A few weeks ago, John O’Brien, the chief strategist for Ireland’s Industrial Development Agency, was at The World Bank, Washington DC to address an event on the role of cultural heritage and historic cities in Local Economic Development. The theme of the event was creating jobs by supporting historic cities and cultural heritage. Urban Sector Manager Abha Joshi-Ghani began the day’s session by underlining the significance of cultural heritage in city development: “We have started to look at cities as drivers of entrepreneurship and innovation. It is important to understand how cities attract skilled people and industries to create jobs and what role they play in economic growth. Therefore it is very helpful to find linkages between cultural heritage assets and job creation.”
Are post-conflict societies that foster, promote, and develop their cultural industries providing important reconciliation benefits to their communities? If so, should governments make cultural policy a vital part of their post-conflict reconstruction plans?
After the traumatic experience of war, a number of policymakers may consider health, security, food, and shelter as the highest priorities without much consideration for culture. However, what many leaders in post-conflict zones often forget is that a conflicted, divided, and wounded population often compromises real prospects for peace and stability. Consequently, I argue that policies that encourage the development and growth of the cultural industries should be a critical part of post-conflict reconciliation efforts.
I’m not Catholic. Not even much of a practicing Christian, but I must confess I felt a little chill the other night walking past Köln’s Cathedral. Not from the cold of the night, nor from fear. My engaging German hosts had just informed me the Cathedral was built with sufficient grandeur to house the relics of the Three Magi spirited away from Milan in 1164. For hundreds of years pilgrims from around the world have converged on the Cathedral, adding to the 20,000 visitors a day. The site is sacred and steeped in history. For a few years it was even the tallest building in the world until eclipsed by the Washington Monument in 1884. I couldn’t escape the Cathedral’s history as we walked past it on this cool, clear October night.
So when I started to work with the khayameya I realized that my intention and the intentions of the khayameya workers were different. Not different in that we couldn’t agree, but just coming from different perspectives, which in the end turned out to be complementary. I had this idealistic, ambitious vision of simultaneously retaining craftsmanship, reviving cultural heritage, creating employment opportunities, etc…. For them, it is simply a source of income.
My first 6 weeks of officially working for Ayadi Organization I did on-the-ground research of various crafts around Egypt. I was looking to find a craft that has been passed down for hundreds of years and that would benefit from working with Ayadi. My vision was not to create something new. I didn’t want something redundant or to recreate the wheel if it had already been created and spinning, but rather to build on others' work and make more impact.