Germany on Display and a Probing Question [Pakistan]
Germany is visiting Pakistan! Lok Virsa, National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage in Islamabad Pakistan is on the last leg of its 8-day exhibition (which began on May 15th) of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany. Lok Virsa is hosting the exhibition in collaboration with the Embassy of Federal Republic of Germany at Heritage Museum of Lok Virsa.
Lok Virsa’s Executive Director Khalid Javaid said:
“This exhibition will be most beneficial for the students, researchers, writers, intellectuals and all those who want to get them acquainted about the culture and heritage of Germany….It will certainly go a long way in bringing people of both countries closer to each other.”
It is something to be celebrated: crossing borders, promoting diversity, sharing by way of photographic record but there are murmurings emerging from conservationists and concerned citizens that UNESCO may yet be destroying some of the very things it is seeking to protect.
UNESCO, the United Nations organization responsible for education, science and culture has been mobilizing armies of experts preserve cultural heritage and the promotion of cultural diversity across the globe by protecting cultural and natural assets, which are deemed to be of universal value. Currently there are over 800 sites from over 130 countries have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Register and 32 of these sites are located in Germany.
The World Heritage seal is a guarantee of preservation. But even as UNESCO reaches across borders to promote cultural diversity it is being accused of being a “lame duck in a straitjacket, incapable of protecting the world’s truly endangered places.” Simon Usborne poses the question: Is UNESCaO’s World Heritage project harming the very places it seeks to protect? He states that many within the conservation community are convinced UNESCO is failing. Rows, it seems are popping up as to whether or not the project is being undermined by bureaucracy and the ambitions of those seeking the mighty tourist dollar. The ancient ruins of Macchu Picchu for example are being visited by 4,000 people each day and listed as being “Under Close Surveillance” but not “In Danger.” It appears that countries submit the sites they want to be inscribed, often to boost tourism and that UNESCO has no power to step in to protect the other places that may need attention. UNESCO insists it “has most of the important sites”, but does not claim to have a monopoly on preservation.
These murmurings are not to be dismissed since many sites are in danger due to continuous tourist traffic and environmental changes. Perhaps hosting more travelling photographic exhibitions is a decent enough route to satiate our wander lust. In the meantime UNESCO has also declared a number of important monuments in Pakistan as world heritage sites including Rohtas Fort, Archaeological Ruins at Mohenjodaro, Buddhist Ruins at Takht Bahi, Taxila, Lahore Fort and Shalamar Gardens and the Historical Monuments of Thatta.
Maybe some of us will be fortunate to view a photographic exhibition of these remarkable places.
And on final note, the online news reports could have at least carried one relevant photograph. It is an exhibition of PHOTO after all!