20.08.2012 - UNESCO Office in Brasilia

UNESCO’s Slave Route Project inspires international seminar

Experts, scholars and authorities on black culture from different countries participate in the international seminar “Heritage, identity and culture: management of sites and places of memory related to the slave trade and slavery” , in Brasília, which will last until 23 August. The opening of the seminar, inspired by UNESCO’S Slave Route Project, took place at the National Museum of the Republic, on Monday, 20 August, with the participation of two Ministers of State - Ana de Hollanda, Culture, and Luiza Bairros , the Secretariat for Policies to Promote Racial Equality – besides government secretaries, ambassadors of African countries, parliamentarians, jurists and diplomats.


During the opening ceremony, the president of Palmares Fundação Cultural, Eloi Ferreira de Araújo, launched the idea of the inscription of Cais do Valongo (Valongo Wharf), in Rio de Janeiro, in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Recently discovered, Cais Valongo was the main arrival gate for slaves in Brazil, where more than half a million Africans disembarked. Excavations of the wharf are allowing a rediscovery of Brazilian black culture and a reformulation of its origin. Over a hundred thousand artifacts have been cataloged, so far.

"Cais do Valongo was the largest port of entry of Africans in Brazil. It is a historical site, rich in memory that ought to be shared with everyone and, therefore, it should become a World Heritage Site, "said Eloi Araújo.

The Minister Luiza Bairros, the Secretariat for Policies to Promote Racial Equality, also defended the inscription of Cais Valongo in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. "The centre of Rio de Janeiro is home to concrete elements of the African contribution to the formation of Brazil, besides Cais do Valongo; anywhere with this history should be an international site," said the Minister.

The UNESCO Brasília Director, Lucien Muñoz, said that "the seminar is the concrete example of how a theme that is cultural in origin, can reach enormous size in social policies and development". Muñoz noted that the memory of the slave trade and slavery around the world can help to "educate the new generations to ethnic-racial relations based on the human respect and well-being provided by diversity”.

Ethnic Tourism

The tourism related to the memory of slave trade and slavery was also at the seminar agenda. Ali Moussa-Iye, who is in charge of UNESCO’S Slave Route Project, delivered an intriguing lecture on the subject. Moussa stressed the need for conservation and management of historical sites worldwide that sustain any connection with slavery. According to him, "the sites provide, above all, a tribute to those who died as a result of the slave trade." Moussa recalled that hundreds of sites are forgotten and without protection. An initial mapping indicates that there are more than 800 places in the world that may be related to the history of slavery. From these, only a few are considered World Heritage sites, which provides them greater care and preservation appeal.

The Slave Route Project attempts to shed light on other sites still ignored. "The Project perceives the importance of this heritage and keeps us sensitive to the history," said Moussa, during the lecture. Moussa also noted that "UNESCO is the only UN agency to develop projects and policies for the conservation of slavery heritage sites ".

The Slave Route Project

The transatlantic slave trade is among the most extreme human rights violations in history. The length, breadth and magnitude of this enterprise of dehumanization led to its universal condemnation.

UNESCO plays an important role in fostering understanding and appreciation of history. Since the establishment of the Slave Route Project in 1994, UNESCO has endeavored to break the silence about the slave trade and slavery. The Organization assists States with additional research and enrichment of their national history and encourages the exchange of memories.

The Slave Route Project is an intersectoral and interdisciplinary project of UNESCO, which is connected to all areas of competence of the Organization. To meet this particular feature of the project, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has composed a special team to deal with the activities of UNESCO concerning the study of the slave trade and its implications.

The international seminar “Heritage, identity and culture: management of sites and places of memory related to the slave trade and slavery", which aims to boost tourism at places of memory related to the slave trade and slavery, is a partnership between the Palmares Fundação Cultural and UNESCO, with the support of the Ministries of Culture, Education, Tourism and External Relations.

By the end of the seminar some partnerships, projects and agreements are expected to be signed by the representatives from the most important black culture foundations in the country and the world. Attendants participate in thematic discussions until this Thursday, 23 August.


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