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Kotra

2021

Achieving Peace and
Reconciliation through
Heritage Interpretation

Congratulations to our winners!Thank you to everyone who applied for the contest.

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  • Work Title

    Achieving Peace and Reconciliation through Interpretation at ‘Bithangal Akhra’, Bangladesh

  • Name

    Khandokar Mahfuz Alam, Imamur Hossain

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Mosul's Oldtown

Yousif Al-Daffaie

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It is only with memory that th continuation of heritage becomes possible. Mosul’s Old Town suffered from mass-destruction during the 2014-2017 ISIS insurgency, causing its most valuable heritage sites to become wiped, vanishing without physical evidence of their historical existence. However, it is with the determination of the locals for a ‘life’, that the city is being reconstructed. This determination compelled the locals including shop owners, artisans an d intellectuals to return, in search of not only peace, but reconciliation and restoration of heritage through the recreation of practices. The fortitude for peace governed the post-war life in Mosul, as its contested physical history became safeguarded by the continuation of the immaterial practicesHowever the question remains: how do you interpret such a rich history that includes multiple layers of culture, practices and war and peace? Heritage interpretation in this case must focus on preserving, documenting and narrating this shared memory, heritage practices and interactions, through facilitating workshops and interviews, and triggering spatial memories through drawing cognitive maps. I have spoken to the locals to understand their memories and document their everyday practices, rich culture and heritage. The same heritage that listed the Old Town on the UNESCO’s tentative list for World Heritage Centres. With the physical heritage of the Old Town under threat, this typ e of cultural heritage interpretation focuses on narration and memory just as much as the restoration of physical entities. This will aid in safeguarding the Old Town’s authenticity and spirit. The narrow alleywas of the Old Town tell the story of the reconciliation and resolve for peace, as one can hear the sounds of families in reconstructed houses in the middle of a massively-destructed neighbourhood. These families are significant players in the culture and heritage of the city. Through walking and documenting these alleyways, it became clear that the sense of community is established by their self-enclosed nature. This sense of community created what the locals called an emotional connection that cannot be changed with time and wars[interview roll]. The informal local initiative for heritage interpretation through preservation of memory and re-living cultural practices ignited ‘hope’ for the locals of the Old Town, as many people began to return and reconcile t hrough the engagement with the City Spaces as per their memories and pre-war interactions, creating spontaneous reconstruction efforts that follow the needs of the locals, resulting in a gradual return of historical practices, spaces and interactions. This is the reason heritage interpretation is significant at this point of the Old Town’s timeframe, as documentation and contrasting with historic evidence helps ensure the authenticity of the re-initiated cultural crafts, and spreads awareness on the danger of changing the location and type of crafts. On the physical front, the locals are eagerly waiting for Al-Hadba’a minaret’s reconstruction by the UNESCO , which is a significant device of memory, identity and identification. The minaret is a proof that architecture and heritage sites function as essential mediators of memory. Hence studying cultural heritage, memory and interactions is vital to understand the meaning and significance of physical spaces. Mosul’s Old Town has a long way to recover, but through the return of the creators of its heritage, memory and practices, it is safe to say that they are on the right path. This exploration of the significance of the cultural heritage was shared with the locals, acting as a forum to discuss and reconcile the shared memory and steps in advancement in the post-war settings. The documentation of these practices as a means to achieve heritage interpretation is just as significant as physical interpretation through physical reconstruction, as it aids the rebuilding of the people, who can then rebuild their historic landmarks. So here’s to the people of Mosul; finding life below the rubble.

