Nat Geo “Umsuka” Cradle Ambassadors Retreat

Posted on July 21, 2017 — Anthony Paton

The National Geographic “Umsuka” Public Palaeoanthropology Project (Nat Geo “Umsuka”), a program of the African Digital Education Trust (ADET), presented the inaugural Cradle Ambassadors Retreat from 19 – 21 June 2017. The course took place at Maropeng the official visitors’ centre of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site (COH WHS)’s Hominin House educational facilities with 15 client-facing hospitality employees from 10 establishments around the Cradle. Nat Geo “Umsuka” Program Manager/Facilitator (and 2013 Rising Star Expedition “Underground Astronaut” and 2014 NRF Science Team Award recipient) Lindsay Hunter and guest speakers from the COH WHS Management Authority, Wits, and the Westbury Youth Centre (WYC) introduced participants to the history, science, and importance of the COH WHS, as well as to personal development skills during two days of classroom learning and activities. This was followed by a full day of Cradle touring, including the world famous hominin sites of Malapa (of Australopithecus sediba fame) and Gladysvale, and Sterkfontein Caves (where the famous “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot” were recovered). Some of the participants were interviewed about their background and their participation in the course.

Sylvia Zulu is a Maropeng a’ Afrika employee who hoped to learn more about human origins and to learn how to articulate the subject matter to fellow employees and members of the public. She found the course very useful and wished that the First People from Botswana could come and see Maropeng and appreciate their important place in history.

Wayne Fisher of the Cradle Boutique Hotel

Wayne Fisher of the Cradle Boutique Hotel

Wayne Fisher is the General Manager of the Cradle Boutique Hotel. For him, palaeoanthropology is an unknown history which is constantly being updated and contested. He feels that the Cradle Ambassadors course helped him to ask the right questions and believes strongly in his role in developing the COH WHS.

Scott Wilson is the Reserve Manager at Mt. Savannah. He brings a combination of Field Guiding skills (he has attained a FGASA Level II qualification) and marketing management skills. He believes that business managers in the COH WHS are critical ambassadors for the site. He found the course very enriching and believes that, where possible, people should pursue knowledge for its own sake. Outside of the course, Scott is a UNESCO member, a status which he discovered and earned through his own initiative. Furthermore, he is considering becoming a UNESCO fellow — the next highest status — which Scott says is “much more difficult and will take research and study which require time and effort”. Scott is sufficiently interested in palaeoanthropology that he traveled to Olduvai Gorge and always brings his children to exhibitions of human ancestry at Maropeng and elsewhere.


Scott Wilson, a motivated Cradle of Humankind and Unesco fan.

Scott Wilson, a motivated Cradle of Humankind and Unesco fan.

Silindo Mavuso fascinated by the COHWHS (and a whole lot more)

Silindo Mavuso fascinated by the COHWHS (and a whole lot more)

Silindo Mavuso studied at UCT, Wits and in France, and holds his Master’s in the interface between geology and palaeoanthropology, focussing on the micromorphology of dolomitic caves. Silindo believes that scientists are not usually good communicators, particularly the older generation, whom he characterises as sometimes “dated and stratified”.  He feels that older scientists in South Africa tend to be conservative and that the future will be much more collaborative. He is one of the few practicing scientists in his field that has worked both in southern and east Africa, and will be enrolling for his PhD in the States during late 2018.

As you can see, the Nat Geo “Umsuka” Cradle Ambassadors Retreat brought together a variety of learners from diverse backgrounds and there can be no doubt that it was of huge benefit to the participants. Elevating the level of understanding of people who live and work in the area of the COH WHS will undoubtedly benefit the area by increasing understanding, participation, support, and promotion of one of the country’s most extraordinary, yet largely unknown, assets — some of the best and most abundant evidence of early human origins found on the planet.

The next Cradle Ambassadors Retreat is scheduled for 30 October – 1 November 2017. Please contact Lindsay Hunter at Lindsay@africandet.org or visit www.africandet.org for more information on how to become involved in this exciting Cradle community initiative!