World Heritage Day: Celebrating diversity


New Delhi, April 19: April 18 is observed as World Heritage Day or the International Day for Monuments and Sites. Proposed by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in 1982, it was approved by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1983.

The World Heritage Day aim is to create an awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage of humankind, their vulnerability and promoting its conservation and preservation.

This year’s theme of the International Day for Monuments and Sites is “Complex Pasts: Diverse Futures” and around this, the ICOMOS members, national and international scientific committees, partners and others will celebrate, to mark the day.

Inclusion and diversity of narratives

Keeping in mind the worldwide calls for greater inclusion and recognition of diversity, the ICOMOS has invited participants today to reflect on, reinterpret, and re-examine existing narratives.

Elaborating on the theme the ICOMOS statement says conservation of cultural heritage requires critical examination of the past, as much as its practice demands provision for the future. “Debates on the omission and erasure of certain narratives, and the privileging of particular stories over others, have come to a head in recent years. Addressing contested histories hence involves complex conversations, avoiding biased views and interpretations of the past,” it specifies.

ICOMOS aims to engage in promoting new discourses, different and nuanced approaches to existing historical narratives, to support inclusive and diverse point of view. “Uncovering and generating more inclusive narratives can span a wide range of conservation issues, from toppled monuments of oppression within shared civic spaces to the treatment of ancestral sites, and indigenous domains across cultural landscapes. Today, many monuments and sites stand with their multi-layered history and importance which call for inclusive approaches,” said the statement.

Forgotten heroes of Indian Independence movement

The theme resonates in spirit and letter to what Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has been expounding repeatedly on several fora when talking about the Amrut Mahotsav — the celebration of 75 years of Indian Independence. He has called for bringing to light the struggles of those freedom fighters, whose sacrifices for India’s freedom is yet to be recognised. In fact they are not mentioned in history books. He has been exhorting people, especially the youth to identify such freedom fighters in their region, and write and share about their life and deeds.

The PM has also stressed on the need to give many national leaders of the freedom movement their due place in history. He has cited the example of Subhas Chandra Bose, who not only challenged the British but was also the first Indian to unfurl the Tricolour in Andaman island and declare the country’s freedom.

Quite in tune with ICOMOS’ call for heritage to represent diverse cultures and communities, the PM too wants participation of women and tribals in freedom struggle to be documented and highlighted.

Events on World Heritage Day

ICOMOS India has organised several events to celebrate the World Heritage Day 2021.

There will be an international dialogue between America, Europe, and Asia to emphasize the significance of “Culture, Heritage, Identity, Multifunctionality and Interconnectedness”. It will talk about sharing and interfacing the inherent meanings and experiential human values on which each Nation/Cultural realm must build cultural diplomacies and policies and also relations with other countries.

The necessity of understanding of the variedness of culture is summed by Paul Schehfer. He said: ” “Without a much better understanding of all the diverse cultures in the world, it is difficult to see how the world can ever become a more secure, harmonious, and peaceful place for all people, cultures, and countries.”

The cultural civility and heritage revitalization will lead to a humanised world which will be ‘Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram” or truthful, blissful and beautiful.

There will also be streaming of videos on “Current pandemic and heritage” to bring to the fore how in face of this present crisis, new ways of working for heritage conservation, education and awareness have been discovered.

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