Production Note

This ongoing PhD project addresses the role of the intangible heritage in the creation and facilitation of physical heritage sites, as practices and interactions function as mediators for shared memory. I underwent a three-week field trip in Mosul’s Old Town in Iraq and met with a large number of locals, attempting to bring closer the emotional and cultural connection between the locals, their spaces, and the generational practices that incubated their attachment to the city spaces. During my time in the Old town, I met with multiple artisans, intellectuals and key informants in the site of their jobs, and we conversed about the nature of the generational crafts, the connection the crafts created to their spaces, how they facilitated unique cultural interactions and created a sense of community. This research provides heritage interpretation through the documentation of unique crafts that helped create the physical heritage of the area. In other ways, it is an immaterial investigation to ‘make sense of the ruins’. In post-war situations, it is increasingly challenging to embark on traditional physical heritage interpretation due to the erasure of historical buildings. In such cases, understanding the shared memory becomes a p riority in addressing heritage interpretation, as it pinpoints areas of significance and cultural heritage. The research prioritises the people in its investigation of the Old Town’s heritage, which informed original findings. Addressing the peoples’ memory provided a shared narrative and consensus of culturally significant areas that are governmentally neglected in the post-war settings and are not included in official reconstruction plans. Accordingly, the research draws on the locals’ priorities and memories to document these areas and contrast between the current and historical functionalities, diving deep into the used tools, locations of shops, and the physical reconstruction authenticity. This assessment will provide a base for understanding the potential change in cultural practices, interactions and patterns of movements in the post-war settings of Mosul’s Old Town. Additionally, the research raises awareness on the significance of an authentic reconstruction by highlighting that change and sets a framework for a reconstruction that recaptures the spirit of pre-war Mosul. Simultaneously, this research investigates reconciliation processes and the reasons for the emotional connection between the locals and their city spaces, which created momentum for returning, even though most of the areas were demolished upon their return. These qualities are investigated through an elaborative process of ethnographic observations, interviews, workshops and surveys, focusing on the patterns of movement, interactions and traditional acts. This research finds that the cultural practices functioned as an incubator for a return of life in the Old Town, as they provided a glimpse of a return to normality and a continuation of a normal lifestyle. Many of the Old town’s locals returned as they felt ‘safe’ that the familiar markets and practices are returning, which, to them, meant that the Old Town’s spirit is returning. Additionally, recon struction projects, including Al-Hadba’a minaret, became the heart of the city’s ‘hope’, as its reconstruction site resembles the overarching notion of Mosul: “a city under (re)construction”.

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Fostering Peace and Reconciliation among Youth

Mercy Andeso

Video Outline

The Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests World Heritage Site in Kenya comprises forest fragments scattered along the Kenyan Coast covering about 200 km. They contain remains of fortified villages of Mijikenda community created in the 16th century and abandoned around 1940s. According to their oral traditions the forests historically sheltered small fortified villages of various groups when they first settled in the region. In the past years kaya forests have been under threat from an increasing population and decline in knowledge and respect for traditional values that people held. Governance System and Source of conflicts -The Kaya forests are historically gerontological. In the advent of modernity, this has resulted to conflicts at all levels of interaction culminating to weakening relationships by members of the community. This is more pronounced between the elders and the youths as demonstrated by occasional killings of the elders on suspicion of witchcraft. ACHIEVING PEACE THROUGH HERITAGE INTERPRETATION AT KAYA FORESTS The existing Kaya governance structure at has no platforms of interaction between the elders and the youth. Thus, it is important to have activities and platforms that can bring together the two so as to foster peace and unity. For example team building activities which can bring together elders, youth, men and women to work together. At the kayas, the elders have introduced activities such as repairing of the existing traditional huts inside the Kaya, clearing of forest paths and bird watching, playing games with the youth using cultural items found inside the kaya forest for example ‘Gole’ (heavy stone used to play traditional shot-put). Below is a description of one of the peace making activity: The Paths clearing ceremony is undertaken by all members of the community, young and elderly. Traditionally they would be signaled to assemble by blowing a horn to clear the path. It is undertaken ‘Kaskazini ya Mwaka’ (season of short rains-November, December, January) and at this time the ‘Kadzumba Ka Mulungu’-a small house of god, where women perform a dance for divination and prophesy on rain, diseases, war is not cleared until March ?April after the rains. Another clearing is conducted in August after the harvest when a thanks giving ceremony is performed through offering of crops. During this period, community members share a meal and bond during paths clearing ceremony. Bird watching - kaya elders and the local youth share their knowledge as they watch and listen to birds sing. Elders interpret the songs and in most cases, the bird songs are interpreted to rely a message of peace in the community. Also, “Cultural Walks” have been initiated at kayas to interpret the kayas heritage to the youths. Its an activity where elders and youth walk through the Kaya Forest as the youth are educated about different aspects of the forest like rules of entering the forest whereby there is a certain point you have to remove shoes and walk bare foot. Interpreting Governance practices during culture walks ? Elders interpret governance practices to the youths during these walks. They are taught virtues used to qualify an elder for traditional leadership which entails: One who has Perseverance; does not grumble, grateful, trustworthy, has never stolen, never killed and not committed adultery and obedient. Nature and Culture-based enterprises ? The elders at kaya forest have initiated these enterprises where elders have engaged youth in entrepreneurship activities. These include Plant, Insect and Culture based enterprises. Plant Based Enterprises comprise of establishment tree nurseries for on-farm and homestead tree stands, forest restoration, ornamental plants, landscape restoration, conservation (botanic gardens), agricultural cash crops, vegetables and fruit crops. Nurseries are for commercial (wholesale or retail), self, and/or education purposes. Plants are be sold as seedlings from nursery beds like pepper and other vegetables, vines and cuttings, containers or as products of a variety of plants, from farms established around or close to the homesteads for wholesale or retail sales. Insect Based Enterprises - Community elders and youths are engaged in beekeeping and butterfly farming. These enterprises not only offer an opportunity for additional income generation but also promote interaction among elders and youths for peace building. Culture based enterprises ? These include: weaving; bead work; among others. Through these enterprises, the elderly impart traditional skills to the youths in weaving, bead making, and pottery molding tools and various styles and methods. The youths are also taught on identifying raw materials. Cultural crafts or products including necklaces, earrings, and bracelets are produced.

