Celebrating “International Day for Monuments and Sites”
Today, 18 April, is International Day for Monuments and Sites. Preserving Nepal’s heritage is important for sustainable development, says UNESCO Representative to Nepal, Axel Plathe in a message on the occasion of the day.
Today, at International Day for Monuments and Sites, we celebrate the diversity of cultural heritage of humanity. But we also remember its vulnerability and the efforts required for its protection and conservation.
People all over the world are deeply attached to their heritage -- ever more so today, as they search for a place in a globalizing world.
Many people are acutely aware of the fact that this heritage is not eternal. Many of what constitutes our heritage – both the tangible and intangible - is in real danger. Great parts of it are irreversibly lost.
The threats are numerous: they are ignorance, pollution, war, uncontrolled urbanism, poverty, natural disasters, irresponsibility and abusive tourism.
But why should we preserve our heritage sites? Because they are a force for creativity and innovation. Because they are probably our most precious reference. Because they are witnesses to the past. All these reasons are very valid.
But there is one more which I believe is equally important: It is the value of heritage - and culture, in a more general sense- for sustainable development.
Throughout the past decade, statistics, indicators and data on the cultural sector, have underscored that culture can be a powerful driver for development.
Cultural heritage, cultural and creative industries, sustainable cultural tourism, and cultural infrastructure are strategic tools for revenue generation. This is particularly true in countries like Nepal with its very rich cultural heritage and substantial labour force.
The tourism sector has become one of the world’s fastest growing economic sectors.
Cultural tourism - that relies on tangible and intangible cultural assets - accounts for 40 % of world tourism revenues.
It is clear that for Nepal also investment in culture and creativity can be an excellent means for revitalize the economy of the country’s urban areas.
Kathmandu, for example, makes many efforts to use cultural heritage and cultural events and institutions to improve its image, stimulate urban development, and attract visitors as well as investments. But much more needs to be done.
Celebrating International Day for Monuments and Sites, as we do today, is one of these initiatives that contribute to develop a vibrant culture sector.
It comes this year under a particular interesting theme linking “The heritage of education”.
Since ever, and everywhere education was practiced in a wide range of places or buildings.
Squares, like the Durbar Squares in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, or the protective shadow of a tree were used for transmitting knowledge. And it is transmitted at more usual places of education, such as schools, universities, madrasas, academies, libraries, monasteries, etc.
Many of these buildings have not only social or institutional, but also historic or artistic value. And many of them have become a significant part of our cultural heritage.
Several heritage properties linked to education have reached international recognition such as the university campuses in Caracas in Venezuela and Mexico City, which are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
At the same time, several historic towns and centres inscribed on the List house buildings and complexes related to education.
For example, aspects of heritage that is inter alia embodied by Durbar squares, form part of curricula of lower secondary and secondary education. It would be good, however, to integrate heritage aspects much more consistently into curricula.
A good example is the requirement for students from the Central Department of Nepalese History, Culture and Archaeology of Tribhuvan University to make site visits to heritage sites including the three durbar squares in the Kathmandu Valley during their studies.
More concretely the Kabindrapur at Hanuman Dhoka, which houses the god of dance “Natyeswor”, is still used as a place for secret teaching of the traditional music and dances for members of the jyapu community.
It is an exceclent initiative that Kathmandu Metropolitan City is considering its reuse as a traditional performing art centre for transmission of traditions to young people.
Traditional forms of dance are secretly transmitted behind the walls of the Kabindrapur. At the same time, the open spaces of Hanuman Dhoka are witnessing much more informal sharing and learning during the grand festive events.
At Hanuman Dhoka the buildings and places are protected. However, many cultural properties linked to education and bearing historic, artistic or social values do not yet enjoy proper protection and recognition, for example the numerous monasteries in the mountains areas.
They all are centres of both spirituality and learning. They are places in which local and indigenous knowledge systems are transmitted since centuries. They are the heritage of education.
We need the energy and engagement of many to protect them.
UNESCO Representative to Nepal
The International Day for Monuments and Sites is held on 18 April each year around the world with different types of activities, including visits to monuments and heritage sites, conferences, round tables and newspaper articles. It was established by the International Councill on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) www.icomos.org
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