Livingstone, Zambia Creates a ‘Forest of Faces’

? Destination Stewardship Report – Vol. 3 No. 2 – Fall 2022 ?

Another winner from the Top 100 – Every year, Green Destinations organizes the Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories competition, which invites submissions from around the world – a vetted collection of stories spotlighting local and regional destinations that are making progress toward sustainable management of tourism and its impacts. From the winners announced this year, we’ve selected two more stories, this time from Zambia and Greece, that showcase different reasons for engaging the local community. Synopses by Josie Burd.

Top 100 submission by Rosie Mercer, Business Development Manager at Destination Livingstone Initiative

Tapping Local Wood-Carving Talent Gives Livingstone a Competitive Step Up – and a Lesson in Stewardship 

Just 10km away from Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Livingstone relies on tourism for its main economic activity. However, the town of Victoria Falls across the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe was getting most of the tourism traffic. So how could Livingstone draw those people back in?

In 2019, their community created a Destination Management Plan (DMP) to brainstorm opportunities to improve the situation. They also formed a new multi-stakeholder destination management organization called Destination Livingstone. With the lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic drastically increasing their problem, decisive action was needed.

A traditional carved wooden sculpture featured in the ‘Forest of Faces’ art installation. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

Peter Anderson, international designer and creative director of the DMP, with the help of Acorn Tourism Consulting, came up with a plan that would celebrate the talent of local sculptors and create an attraction to draw tourists into Livingstone. Their idea was to commission the first public art installation titled ‘Forest of Faces’ that would feature wooden sculptures celebrating the cultural heritage of the city.

Here are some of the steps taken:

  • Consulting meetings with the Visual Arts Council, the Livingstone Museum, the Livingstone City Council, Chief Mukuni, and the arts and crafts markets, committees produced a working group that would focus on how to execute the project, prepare the competition rules, and communicate with the artisans.
  • An open competition commenced that required artisans to submit a drawing of their intended sculpture, the narrative behind the sculpture, what kind of wood they preferred to use, the expected height of the sculpture, the anticipated cost, and a small sample of their work.
  • The working group selected and commissioned 21 sculptures from the submissions.
  • The artisans found tree trunks suitable for their sculptures and spent the next 6-10 weeks using basic hand tools to complete their projects.
  • The final sculptures were erected over a two-week period and opened to the public on March 23, 2021, with information boards detailing the artist and story behind each sculpture.
  • In May 2021 the Livingstone community hosted a family event to allow the artists to show off their work to loved ones.
Artists and their families at the Livingstone family event. [Photo courtesy of Green Destinations]

Results

As it was free and open to the public, the sculpture park quickly became an attraction that drew both domestic and international travelers into Livingstone.

The project itself created a platform to discuss deforestation and the importance of harvesting trees sustainably. Artisans who usually worked with teak and ebony tree varieties, which were scarce in the nearby areas, were encouraged to use wood from dead trees in the local vicinity that had similar qualities. Replanting was also an emphasis that taught artists and community members the importance of maintaining biodiversity. In honor of the project and of World Forestry Day, celebrated on March 21, artists and dignitaries were given trees to plant in their home villages.

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