Cultural heritage is equally about community involvement and preserving traditional knowledge systems as about built heritage such as monuments. This was the crux of a panel discussion that opened a two-day conference on EU-India partnership on culture in the national capital.
Speaking to a house full of European and Indian delegates in a conference on "EU-India Partnership for Cultural Heritage Conservation" at the National Museum, conservation architect Nishant Upadhyay built a case for cultural heritage as a catalyst for socio-economic development.
The Unesco program officer elaborated on the lost royal gardens of Rajnagar, which were restored by the Belgian chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) starting 2003, with a focus on agro-forestry and community involvement in the area.
Only a few minutes away from the globally known heritage site of Khajuraho temples in Madhya Pradesh, the Rajnagar gardens were "nature tamed to individual will" and were used for royal recreation.
Upadhyay, while elaborating on the Bundelkhandi gardens, said that although the gardens are privately owned, a local farmers' community was still involved. Through reviving cultivation in those gardens, INTACH was able to apply local know-how in the landscape conservation work.
The case study supplied crucial information on how building local seed-banks and crop markets, and engaging potters and craftspersons to create material for each 'lost' garden not just generated employment but reinstated a community space and nudged organisation of music and organic food festivals in the gardens.
Taking other conservation efforts as cases, his co-panellists elaborated on how culture and economy can thrive together, and because of each other.
Panellists Juan-Manuel Guimerans and Debashish Nayak, who head the Valladolid City Council (Spain) and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation respectively, had partnered for an EU-funded project in Ahmedabad.
Titled "Cultural Heritage Management and Venture Lab", the project encouraged entrepreneurial initiative in the Gujarat city that "loves business".
The catch? The start-ups and projects must be about cultural heritage conservation. The Lab boasts of several initiatives that it sparked, including those around media, photography, theatre, food, and even tourist guides.
The panel that discussed "enormous spillover effects" of cultural preservation, opened the conference set in motion by EU Ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski, Culture Ministry Joint Secretary Nirupama Kotru and National Museum Director General B.R. Mani on Tuesday.
The conference marks in India the conclusion of the celebrations of the 2018 as the European year of Cultural Heritage, the objective of which has been to further cultural heritage as a bridge builder between the EU and its key partner countries, EU said.
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