Production Note

This video seeks to demonstrate how the elders at Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forest World Heritage Site in Kenya interpret heritage to promote peace and reconciliation among the Mijikenda community. The video outlines activities undertaken by both the elders and the youth to promote peace and unity. These activities are undertaken to bond relationships between the elders and the youths and also bridge the generational gap. For example, the video showcase how the concept of “cultural walks”, engagement of youths by elders in team building activities (bird-watching, clearing of paths within the sacred forests and the repairing of ceremonial huts inside the kaya forests) promote the peace and reconciliation in the community. The cultural walks aim at demystifying the myths and misconceptions about the Kaya forests as being a place that inhabits evil spirits and that the elders engage in witchcraft activities. The ceremonies that take place at the kayas have been wrongly been interpreted in the past leading to killing of elders. The video will therefore highlight how this has changed over time with the introduction of traditional mechanisms of peace building through interpretation of the kaya forest cultural and natural heritage. In the Kaya forest there are also cultural artifacts that are used to play games, for example the 'Gole' (heavy stone used to play traditional short-put). The interaction they have as they play the games brings about the bond among community members because the youths get to feel that these elders are normal people, hence creating the trust between them and fostering peace, unity and reconciliation within the community. This video also seeks to highlight the challenges the Kaya elders have with the youths who brand them as individuals who practice witchcraft the society especially the youths who brand them as individuals who practice witchcraft inside the Kaya and end up killing the elders. There have been cases where Kaya Elders have been hacked to death with suspicion that they are witch-doctors and these cases threaten the succession plans and the governance system because the elders are few and they have not passed on the knowledge to the younger generation and if they are killed there will be no one to govern the kayas. This threatens the governance system hence the need to foster peace and unity so that in the interactions, the youths get to know the history of the kaya such that leadership is passed down to the youths. It is with no doubt that the peace and unity being fostered between the elders and the youth will make the Mijikenda kaya forests a habitable place and preserve its world heritage status.

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Rethinking the Barracoons (ReBar)

