Sunday, May 20, 2012

Independent heritage initiatives: A first step to linking communities to their own histories

Egypt Independent (Fatma Keshk)

Very valuable insight into the work of independent groups working in Egypt to preserve heritage.

Since the 18th century, Egypt has had a public authority responsible for the registration, inventory and security of its antiquities in museums and archaeological sites — currently the Ministry of Antiquities. But it has rarely been able to stir up the general public’s interest in their own rich heritage.

Other than groups such as the friends of the Egyptian or Coptic museums, until recently few people have tried to engage non-specialists. TV programs on the subject remain dull and alienating.

“Government authorities in Egypt have usually preferred giving priority to tourists over Egyptians,” says Yasmine El Dorghamy, editor of Rawi Magazine.

In 2008, when Dorghamy decided to launch a magazine about heritage, she wanted to present an informative publication about history and heritage made attractive through good design and photography.

“I am particularly targeting young bilingual Egyptians, a social segment that needs to know more about our invaluable heritage,” she explains. Covering various topics and most historical periods from Ancient Egypt to contemporary times, Rawi has made its way to Cairo’s newsstands, as well as the bookstores of international museums such as the British Museum and the Louvre. . . . .
“Dozens of people came to help us rescue the books at the Institut d’Egypte when the fire broke out last December,” Dorghamy says. “People were happy to help … This experience made me believe that many Egyptians feel the importance and the value of their heritage, they only need some guidance regarding what they can do to help.” This guidance has never been sufficiently provided by the public antiquities authorities, educational system or media.

Independent groups have recently emerged to try to make up for this lack through lectures and public awareness campaigns, inspired by the positive spirit displayed in the cleaning of Tahrir Square after Hosni Mubarak stepped down.

“Every day new groups are formed,” says Dalia Nabil, who co-founded the Treasures of Egypt at Risk group along with Heba Hosny. “If the revolution has succeeded in anything, then it is regaining our belief in our ability to effect change and combat ignorance and corruption.”
 See the above page for more information.

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