the mid 1900s. An important national revenue source, stamps also gave rise to numerous abusive and illegal industry practices that have tarnished the African identity and require urgent remedial actions..

Paper long abstract:

Multiple aspects of the cultural heritage and identity of African countries have been promoted visually to the world through the postage stamps produced by the various European countries that had colonized Africa during the 19th century. Many such stamps and their original artwork and printing elements are extremely valuable and important elements of cultural, historical and philatelic displays in communications and postal museums worldwide.

For more than 150 years, since the creation of the postage stamp until electronic and Internet communications in the 1990s, the main facilitators of written communications were postage stamps affixed to correspondence reaching the farthest corners of the globe. As "official symbols" and "roving Ambassadors in miniature" of their Nation, postage stamps promoted the economy, fauna, flora, geography, history, landscapes, national personalities, status in the world, tourist sites, etc. The stamps became collectors' items for tens of millions of the world's avid philatelists and stamp collectors, of all walks of life and professions, who sought to acquire any existing stamps on their favourite topics of interest, including those in the name of African countries.

Postage stamps, as an important source of revenue for national governments and their postal services, continue to play an important role in expanding trade of both developed and developing countries, in spite of the increased use of electronic communications. A multi-billion dollar stamp industry creates, produces, promotes and sells, physically and virtually, stamps and related philatelic products of all countries. Available internationally, postage stamps are also a valuable source of foreign currency.

Notwithstanding the cultural value of postage stamps, their expected financial value has unfortunately given rise to numerous abusive and illegal stamp industry practices by mostly non-African contracted philatelic agencies and private companies. Their high revenues and turnover are also probable contributors to money laundering transactions and other illegal activities.

Additionally, the majority of "stamps" produced today by abusive and illegal producers have little or no relationship with the culture and identity of the African countries concerned. Many are often photographs or crude and tasteless drawings, illustrating, in a pejorative way, mostly Asian and Western culture, fauna, personalities, transport means, etc. One can easily perceive them as "colonizing" the African identity.

In conclusion, optimal management of African postage stamps should be an essential part of the overall effort to "decolonize African heritage inside and outside the African continent". Remedial actions should defend the national interest and strategies of the African Union.

Panel B09
Decolonizing African heritage inside and outside the African continent [initiated by the University of Mainz, with Leiden University/Anthropology, University of Rwanda]