The Young vs the State: Same old conflict around Heritage and its Conservation: It is time to include perspectives of young people in the Heritage Policy of India

Authors: Priya Gohad & Neha Ghatpande, Savitribai Phule Pune University, India

On June 11, 2021, the Maharashtra state government in India took the decision to build a ropeway on the Rajgad fort (a popular trekking destination and the first capital of the Maratha Empire established by seventeenth century king Shivaji) and Ekvira Temple (temple of a Hindu deity). Thousands of trekkers visit Rajgad fort every year, yet, this decision to build a ropeway on the fort was criticized by the groups of young trekkers, mountaineers and adventure enthusiasts. It was also challenged by environment activists and ecological experts based on its potential ecological impact on the fort.

This decision has triggered a lot of social media discussions among youth in Maharashtra and petitions were signed along with letters addressed to the tourism minister of the state. The reasons behind opposing the state’s plans are cited as overcrowding, the detrimental impact on the flora and fauna on the fort, possible damage to the heritage structures and the loss of its historical significance[i].

The government has sought to give several explanations to communicate their position on this conflict. One of the explanations is that the fort would become accessible to people of all age groups. One of the ministers in the government said, “those who are opposing it are young…we need to think about all people.” Despite the opposition, the state has decided to go ahead with their plans.

Image 1: View from Rajgad Fort

This conflict between the way the State approaches heritage sites and how the youth want their heritage to be treated and preserved has become a talking point. Another important part of the discussion has been the impact this project might have on the eligibility of Rajgad, and another 13 forts, to be marked as world heritage sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The nomination has been filed by the same state government. Environmentalists and ecological experts have also expressed concerns because it is an ecologically sensitive area and is part of the Western Ghats, which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This new debate has given rise to the same old conflict between how the state is looking at Heritage as the celebration of the past relics through the predominant lens of tourism and revenue generation. On the other hand, young people are more inclined to conserve and preserve the Heritage along with the History and ecology attached with it.

Image 2: Karla Cave Site

Interestingly, the issue of the ropeway at the fort triggered a lot of debates, but there seems to be hardly any opposition to the ropeway or funicular railway project at Ekvira temple located near the heritage site of Karla caves. The cave complex is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India and the temple is located in the remaining space. While the forts are recognised as important heritage symbols and have more of an emotional impact both in terms of history and ecology, the religious impact of the Ekvira temple seems to dominate the heritage value of the site of Karla. This is significantly seen in the silence among youths on the issue of constructing a ropeway in the cave complex as opposed to the movement against it at the fort site. Contested and diverse views are seen in terms of youth perspectives related to culture and heritage. Contestation between history and myth, heritage and religion dominates the minds of young people while recognising the significance of a heritage site.  This contestation of points of view definitely requires an inclusive policy intervention.

While conducting research under the CHIEF project, the findings highlighted a disconnect between the official discourses on heritage and the sensibilities of young people. State institutions influence the understanding of culture and heritage in the public domain but at the same time there is no set pattern in terms of administration and regulations regarding the heritage sites. This often leads to such controversial decisions on the part of the government without taking the public opinion in consideration. Lack of cultural policy, especially relevant to the interests and needs of the youth limits their interaction with heritage sites. Young people are assumed as passive receivers of culture in most of the official state documents, which affects their cultural participation.

The Government initiatives related to development of heritage sites needs to be appreciated as they contribute not only to the conservation of any site but also generate economic resources. Yet, it is debatable as to how we define heritage, the need to extend its scope and a strong legislative intervention to make it more inclusive. A strong legal framework in the form of a cultural policy will surely help in achieving certain goals to enhance cultural participation.

The vision of young people and experience of senior experts can be combined to frame new ideas of cultural engagement. Young people should be involved in the decision-making and recognised as agents of the continuous process of making and remaking of culture. Formation of a city level body to give advice on issues related to the reconstruction of heritage sites, upgrading them with modern amenities, issues of aesthetics and ecology will surely lead to better decision making. It is necessary to arrive at a common point for both, the state interventions in regards to heritage and perspectives of youth towards it.

 

About the Authors

Dr. Priya Gohad worked as Research Associate on the CHIEF Project at SPPU-India. She holds a PhD in Archaeology. Her research interests are Heritage Management, ancient Indian history, art, architecture, culture and archaeology.