Olufemi Adetunji

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In Nigeria, sites and artefacts connected to the trans-Atlantic slave trade represent difficult memories that remain contested and complicated for people to engage with. The trade was the main practices for about 350 years involving not only European slave merchants but also local collaborators resulting in forced transportation of approximately 12.4 million Africans to various parts of the world. In Nigeria context, Badag ry town was used as a major transit port due to its closeness to the Atlantic ocean and the slave routes to America and Europe. The expansion of the trade from Badagry to other communities in Nigeria results in the construction of several slaves holding facilities (called Baracoons) and other structures by the local collaborators to aid their trade cooperation with the European merchants. However, the members of Badagry and other neighbouring towns are faced with difficulties in engaging with these buildings, facilities and spaces for tourism and other community development approach. For instance, many community members regard themselves as victims and survivors of the practices of the elite families, who are families of former local collaborators who helped the European merchants in slave trading. The perception of the community members poses challenges to conservation of the values of the slave heritage sites as well as recognition of the atrocities, impacts and trauma experi enced by the survivors, reintegration of family members and individuals with shared linage with the survivors and creation of true historical records for future generations. Within Badagry, families of survivors often engage in inter-clan violence and unrest with families of the elites as a way of avenging the involvement of the ancestors of the elites in forced ‘holding’ and subsequent trading of captured slaves. Between 1980 and 2017, thirty-two inter-clan violence were recorded as connected to traumatic experiences of trans-Atlantic slave trade. In addition, Badagry is highly vulnerable to various forms of natural and human-induced disasters. As a coastal community, many of the slave heritage sites are threatened by coastal storm, flooding and erosion as well as climate change impacts. The occurrence of the disaster and climate risk events result in partial or total loss of the values and significance of the heritage sites not only to the members of Badagry town but to e ntire African communities due to the shared history of slave trade. This project, therefore, seeks to initiate a rethinking process to support members of Badagry town to develop positive perception of the slave heritage sites through reflection of the current social, cultural and environmental realities. ‘Rethinking the Baracoons’ aims to leverage the values and significance of the slave heritage sites in tackling the challenges to communal peace, coexistence, diversity and inclusion. The project has two components: i.) Narratives for Learning (NarraL), and ii.) CLIMApoly. NarraL involves the use of digital storytelling approach to collect narratives and stories from families of survivors of trans-Atlantic slave trade to develop learning modules and public awareness tools such as documentaries and community dramas to improve awareness, engagement and interpretations of the values of the slave heritage sites. The learning modules are not only developed for schools (prim ary and secondary) but also for community groups meetings. NarraL also improves public engagement and participation in conservation and management of the heritage through the inclusion of site tours where community members (such as school-age children, youths, market women etc) will have the opportunity to understand and engage in activities for conservation and management of the heritage sites. CLIMApoly, is a monopoly-based game developed mainly for school-age children to interact with various threats and risks facing the heritage sites, understand the linkages between the risks and heritage values and develop adaptive actions and strategies to address the risks. In monopoly, participants measure values of properties in monetary terms. This principle was adopted in CLIMApoly to allow the targeted participants (who are school-age children) to interact with heritage values in numerical form to improve their understanding and measure the impacts of natural and human-induced risk s on heritage values. Project ReBar started in August 2019 with the organisation of site tours for students to all the slave heritage sites in Badagry, followed by development of CLIMApoly. The full implementation phase of the project is expected to take place in selected schools and community groups in July 2021.

Production Note

The themes addressed by the projects are connected to the processes and practices implemented to bring about de-conflicting the interpretations of such sites through community involvement, public awareness, engagement and participation. The themes are: i. Rethinking histories: before now, members of the community have difficulties in identifying and engaging with histories of slave trade in Nigeria. Some community members believed that places and spaces that are connected to slave history should be demolished to allow erasure of the history in the present and the future. Project ReBar, however, initiates a rethinking appro ach to slave history to help community member to have a positive perception of the histories as a vital aspect of the community that can contribute to development at the local level and improved livelihood. ii. Seeking reparation: Project ReBar asserts the legitimacy of seeking reparation for the former slaves and learning lessons from the past events to devise better ways to the future we want. The project actualised this through recognising the former slaves as well as the atrocities committed by the European slave traders and their local collaborators. Recognising the atrocities of slavery helps the former slave to heal, prevent further violence and redefine communal coexistence and peace. iii. True and concise narratives: Over the years, the narratives about slavery are developed and shared predominantly by those that did not experience the slave trade excluding the families of the former trade. This results in having conflicting narratives about slavery a nd the atrocities of the slave merchants and their local collaborators. Through this project, the former slaves and their families are allowed to present their narratives themselves and share their experiences. iv. Memorialization of victims of atrocities: The memorialization of slave history helps to improve public recognition of the past atrocities of the slave merchants as well as engage the public in a continuous conversation on the best approach to the protection of human rights and dignity. This helps society to deal with the difficult past to implement deliberate and conscious action to avoid past crimes happening again in the future. For instance, Project ReBar has a section of the learning module on ‘Communal violence: Causes and Solutions’. The module developed historical knowledge about the causes of the 1967 violence which is connected to activities of the colonial government. This helps the community members to understand the impacts of some of the activi ties of the colonialists and devise strategies to improve inclusivity within the community. v. Climate change adaptation and disaster preparedness: Climate changes represents an existential threat to the slave heritage sites due to the location of Badagry community in coastal areas and its exposure to other forms of disasters. CLIMApoly, which is a component of Project ReBar, targets the school-age children to help them understand the importance of adapting the slave heritage sites to impacts of climate change and other forms of disasters. This helps in creating a boomerang effect of knowledge across the community where the young adults are the change agents within the community. vi. Redefining inter-communal coexistence: Badagry community experienced various forms of unrest that are largely connected to slave trade that ravaged the community. The result of the unrest is families and communities not wanting to live close to one another. Therefore, Project ReBar addressed this challenge through inter-cultural knowledge transfer where community members from various families and communities learn about the experiences and culture of other families and communities. This improves cultural understanding, inclusion, diversity and respect for other cultures.

