Website Category: Traditional Cultural Landscapes
Area: 140 km2
Criteria: (iii) cultural tradition (v) interaction with the environment
Location and Values: The Konso cultural landscape is located in a dry, hilly environment at the edge of the Rift Valley in southern Ethiopia. It has always been a relatively isolated area of the country, where life has remained largely unchanged for at least 400 years. The people live in closely-packed communities of wood-and-mud built, thatched dwellings from which they travel out to their fields of millet on a daily basis. The local chief’s hilltop ‘Palace’ comprises a collection of dome-shaped thatched rooms, with covered meeting and work areas, all surrounded by a heavy wooden ‘stockade’ with narrow gates. In nearby forest clearings, collections of anthropomorphic statues are maintained, one group of them kept under a pagoda-style shelter.
Slideshow of the Konso Cultural Landscape: The slideshow begins by illustrating the main features of the Konso villages, with their tightly-packed houses, small raised gardens, and narrow stone-walled paths. Some of the millet fields outside the village are shown, together with a local woman on her way home from harvesting some of the crop. The slideshow continues with a number of photos from the chief’s Palace, starting at the heavy wooden entrance gate, and showing several of the huts, work areas, granaries and grinding stones inside. Finally, a couple of groups of anthropomorphic statues in the nearby forest are shown.
Slideshow of the Konso Cultural Landscape:
Comments and Impressions: At the time of my visit (in August 2005) life in the Konso area remained remarkably ‘traditional’, almost like a living museum. Although people were wearing (often rather ragged) western clothes, there were very few corrugated iron roofing sheets, plastic basins, etc which are normally the first items to bring about conspicuous change in such remote areas. However, recent improvements in road access through Arba Minch will doubtless bring change, and it will be interesting to see how this affects the world heritage values of the site.
Google Earth View: To view satellite imagery of one of the villages (about 2 km south of Konso town) in the Konso cultural landscape on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing. The imagery of this area is not very clear but it is worth taking a few minutes to explore the surroundings and see how the densely-packed villages lie within the wider landscape. Notice how the first corrugated iron roofs can be seen in the satellite images now that the area is better linked by road to the ‘outside world’.
Other Links: Official UNESCO Site Details