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Neha Ghatpande worked as a Project Officer for CHIEF at Savitribai Phule Pune University (India). In her professional career, she has contributed to various newspapers and magazines as a journalist.



Street art, brain teasers, and cultural heritage in Tbilisi: A CHIEF mini project

Author: Tamar KhoshtariaCRRC-Georgia – Georgia

Young people involved in the CHIEF project in Georgia worked on a joint mini-project over the last two years, developing brain teasers that incorporate knowledge of cultural heritage into the built environment using street art in Tbilisi. Members of the Tsibakha board game club came up with the idea of creating a quest through the city painted onto the streets of Tbilisi. With the help of young street artists, the game has been completed. The game incorporates brain teasers about Georgian intellectuals and artists, and leads participants on a quest through Tbilisi.

Through paintings on facades, passersby can play a game by scanning the QR codes on the paintings and reading the instructions. Alternatively, interested parties can simply visit the web-page tavsatekhi.ge[1] and find game instructions there. After solving the puzzles hidden in the street art and entering the responses online, participants are directed to a page about the Georgian artist or historical figure the puzzle and art makes references to. The artists and historical figures are people who have made significant contributions to the development of the country and its culture, but are under-appreciated in society.

The project took significant efforts. First, young members of the board game club (Giko Megrelishvili, Levan Gelashvili, and Levan Kukhaleishvili) created the idea for the quest and had several meetings with young street artists (Sandro Pachuashvili, Andro Tsikaridze, Gena Tushishvili and Ilia Dzadzamia) to brainstorm about what hints the street art should include.  Then the young street artists sketched the paintings, which were submitted to city hall to receive approval to paint pre-selected facades.

After receiving permission to paint, four young street artists worked in five locations in December 2020 through March 2021. The first piece was painted by Andro Tsikaridze on Gogi Dolidze Street 18, Tbilisi. The painting is linked to Sulkhan Saba Orbeliani (writer and diplomat) and Ivane Machabeli (translator, publicist, public figure, active member of the National-Liberation Movement, and a founder of the new Georgian literary language).

Andro Tsikaridze using old Georgian letters (Photos by Tamar Khoshtaria).

Sandro Pachuashvili painted the second installation on Giorgi Mazniashvili Street 21-23. The piece is linked to Niko Nikoladze, a publicist, public figure, and mayor of Poti, a Western Georgian city. Niko Nikoladze is associated with the city’s urban planning, and the urban plan for Poti is depicted in the art.

Sandro Pachuashvili’s street art about the city Poti (Photos taken by Tamar Khoshtaria and Sandro Pachuashvili)

The third painting was done by Ilia Dzadzamia on Daniel Chonkadze Street 5. The piece is linked to Giorgi Mazniashvili, a Georgian general and one of the most prominent military figures in Georgia in the beginning of the 20th century. The painting is on two sides of a small building, and has a battleship game.

Ilia Dzadzamia’s street art “battleship” (Photos taken by Tamar Khoshtaria)

The fourth work was painted by Sandro Pachuashvili on Tsinamdzgvrishvili Street 119. This time the painting is linked to the Georgian Astronomer Ramze Bartaia.

Sandro Pachuashvili’s street art on Astronomy (Photos taken by Tamar Khoshtaria)

The fifth and final piece was the largest. Gena Tushishvili painted it in March, 2021 on Amaghleba Street 25. It is associated with the Georgian painter David Kakabadze.

Gena Tushishvili’s street art in Tbilisi (Photos taken by Tamar Khoshtaria and Gena Tushishvili)

The paintings are now complete and passersby can play the game once the website tavsatekhi.ge is fully updated and complete.

As a result of the mini-project in Georgia, young people created a game which can be played using street art in Tbilisi. The authors of the mini-project think that their idea has several positive features. First, it involves young people and enhances the cultural participation of young people. Second, it is an activity that brings together young sub-cultures (street artists and board game lovers) and requires their collaboration. Third, it has a cognitive as well as educational purpose, since it involves brain teasers as well as information about Georgian public figures and artists. Fourth, but not least, it is aimed at local residents as well as tourists and serves as an attraction for them. Finally, the mini-project is permanent rather than a one-time activity as long as the paintings are not painted over.

 

(1) The information on the website is being added gradually by the young people involved in the project.

