Ms. Sibongile Van Damme


Sibongile Van Damme is a poet, philosopher and Chief Executive Officer to the South African Heritage Resources Agency, SAHRA.


In 1986 Sibongile Van Damme obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Humanities with a concurrent Diploma in Education from the University of Swaziland.


Between 1991 and 1999 the versatile Ms Van Damme obtained her Masters of Education in Environmental Education (cum laude) from Rhodes University in South Africa. She also attained a Masters in Leisure studies in Belgium.

Between 1996 and 2008 she worked for the Natal Parks Board as Environmental Education Officer, the South African National Parks as Manager for Social Science Research and the National Department of Arts and Culture as National Director for Institutional Development.


In 2008 she became a Fellow of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, California in the United States of America.


She is also widely published in various literary works ranging from Environmental Education to Indigenous Knowledge Systems.


She was the recipient of the coveted Prince Bernard Scholarship for outstanding contribution in the Environmental Sector in 2002 and served as HONORARY PRESIDENT: Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa (EEASA) 1998 – 2001.


Ms Van Damme currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the South African Heritage Resources Agency.


For the 2012 African Diaspora Heritage Trail conference, Ms. Van Damme will speak on the topic “Lest We Forget the Anger of the Seven Headed Snake.” This paper seeks to display the past and current practices and understandings of the relationship between people and water in the Southern African context. It further presents the potential challenges of layering externally defined conventions of heritage in contexts in which people attach no significance to. These are interventions such as grading and declaration of sites with a particular status and offering some kind of protection that freezes and manages their use. The UNESCO Convention on underwater heritage is another globally defined intervention that seeks to imbue its own meaning on local sites imposing new site management strategies. A number of case studies within the Southern African context will display this complexity.