Which Patrimonies for the Future Generations?

“To be ignorant of the Past is to remain a child!”

Cicero’s

How’s Culture seen indeed by most of the anonymous people around the World?

Do Culture Workers Life Matter for Governments, Institutions, the General Audiences?

by Marco Valente

In Portugal’s contemporary times we observe that certain Institutions that apparently should thrive on the dissemination of Culture and its exhibits generating sentiments of amazement on their visitors, vote their staff to scenarios, which the Covid19 pandemic turned even more into real life Armageddon’s. On October 3rd 2020 a number of workers from the Serralves Foundation demanded that their situation of “false green receipts” without contracts should be solved, following a Courts Sentence and the resilience showed on behalf of the Management of the Foundation to follow the Courts decision and, in less than 24 hours more than 1.200 people signed a Petition for the workers rightfully rights being recognized[1].

Why did these workers have to go to Court in the first place?  What causes situations as such to be so frequently faced by Men and Women of the Arts, not also in Portugal, but all around the Globe?

Obliviating narratives from the Past (cases from Portugal, Libya, Nigeria, India and Mozambique)

This earlier October, the preservation of Lisbon’s remains of its Almoravid Mosque, “unique in all of the Iberian Peninsula” was being debated by the Portuguese Archaeological Community. This because the remains were found on the nowadays first Christian Basilica of the capital city of Portugal, built subsequently on top of those remains. What was observed was that the situation was at first apparently under a sort of a “cover up” operation held by some of the DGPC technicians, claiming that the remains uncovered by the archaeologists were not so significant, but within a week this narrative changed completely[2]. A Petition was launched on Avaaz[3], reaching 2.451 signatures within a couple of days. The situation, due to all the public and media pressure involved had a turn over and the remains of the Mosque were decided being preserved by the Portuguese Ministry of Culture on October 14th 2020[4]. This situation reminded what had happened just some days before, when in a political statement, the Turkish Government declared that the Hagia Sofia would be reopened as a Mosque and not a Museum anymore and all the commotion this declaration generated on the religious, political and cultural meanders all over the world, as the flapping wings of a butterfly. World’s Heritage being used merely for Political reasons.

Lower Alentejo, and the constant lawless destruction’s occurring on a daily bases

Lower Alentejo’s archaeological past has been rewritten every day, mostly because of the works going on the field and carried out by EDIA[5], as so, thousands of new sites have been discovered, and Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula History have to be rewritten thanks to all of these. But, unfortunately, the news aren’t as good for all these sites, since it’s destruction has been occurring massively in the latest years, most of it due to European Funding Private Projects that in fact meet no requirements on the fields of Archaeology, History and Patrimony in General. The violations of the Law occur constantly and daily, as we have been observing in the field and from far. On October 9th 2017 a Roman Bridge and several archaeological sites were destroyed, on works occurring for the plantation of almonds, by a Private Company, and even after the prohibition of the works established by the Ministry of Culture, the works proceeded on the field. This generated several actions of protest, one of which headed by the writer of this article, as well as some interested and concerned fellow archaeologists. A Petition online was launched[6] and diffused in several platforms and the Portuguese Heritage publication Almadan. It was intended to generate debate at country and international level, which it did, also because Dr. Luís Raposo (President from ICOM Europa and former Director of the National Museum of Archaeology) also signed it and made echo of such Petition. So far it has 1.577 worldwide signatures, from colleagues in the UK, Brazil, Australia, South Africa, Mozambique, Spain, etc… to anonymous citizens that signed it (generating their own complains on Patrimonial Destruction occurring in Portugal) from Patrimony Groups present at social networks such as Face book. All the measures taken seem to have little to no effects on these economic groups [that claim on bringing development to Lower Alentejo, but bringing Human trafficking and Slavery instead[7], destroying ecosystems as well[8]], because news of the destructions carries on like flies on butter. Just recently a dolmen[9] and the biggest prehistoric settlement[10] in all of the Iberian Peninsula have been destroyed or irremediably affected. The Central Authority in terms of Cultural Heritage has scarce elements on the terrain, only one archaeologist for the all Alentejo, sometimes at most two! Alentejo is around 31.711 Km2 areas to be monitored… an impossible mission for the Human Resources that Alentejo’s Directory of Culture has on the field.