 


About the author

Tamar Khoshtaria, is a researcher at CRRC-Georgia and is the partner team lead for the CHIEF project team in Georgia.


Women of Fire

Author: Judit Castellví Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF)Catalonia, Spain

Over the last few decades, enthusiasm for and citizen involvement in local festivities have greatly increased in many towns and cities of Catalonia. Different generations go out to the streets to take part in festive activities. Huge numbers of people attend the traditional parades and performances by giants, fire-breathing fantasy creatures, and devils. Of these experiences, the most popular activities are those that use fire. The correfocs (fire-runs) are the most successful.

Image of women of fire at night with fireworks/sparkers in the background
Scene during the Correfoc (runfire parade)

In one medium-sized city located in the conurbation of Barcelona, there is a group of “devils” exclusively made up of women – something very exceptional, as the majority of local devil groups are composed of men – that has already run for 35 years. This group of women has been studied in the ethnographic research of the CHIEF project with the aim of understanding their cultural practices, motivations, and what they have learned from being engaged in a group of only female devils.

To start with, the expression of culture promoted by the group has its roots in the Catalan culture. Since the Spanish democratic transition began in the 1970s, there has been a movement for the recovery of the traditional expressions of Catalan culture, especially local festivities, which have gained a lot of popularity within the community and have become an important part of local culture.

The diablesses is a self-organised and horizontal group, although it belongs to the city council’s network of traditional culture groups. The context of the diablesses group is found in traditional and popular Catalan culture, particularly in one of its most traditional and widespread expressions: the Festa Major (local celebration), which is celebrated annually for a series of days in every town, village and city in Catalonia. The tradition of Festa Major has been known in Catalonia since at least the 13th century, and it has evolved up to the present. The Spanish democratic transition was a turning point for the Festes Majors, as it led, among other things, to a recovery of the festivities.

Diablesses talking under the sparks during a correfoc.
Diablesses talking under the sparks during a correfoc.

What did change radically during the 1970s was the introduction of fire to the local festivities: almost non-existent until then, fire-related activities began to proliferate everywhere. Although the first written notice of “devils” in Catalonia dates back to the Dancing Talks of the year 1150, during the democratic transition period they became linked to correfocs. This was probably the greatest invention of the Catalan Festes Majors in the last quarter of the twentieth century. A correfoc (literally “run fire”) is a festive street event in which participants parade amidst and under the sparks of fireworks borne by devils, dragons and other figures of a fantastic sort. This modern creation somehow derives from the concept of recovering the age-old practice of playing with fire, which is very present in festive contexts. Although the democratic transition brought about the possibility for women to join the different popular groups as full members, this is still a controversial subject. Continue reading “Women of Fire”

Online Workshop Call

Are you involved in youth services? Do you work with young people whose first language is not English. or who speak more than one language? If yes, we’d love to hear about your experiences! Find out more below:

You are invited to take part in an online workshop on 7 May (time tbc) regarding the challenges and benefits of providing services and engaging with multilingual communities in the West Midlands. More specifically, we focus on work with young people from culturally diverse neighbourhoods. You will be invited to share your experiences and concerns with other practitioners and researchers. You will take part in a discussion to develop more inclusive service provisions, which would recognise the needs and opportunities practitioners encounter when working with youth in multicultural communities, including those impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Continue reading “Online Workshop Call”

Carefully considered measures could have a big impact

An empirical study in schools has demonstrated that discrimination and racism are deeply rooted problems in school structures that urgently need to be addressed. Prof. Dr. Louis Henri Seukwa, professor of Education Science at HAW Hamburg, and researcher Dr. Elina Marmer explain why and provide recommendations.

HAW Hamburg, Fakultät W&S, Department Soziale Arbeit, Professor Louis Henri Seukwa, Professor für Erziehungswissenschaften, Fotografiert am Berliner Tor 5 am 22.6.2020

Prof. Dr. Louis Henri Seukwa, Professor of Education Science at HAW Hamburg

How does racism manifest in day-to-day school life and what has been done to stop it to date?
Prof. Dr. Louis Henri Seukwa: Schools are a reflection of society, which means that societal racism is also evident in schools. At the level of society as a whole, it is clear that people of colour or those with a supposed migration background are underrepresented in management positions and at the same time tend to have poorly paid jobs. We see the same picture in schools, as Hamburg’s statistics show. Relatively few students with a migration background attend Gymnasium, and they are overrepresented in Stadtteilschulen(neighbourhood schools). Studies show that these students often receive lower grades for the same performance. There are studies on racist portrayals in schoolbooks, and at the same time such issues also appear outside schools in the news, films and literature.