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Achieving peace and reconciliation through heritage interpretation

Ganesh Dutt

Video Outline

Achieving peace and reconciliation through heritage interpretation My name is Ganesh Dutt. I am a professional from India working in hospitality and tourism industry. I have prepared this video highlighting the role of heritage interpretation for achieving peace and reconciliation following conflicts. The scope of cultural heritage is no longer restricted to grand monuments and palaces. (Slide 1 and 2) Rather it includes both tangible and intangible compone nts of heritage such as traditional houses, rituals and festivals that are connected with day-to-day lives of people. These are irreplaceable source of their identity; representing their history, social and cultural practices, and also demonstrate their close relationship with environment. (slide 3 and 4) Unfortunately, in recent decades cultural heritage, especially those on World Heritage List has been the target of armed conflicts. Many ancient monuments, archaeological sites, historic cities that are living testimony of diverse and rich cultures, have been bulldozed in conflict areas. Some examples include destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan (Slide 5 and 6), walled city of Aleppo and other monuments in Syria, (slide 7, 8 and 9) historic City of Mosul in Iraq (Slide 10, 11, 12) and city of Sanaa in Yemen (Slide 13). Recovery of cultural heritage damaged by conflict is therefore essential not only for psychological healing of people that have becom e victims of conflict. (Slide 14, 15 and 16) It also helps in rebuilding societies through reinstating of social and cultural practices that are associated with heritage. Moreover, post conflict recovery of cultural heritage should also strive to build back better by reducing vulnerabilities and enhancing resilience. UNESCO’s project on the reconstruction of the historic bridge of Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina following the conflict is a shining example that demonstrates how reconstruction of heritage can serve to build peace and reconciliation in societies traumatised by conflict. (Slide 17) However, recovery of cultural heritage is a great challenge due to limitation of resources and weak governance in post conflict scenario. Moreover, it is important that the richness and diversity of cultural heritage is fully discovered, recognized and appreciated by communities as well as outsiders so that these do not fall victim to false propaganda that divides people rather t han building bridges between them. There are countless examples that show how misinterpretation of heritage can actually serve to reinforce conflicts. Therefore governments and civil societies must invest in using heritage interpretation as a tool to bring out the rich narratives based on sound research that are embodied in cultural heritage that can help in building peace and reconciliation. Moreover, it is important to ensure that rather than promoting the dominant discourse, all perspectives are brought forward through close engagement with all sections of the community. Availability of range of digital means can help in creative and innovative ways of interpretation and these must be explored taking into consideration digital divide and the need for easy access to everyone within the community. One of the fascinating examples of the use of heritage interpretation for post conflict recovery is a project called RecoVR; Mosul a Collective Reconstruction. Thi s project is a virtual reality installation Icreated in response to this destruction, allowing us to visit the museum again and find out what happened to some of its key pieces. InWhile walking through the museum we see the destroyed artifacts, digitally reconstructed through crowd-sourced imagery providing 360 degrees experience. This virtual environment was created by new media artists Ziv Schneider and Laura Chen. Apart from bringing the historical collection back to life, it also sheds light on ISIS''s war on cultural heritage. The project was in part inspired by the Museum of Stolen Art, an earlier virtual reality project by Schneider. (Slide 18) Another interesting initiative is concerning the approach for recovery of Bamiyan following its destruction by the Taliban in 2001. Rather than reconstructing the statues, many professionals think that the empty niches should be kept as they are, with the void representing a strong victory for the monument and the defeat of those who tried to annihilate the Buddha statues. The gravity of the issues is placed on the symbolic rather than the physical value. Recently this approach was given more weight with the remarkable evolution of 21st century technology such as laser scanning and 3D printing. The Buddha niches would thus be kept as they are while allowing the loca

Production Note

PRODUCTION NOTE for the Video on “Achieving Peace and Reconciliation through Heritage Interpretation” By Ganesh Dutt This Video was prepared by putting together various examples that illustrate the theme of the video. These can be broadly divided into three parts:- 1. Describing the scope of cultural heritage that includes tangible and intangible heritage 2. Examples to show the impact of armed conflicts on cultural heritage. 3. Examples to show how heritage contributes to building peace and reconcilitation 4. Two examples that illustrate how heritage interpretation can help in achieving peace and reconcilitation. Zoom platform was used to prepare the video based on power point presentation. It is hoped that this video can be used for building public awareness on the significance of heritage protection for building peace and the importance of heritage interpretation in achieving this.

