In a rapidly changing world, what can be done to preserve cultural heritage?

What constitutes cultural heritage? Language, tradition and customs are the first things that come to mind, followed perhaps by dance and song, architecture or places of memory. Less obvious are the sounds or smells that are such strong markers of a place, of an era, and are part of a heritage with which those who live there identify. In 1972, UNESCO drew up several lists of material, cultural and natural world heritage, with the aim of preserving part of the common human heritage. This is a crucial, never-ending and urgent undertaking in a world that seems to be spinning ever faster with the rise of globalization, the loss of know-how, the collateral damage caused by conflict and, finally and above all, the impact of climate change. Efforts are being made, all over the world, to save these treasures forged by history.

We invite you to discover some of the stories on this subject published by Equal times.

Saving sounds and smells from extinction

By Maria Jose Carmona

Photo: Campaners of Albaida

The smell of old books, the sound of church bells, a local dialect or the smell of a pollution-free city could today be considered endangered heritage. Their degradation is less visible than that of a monument, which is precisely why their protection is more urgent.

At the beginning of 2021, in an unprecedented decision, France ordered the protection by law of several of its sounds and smells, in particular those of the French countryside. It all started with an incident involving a rooster.

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Could workers’ meeting rooms soon become World Heritage sites?

By Jelena Prtoric

Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP

In April 1856, a group of stonemasons in Melbourne, Australia quit their jobs in protest at their employers’ refusal to accept their demand for an eight-hour working day. In the weeks that followed, the “eight hour movement” grew stronger and the bosses ended up agreeing to negotiate with the workers. The agreement reached granted the stonemasons the right to work eight hours a day instead of the usual ten hours for the same salary.

Following this victory, the stonemasons committee of Melbourne decided to build a “people’s palace”, which was to serve as a forum for future convocations. Financed and built by the workers themselves, a first temporary wooden structure was built in 1859, while work on the first permanent building was completed in 1874. This building, the Victorian Trades Hall, is one of the most former union buildings in continuous operation to the world and now houses various unions and a workers’ museum.

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In Iraqi swamps, researchers race to document an endangered dialect

By Kira Walker

On a warm spring morning earlier this year, Hussein Mohammed Ridha and his three colleagues set off by boat through the Mesopotamian marshes of southern Iraq. Weaving their way through lush, arching reed channels, past half-submerged water buffaloes and fishermen casting their nets into the calm waters, the researchers were looking for speakers of the local Swamp Arabic dialect.

Recurring droughts and falling water levels make the subsistence lifestyle of the Marsh Arabs difficult to sustain. As more and more residents are forced to leave and gather their livelihoods in towns where they feel compelled not to use their dialect, it is not just the culture and way of life of the Arabs of the swamps that disappear; as the elders die, their dialect also disappears.

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The creative youngster bringing India’s rural folk musicians to the world – via backpack

By Payal Mohta

In 2011, while Abhinav Agrawal was studying architecture in the central Indian city of Bhopal, every weekend he took a random train to visit another part of the country. Descending into both teeming cities and remote rural villages, he would explore the folk music of each region, inspired by his love for the diversity of styles, sounds and instruments, and his training as a classical singer. and tabla player.

Equipped with a simple laptop computer, a sound card and a microphone, he recorded the music of the artists he met and burned CDs for them, free of charge. “Musicians started calling me and saying they wanted more CDs because the ones I gave them had been bought by people,” says Agrawal, 28. “I saw a kind of trend where, instead of depending on the kindness of strangers, musicians could now make money from their art.”

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This article has been translated from French.