Unfortunately, too little has been done so far to counter this. Neither teacher training nor educational curricula include a strategy or a concept for systematically addressing the problem within the educational structure. There isn’t even a complaints body. Even the General Act on Equal Treatment (AGG) doesn’t protect students adequately. There is an absence of structurally anchored frameworks for protection and action to effectively tackle racism and discrimination. But because schools are public institutions, the political sphere does have direct possibilities to intervene. And because the requirement to attend school means that schools can reach virtually all children and youth, carefully considered measures could have a big impact.

Continue reading “Carefully considered measures could have a big impact”

Slovak Rebels

Youths from the Slovak “folklore-drama” group Slovak Rebels live in the south-Slovak city of Komárno on the very border with Hungary. They everyday-life cultural experience is determined with the bilingual and ethnically Slovak-Hungarian mixed character of their hometown. Many of Slovak Rebels youths originate from the ethnically mixed families and are fluent in both languages used in the city. Slovak Rebels youths participated on Participant Active Research conducted by Matej Karásek and Lucia Hržičová. Participant Active Research was the intervention of the international project Cultural Heritage and Identities of Europe´s Future (CHIEF). The aim of this part of the project was to support the cultural ambitions of youth groups from the countries included in CHIEF project. Continue reading “Slovak Rebels”

‘A Real Fusion’ of the Coventry Rap Track

Author: Anton PopovAston UniversityUK

On a rainy Sunday in October, a group of young people had gathered in a sound recording studio in Coventry to work together on the music and song that would express their identities, their experiences of urban living, and the issues they face navigating their everyday lives in the city. The result of this collaboration is a six minute rap song track with original music and lyrics composed, written and recorded on that day. https://soundcloud.com/ourlivesourculture/on-my-mind

The production of this rap composition is part of the Participatory Action Research intervention of the Cultural Heritage and Identities of Europe’s Future (CHIEF) project, an international research project funded by the European Commission and led by Aston University (Birmingham, UK) that explores young people’s cultural identities, practices and heritage-in-the-making. The Aston CHIEF project team (Dr Ebru Soytemel and Dr Anton Popov) collaborated with young people in Coventry, youth workers and a local non-profit-organisation Media Mania in delivering a Music and Rap writing workshop to provide a platform for young people to empower them in the expression of their culture, identities and needs through the medium of music and poetry. Young people worked with a local rapper, RG The Baron, along with youth worker, Tayyaba Sadiq, to write lyrics, compose the music and record a song of their own.

The participants of the workshop shared all shared interest in music. The workshop also became a platform for cultural interaction and exchange between young people. Thus the bit for the rap was inspired by so-called ‘gypsy jazz’, played by Sebastian (age 14); he and Lubomir (age 12) also wrote the lyrics for the rap song together with rap-artist and poet RG The Baron. The music as well as lyrics of the song has direct references to the cultural backgrounds of the rappers – Slovak Roma (Sebastian and Lubomir) and British Caribbean (RG The Baron). The folk music had been framed with electric guitar played by Joe (age 22) and Ian (age 16), two local punk-rock musicians. The chorus of the rap song had a distinctive jazzy style that was beautifully sung and performed by Destiny (age 16) who had been singing since her early childhood in a local church attended by Coventry’s British Caribbean community. Continue reading “‘A Real Fusion’ of the Coventry Rap Track”

Why Celebrating Festivities Matters: The Mundane versus the Festive

Author: Ilze KacaneDaugavpils UniversityLatvia

In one of her poems related to family upbringing and the succession of female generations in the frames of patriarchal conceptions1, Latvian poetess Ārija Elksne (1928–1984) writes:

“Audziniet labi savas meitas – Iemāciet viņām svētkus svinēt.
Cik nabadzīgas tās ģimenes, Kas tikai darbdienas zina.”2

“Raise your daughters well – Teach them to celebrate.
How poor are the families, Which know only working days.”
[Translation from Latvian mine – I. K.]