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Achieving Peace and Reconciliation through Interpretation at ‘Bithangal Akhra’, Bangladesh

Khandokar Mahfuz Alam, Imamur Hossain

Video Outline

The ‘Ram-Krishna Akhra of Bithangal’ or popularly known as ‘Bithongal Akhra’ is a listed cultural heritage of the Government of Bangladesh situated at the serene landscape of Baniyachang Upazilla in Habiganj district. Bithangal is an exceptional religious heritage site not only for the geographical location amidst the tranquil ‘hawor’ waterscape but also for embodying a contested past that has been reconciled in the current interpretation. The site is a dynamic agent in constructing and developing several kirtan songs, cultural performances, and local traditions that have shaped and morphed the Vaishnavism sect in the Eastern part of the Bengal Delta. ‘Akhra’ can be conceptualized as a collective ritual performance place for the believers of a particular faith as well as the social groups who subscribe to a specific ideology. Unlike the monasteries, the Bithangal akhra is non-regimental and less dominated by the disciplines of the doctrines. By accommodating people of different ages and offering a semi-formal religious cum residential space, ‘akhra’ has a unique heritage significance. The historical context of the Vaishnava akhra of Bithangal encapsulates an expression of the social power for the subaltern grassroots. This akhra was established in a context when there was a tension between power and religious practices. Caste-system of traditional Hinduism had stratified the society forming differences and hierarchies, resulting in an identity crisis for the marginal communities. Besides, the cultural traditions and performances of the lower castes were significantly suppressed by the elite knowledge and interest of the hegemonic regime, which had formed challenges in practicing and retaining the cultural values. In an antagonistic context of class dividedness and racism, the ordinary people were thriving to have grace from being neglected and disregarded. In this background, in the seventeenth century, Bithangal Akhra was established by Guru Ramkrishna Goswami, a preacher of Vaishanivsm who personally believed in religious equity. This akhra aimed to treat its believers equally that eventually fostered social unity while the participation in cultural activities established harmony. In a broader social spectrum, the absence of a caste system in this religion socially lifted and spiritually empowered the individuals. Away from a centralized and politically controlled urban area in the Sylhet region, this site was located amidst the tranquil 'hawor' wetlands, which was a reasonable distance from the objective world. People could only reach here by boats that took days. Bithongol Akhra was a physical manifestation of the peaceful Vaishnava religion where the believers would come to have stayed away from the profanity and at the same time they could meditate in a serene milieu where the sacredness could hardly be interrupted. The Akhra has another spiritual meaning for people, regardless of their faith, who traveled here for physical recuperation. The management committee of Bithongol akhra fa ced a significant challenge during Governor-General Lord William Bentinck, who reformed the land revenue administration and revoked its ‘Lakheraj’ or revenue-free land status. During the Swadeshi Movement in the twentieth century, this akhra was a temporary hideout for the protesters who used to take trained here disguised as believers. While the concept of livingness through culture and nature offered solace, at the same time, the sharing and socializing of the ordinary people actively contributed to healing the social wounds and reconcile the social tension. The negotiations of meanings and values within the context had imposed challenges that contributed to obscuring multivocality and meanings at interpretation. The heritage endowment has augmented the religiosity, endorsed the historical significances, and reestablished the embedded cultural values. Beyond the conflict-ridden historical context in negotiating unity and equity, the inclusive atmosphere has been restored. The current interpretation of the premise prioritizes the temple management committee in decision-making process that eventually ensures conserving oral histories, traditional performances and ritual practices. The intervention is an empathetic and sensitive approach that focuses on preserving the reverence atmosphere and liturgic values embedded within the site with minimal physical alterations of the building materials. The site welcomes again the inter-faith audiences and influenced them to be active meaning-makers in the ritual performances as well as secular activities. Thus it significantly promotes a narrative of peace and unity.

