Brought to your attention as an addendum to Culture in Peril’s last post regarding the earthquake’s effects on traditional Vodou burial rituals…
UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) recently issued a statement to Director-General Ban Ki-moon asking for his support in preventing the pillaging of Haiti’s damaged museums, galleries, and churches. The recommendation by UNESCO calls for a temporary ban on the import/export of portable cultural property as well as increased security at potential target sites for illicit looting, including the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, and several buildings in the historic French-colonial town of Jacmel. “This heritage,” writes the Organization’s Director-General Irina Bobovka, “is an invaluable source of identity and pride for the people on the island and will be essential to the success of their national reconstruction.”
We can see from Ms. Bobovka’s statement that the preservation of this vulnerable cultural heritage will be a major actor in the future revitalization of the Haitian people. In fact, this very idea is already well understood by Haitians themselves: one Haitian art historian insists, “[Haiti’s art] will tell future generations who they are and where they came from. It’s our heritage. And although people think that in poor countries such concepts are unnecessary, they are indeed the only thing we have. Our cultural heritage is our pride.”
When the vibrant Haitian spirit emerges rejuvenated from the earthquake’s rubble, a new generation of art and artists will help the world to visualize the ordeal that their country faced early in 2010. Let us hope that in the meantime their heritage does not face any further destruction–from art traffickers and treasure hunters–so that this future generation of Haitians may have a past on which to look back.