A couple of years before, my colleague quoted this poem in a conversation she held with people sharing common views and values with her: she revealed that this poem had become her large family’s motto, as she considered that women are primarily responsible for preserving and continuing traditions in a family. Continue reading “Why Celebrating Festivities Matters: The Mundane versus the Festive”

Observing Georgian Street Artists: Young People (Attempt to) Leave their Footprint on the Urban Environment

Authors: Elene Ergeshidze and Rati ShubladzeCaucasus Research Resource CentersGeorgia

Graffiti and street art is a quite novel form of expressive culture in Georgia. Despite the fact that the first pieces of street art emerged in Georgia in the late 1980s, the scene has not grown rapidly until recent years. For the broader public, street art was usually associated with vandalism, damage and distortion of private property, and unacceptable, on the verge of legality. Despite pre-conceptions associated with street art, societal perceptions are gradually changing. Nevertheless, the street art scene still enjoys some attention from social scientists and art critics.1 Within the CHIEF project, CRRC Georgia observed young people engaged in street art. The aim of the study was to examine the practices, attitudes, and concerns of young people in the context of street art. In addition, the study investigated young artists’ positions on different grass-roots cultural practices and emerging contemporary cultural heritage. This blog presents the key findings of the study as relates the challenges young street artists face and provides a brief overview of street art development in Georgia.

The street art community provides insight into youth cultural engagement in Georgia given its diversity: being centred in the capital, artists come from and work across the city’s districts and are from a wide variety of backgrounds. Considering that painting on walls is typically illegal in Georgia, and is subject to penalties under administrative law,2 street art is usually done surreptitiously at night, in abandoned places, or during street art festivals where special permission is provided for work on a particular building.3 Street artists, especially those specialising in graffiti, typically paint under a pseudonym and seek anonymity.

Street Art in Tbilisi Georgia
Image credit: Elene Ergeshidze, 2019

Continue reading “Observing Georgian Street Artists: Young People (Attempt to) Leave their Footprint on the Urban Environment”

Home, Heritage and Belonging

Author: Elina MarmerHaw Hamburg – Germany

In April last year, Simon Wellman and Darren Wood, members of our project team from the Culture Coventry Trust (UK), visited Hamburg to teach young people participating in CHIEF how to produce quality short films using a Smartphone. Between 2019 and early 2020 the team visited all partner countries with the same mission, India being the last in January 2020. Two months later, Simon Wellman contracted the Corona virus and died on 30th of March from complications of the illness.

With my article, I want to remember Simon and his contribution to our work by enabling young people to express themselves, reach out and touch others through the art of video filming.

The aim of the media workshops was to provide young people with skills training to better communicate their cultural knowledge and practices offering them an opportunity to present what they consider their cultural heritage. Since the workshop last April, two Smartphone videos have been produced in Hamburg, while two more still need some technical finishing. Each video was shot by an individual BA student; all female, aged 22-24 and based in Hamburg, who are in one way or other involved in CHIEF project. It is these first two videos made in this context in Hamburg that I want to write about.

Continue reading “Home, Heritage and Belonging”

Contested Identities and Questioning of Citizenship: How the context of citizenship questions changed in the course of conducting a survey

Author: Neha Ghatpande – Savitribai Phule Pune UniversityIndia

In India, we began a Survey of Young People’s Cultural Literacy (CHIEF project, WP3) in October 2019. Until the first week of December 2019, we had covered a lot of ground.

In our experience, several students used to find the following questions ‘routine’ or almost inconsequential:

‘Were you born in India?’

Do you have ‘Indian’ citizenship?

Was your father born in India’?

Was your mother born in India? Continue reading “Contested Identities and Questioning of Citizenship: How the context of citizenship questions changed in the course of conducting a survey”

Street Art, Public Space and Transformation of the City: The Mini-project Organised by CHIEF (UPF) and B-Murals

Author: Julia Nuño de la Rosa – Universitat Pompeu FabraBarcelona

Some months ago we enjoyed the presentation of the resulting projects from young people participating in the Street Art Workshop co-organised by CHIEF (UPF), the Youth Centre Garcilaso and B-Murals in Barcelona city. By showing a series of photographs from the five workshops, explaining the dynamics of the different days and letting young people themselves present some examples of their work, artists RiceVisuals and Mario Mankey gave attendees an insight into the project and explained the intentions of the different workshops.

Continue reading “Street Art, Public Space and Transformation of the City: The Mini-project Organised by CHIEF (UPF) and B-Murals”