Production Note

It can be noted here that Bithongol Akhra is not a placid site in terms of its forms, functions, and meanings. Our work demonstrates how Bithangal has a multiplicity of community history and in what process its identity has been negotiated with socio-cultural and political tumultuous events throughout history even though there was patrimony in its establishment. We have concluded that from an exclusionary socio-religious context, today Bithangal Akhra continues to establish equity, unity and ensures constructing individual identity to its believers. Besides it also establishes an inclusive atmosphere that could be reflected in its premise which significantly harmonizes a narrative of peace and solace beyond its boundary. The biography of this apparently harmonious site has a multi-layered past encapsulating the dynamics of contrasting identities, duality of power and multiple memories. The negotiations in terms of social values, identity constructions, representation and cultural practices has contributed in a conflict-ridden non-linear historical context. Despite a web of social, political, and religious contestation that emerged in different eras subverting the harmonious context, Bithangal passively questioned the marginalization process of a stratified society and attempted to sanitize it by providing shelter, cultivating unity and cultural harmony. By doing this Bithangal actively reconciled the peace- one of the key themes of the contest. The contested contexts have contributed to challenges in the discourse of heritage interpretation. By authorizing the temple-management committee as the steward in the decision making activities, the site has been reclaimed at present that also empowered the subaltern groups and repositioned them within its domain. The heritage endowment from the Government of Bangladesh and the current interpretation has augmented the religiosity, endorsed the historical significances, and reestablished the embedded cultural values. The fluid cultural activities as collective performances and social interaction among the common people, minstrels, saints and believers which are informal in nature are validated and legitimized by the current interpretation. Endorsing a platform of equity and harmony while legitimizing the authority in the decision-making process has surely impacted in creating social and cultural awareness. This has set an exclusive example to keep the traditions living and conserve the original values from infiltration. Being a place for cultural interaction, the interpretation primarily focuses on the believer's attention to God's divinity. The archetype of ‘akhra’ has a unique meaning in the context of practicing semi-formal rituals. The current interventions have not changed its authentic intangible fabric where the worshipers could maintain the relationship with the divine, preserve the social connection among themselves through informal congregational activities, and confirm the cultural continuity through collective performances. Our work highlights that the cultural experience at Bithangal invokes a set of meanings and values. We found a number of audiences visit the site to experience the past in the present besides to be infused with the indwelling sacred presence with the divine. The conservation attempt by the Department of Archaeology of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of the Government of Bangladesh is an empathetic and sensitive approach that focuses on preserving the reverence atmosphere embedded within the site with minimal physical alterations of the building materials and cultural objects. However, more sensible approaches are still required to control overtly exposed tourists and commodification at the surrounding buffer spaces for ensuring the historical reverence and cultural atmosphere that could augment the authenticity of the site.

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The Macedonian Front - The Dots on the Map That Connect the Balkan Memory

Vasilka Dimitrovska

Video Outline

2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the WW1 (1914-1918). After a historical period of one hundred years is completed, it officially and scientifically becomes the archaeology, history and anthropology of our time and is treated as a cultural heritage. The Great War has been a major event in the modern history of the Balkans too. In 1915 on the territory of modern N. Macedonia a front was created. It will become a place of confl ict for over one million soldiers belonging to different armies, over the span of the following three years. The Macedonian front, known as the Salonica Front or Front d’Orient, is one of the four key fronts of the European continent during the WW1. Here the Entente forces, on one side of the front, and the Central Powers, on the other, are fighting. The Imperial War Museums in the UK chose the 10 Significant Battles of the WW1. But the Macedonian front is missing. It seems that, on a global scale, the "Macedonian Front" is “The Forgotten Front". Macedonia, according to the Bucharest Treaty, experienced the WW1 as a territory divided between Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. The Great Powers, on the same territory that they divided two years earlier, created the Macedonian front, in 1915. During the WW1, soldiers from about 20 nations fought and died on the soil of modern N. Macedonia. Complex military operations were carried out, including a number of fierce battles involving more t han one million soldiers with 150,000 killed, more than 300,000 wounded and 100,000 missing from the warring parties. The Macedonian population was mobilized for the armies of the two opposing sides in the war. They were mobilized mostly in the Bulgarian army, but also in the Serbian and Greek armies. It is estimated that the number Macedonians who fought in World War I is just over 200,000. It would happen so that members of one family would serve in different armies, fighting on the opposite sides of the front. How many have died? There is no precise information on that. The Macedonian Front met its end on the Dojran battlefield on September 18, 1918. Recently, a British archaeologist discovered a plaque on the former war scene. Its reconstruction is placed next to the original plaque. Travelling through the "Landscape of Conflict" left after the Great War in N. Macedonia, the silence speaks through the countless of the physical remains in the fields. On the entire front line leng th of about 450 km there are thousands and thousands of artefacts and monuments everywhere, waiting to be explored, excavated, identified, cleaned, preserved and displayed in a museum, to tell a piece of the untold European history. The architectonic remains in places where battles took place include parts of destroyed complexes of bunkers, positions, machine gun nests and trenches that can still be seen today. Macedonia has invaluable resources from the WW1 that can be used in both scientific and educational, as well as in promotional purposes. But before we even think about memorial tourism from the Great War, like the one in other European countries, we need to find a way to tell our story about the WW1. We need to find a way to explore this period, to write down the notes and to share it with the world, before most of the local memory is lost forever or stored in data archives that will never be available to mankind. In spite of hundreds of archaeological sites, historical docum ents, maps, drawings, archives, photographies, postcards and all other available data that can lead us toward understanding the events, it seems like the Macedonian front is forgotten by the local researchers too, with just a couple of published books, scientific articles and occasional articles in the media. The sites associated with memories of the WWI conflicts and battle on the territory of N. Macedonia are either forgotten or neglected by the local scientists. As an organization, we are aiming toward good examples of heritage interpretation which are always based on first-hand experience. we are convinced that the dots on the war maps that connects the memory on the Macedonian Front, if thoroughly studied, can be points of remembrance and reconciliation among the Balkan countries. It seems that we can not demonstrate how reconciliation and peace can lead to better protection and managing of the sites of contested history, because they are forgotten and almost erased from the lo cal memory. But the aim of this video is to contribute to Reconciliation through Heritage Interpretation, showing the world what bloodshed can cause and what forgiveness can bring. As a part of that reconciliation, maybe one day, in the future, we will see the Macedonian Front on the UNESCO heritage list.

