Will Restoration Perpetuate Syria's Cultural Destruction

August 13, 2017

Image: Palmyra

 

“Neither by public, nor by those who have the care of public monuments, is the true meaning of the word restoration understood. It means the most total destruction which a building can suffer: destruction out of which no remnants can be gathered; a destruction accompanied with false description of the thing destroyed. Do not let us deceive ourselves in this important matter; it is impossible, as impossible as to raise the dead, to restore anything that has ever been great or beautiful in architecture”. Ruskin John, [180-1989]

 

An Article written  by by Anny Shaw in The Art News Paper reports that ,"The World Monuments Fund (WMF) is launching a £500,000 scheme to train Syrian refugees living in and around the Zaatari camp on the Jordanian border in traditional stone masonry. The aim is to develop skills so that cultural heritage sites that have been caught in crossfire or destroyed by Isil can be rebuilt once peace is restored to Syria".  and that the "scheme is supported by the UK’s Cultural Protection Fund, which was established in 2016 to safeguard monuments and heritage sites at risk due to conflict. Other projects to benefit from the £30m fund include a scheme, led by the University of Liverpool, focused on Yazidi historic shrines in Dohuk, Mosul and Sinjar in Iraq; the creation of a database of cultural heritage on Soqotra, a Yemeni archipelago between Yemen and the Horn of Africa". (Article in full)

 

Despite the initial warm glow of reading how the international community is committed to supporting the plight of cultural heritage and helping local communities take ownership of post conflict damage and redevelopment, the feeling soon dissipates and the pragmatics soon begins to surface:

 

How far do these initiatives want to turn back time and possibly amplify Syrian amnesia ?

To what ruined state, must they be rebuilt too?

 

This terrible destruction happened, just as it did, at the hands of the Romans in 273, the Timurids in 1400 and by the French in 1932...... Where must we set the clocks for an authentic restoration to find legitimacy ? 


By restoring, are we reinforcing or even continuing the site's trauma?

 

A unsettling realization  begins to dawn, are International agencies funding restoration projects with a liberal democratic peace in mind? a Western-centric approach to Nation-building, where the Nation's future economics of international-tourism and traumatic-memory manipulations, come before local post-conflict peace-building and authentic narrations off violence?

 

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