Spiritual Beliefs and Cultural Heritage Preservation: A Case of Mwela Rock Art Site in Kasama District of Zambia

  • Kenny Changwe
  • Tomaida C. Milingo
  • Esther Hara Zulu The University of Zambia
Keywords: Beliefs, Heritage, Mwela Rock Art, Preservation, Sacred and Spiritual


This article investigates the role indigenous environmental beliefs play in heritage preservation at Mwela rock art site in Kasama District of Zambia. The study that saw the birth of this article was prompted by the knowledge gap on the role spiritual beliefs play in effective heritage preservation of Mwela rock art site. A case study design which is one of the qualitative approaches was used so as to have an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon. Data was collected through observations, interviews and focus group discussions from a sample of 16 participants out of which 5 were subjects of the Bemba Royal Establishment (BRE) that included 4 village headmen and 1 village headwoman, 3 focus group discussions representing three responses from members of the National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC), 4 elderly men and 4 elderly women respectively. Typical case sampling which is one of the purposive sampling techniques was used to sample BRE subjects, NHCC members and the elders. Data was analysed according to emerging themes from research questions. The study revealed that indigenous environmental beliefs play a critical role in heritage preservation of Mwela rock art site because of the local people’s spiritual attachment to the cultural landscape. Taboos (Imichiliko) that led to death, madness, bareness, illness and disappearance were effective in the preservation of the heritage site. However, the coming of NHCC to manage the heritage site has discouraged indigenous environmental beliefs from being recognised and incorporated in preservation practices. The recommendation is that indigenous environmental beliefs be adopted and incorporated in the formal heritage management of Mwela rock art site. This study was grounded in the cosmopolitan type of framework, which states that morality and co-existence does not demand abandonment of local allegiances but encourages cross- cultural understanding and recognition of interconnectedness in cultural heritage preservation. Furthermore, this analytical framework recognises the existence of varying value systems that include formal heritage management system and traditional management systems.