Production Note

“Eastern Front”, known under many names in historical records but mostly as “Macedonian front” or “Salonika front”, has great importance for the history of Macedonia and the Balkans. Being a dark spot on the world map more than a century, it draws attention only to eager researchers, adventurists and occasionally random tourists. Cultural heritage of the First World War in N. Macedonia so far has been completely unknown for both, the public and experts, within and outside Macedonia. In an attempt to discover a little piece of the modern history, as an organization we’ve ran few projects on this topic, public debates, semin ars, lectures and workshops. In November 2015 we organized for the very first time in our country a big international conference on topic ""First World War in the collective memory - Exchange of experiences in the Balkans"". The conference was attended by experts from France, Macedonia, Greece, Romania and other countries who presented their scientific and historical research on World War I, and who had the opportunity to share their experiences on the subject. As part of the activities that promote the cultural heritage of the First World War, in the past years members of HAEMUS were included in many field trips and scientific groups about the Macedonian Front. Regarding the Great War, N. Macedonia is definitely an open-air museum. But so far by now, there wasn’t a single archeological excavation on the WW1 site, and the ethnological researches are not very frequent. We can try very hard, but currently we cannot provide a unique perspective of contested war heritage, u nless multiple mediating roles are preformed. Interpretation is about storytelling and personal feelings, the way we do remember things, in spite of the official facts. But how to interpret the things we do not remember, since the local memory about the Great war is forgotten and lost forever? It’s both burden and challenge to keep the story alive, so people in N. Macedonia can remember the remembrance on the WW1. How to focus on perspective approach to interpret heritage where our national stories on the Balkans are so different, and we haven’t told our story yet? According to UNESCO, “Outstanding universal value means cultural and/or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.” Considering the Outstanding Universal Value of the contested heritage from the Great War on the Balkans, we would like to encourage inscribing the Macedonian Front on the UNESCO World Heritage List. But before this can happen, building human capacities who would participate in the dialogue for peace and reconciliation in the Balkan countries through scientific research and understanding of the past of this period is also one of the aims of our work. Bringing on daylight a topic less known, problematic by its origin, politicized in every aspect but very challenging for many researchers and scientists, needs multi-faceted approaches to an always complex and complicated Balkan history. Our opinion is that we can achieve peace and reconciliation through heritage interpretation about the Great War heritage, especially with our neighboring countries Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece, only if we cross-reference all the available archives and built an immense data base for future research. Used properly, interpretation is a powerful tool that can shape even a single story of a person, on behalf of the Great War. We can also contribute in achieving peace and reconciliation about the heritage from the Macedonian front with our work, writing down and retelling the stories that left in the field; making the historical reenactments using the skills, props and media to make it relevant to the public, and organizing the tours for the locals, while searching for the connections between those events in the past and the lives of contemporary communities. Every side has a story to tell. Let’s tell the story of a conflict that has a balance of narratives and new perspectives connecting all the dots on the war maps along the Macedonian front.