Some few words must be spoken also, regarding what’s happening around the Globe, mentioning some cases that came to my knowledge.  Libya’s immense Cultural Heritage is under fire, since Khadafy’s downfall, and archaeological sites are being destroyed by the hundreds on a daily basis. People struggling for their survival are also doing some clandestine excavations, but interested in getting the sites on their land also protected in at least one of these cases (MASTINO:in press). Never the less, the situation of constant war and lesser to none opportunities of getting a job, takes people to the illegal excavations and search for any future at all, thru the finding of an eventual treasure of a lifetime.

In Nigeria, some destructions occurring from the colonial XIXth century era were denounced to me, testimonies of a colonial past that no one wishes to remember, but that none the less is also part of the history of that and other countries around the Globe. Apparently a tunnel for transporting slaves from the mainland to the ships was destroyed…. It had lots of inscriptions on them… some in English… others we will never know. So, the people that draw and wrote those testimonies, suffered a second death, the passing of their memories written or drawn were irremediably lost, for good this time.

In India, some XVIIth century tombstones from deceased officials of the VOC (East India’s Company) where found out of context, luckily some fellow archaeologists came to know about them, and something is being done to study, publish (TIWARY:preparing) and preserve such Heritage – also from a colonial and still painful memory of recent past, but all the memories should be kept and taught, since they are also markings of a part of India’s History and Past.

The Island of Mozambique has been UNESCO’s World Heritage Site since 1991, due to his architectural richness and diversity of constructive stiles and traditions (European, Swahili) but, in the last few years the restore of the buildings has not followed International Law on this matter, and this once wonderful site risks on having his World Heritage Site Status removed. The “big issue is noted on the restore construction works of the ruins that don’t follow with strictness the mandatory law of using the original constructive materials which are stone and lime.” (MACHAVA:2019). According to local architects and archaeologists, besides the architectural misguidances observed, during the construction works not even an Archaeologist is performing the follow up of the entire process, neither colleague from the Cultural Heritage Assessments… simply none! (IDEM).

The need for an International Independent Cultural and Creative Industries Regulatory Authority

Observing the Portuguese Heritage case for the past decades, we get to an immediate conclusion… the Human Resources are scarce in order to monitor the field. ICCIRA could fill in the gap, providing specialized senior technicians, in order to help monitoring the sites, for instance, among helping in so many other competences.

In countries that suffered the oppression of a colonial past, with slave trade, massacres from side to side, the Heritage that remembers such events is still a painful and harsh one. An Independent monitoring and / or salvage action in such cases, conducted by ICCIRA Technicians, could help in the healing of such wounds bringing together past opponent sides in the respect for all the memories of the ones that previously departed. Seeking always the most plausible truth, with the most sincere Independence and Professionalism. ICCIRA aims not to replace the local authorities with such actions, but being a collaborator, getting supports, diffusing projects, protecting worldwide all the actors of the Cultural and Creative Industries. Rebuilding bridges for common understanding, partnership and fraternity, with an extreme professionalism and an outstanding attitude.

“A Dream dreamed alone is but a dream… a Dream dreamed together is Reality beginning.”

Old African Proverb

Bibliography:

  • VALENTE, Marco (2014): Ethics and Deontology in Archaeology, as a return for the Community (reports on a personal experience), In Aldraba, n.º 16, Lisbon, pp. 2-6;
  • VALENTE, Marco; BEIGI, Yasaman Hassan (2016a): Animal depictions on inedited archaeological artifacts from Pias (Serpa, Beja, Portugal), In Arnava – refereed Journal, Vol. V, n.º 1, Half Yearly, pp. 64-78;
  • VALENTE, Marco (2016b): Ways of the Rock Art – between Beja and Olivenza, In Aldraba, n.º 19, Lisbon, pp. 7-9;
  • VALENTE, Marco (2018a): Rock of the Moon (Sierra of Caldeirão, Almodôvar) – a rediscovery thru the light of new technologies – Morphologic Residual Model, In Almadan Online, n.º 22, July, pp. 26-33;
  • VALENTE, Marco (2018b): Petition for the Defense of the National Archaeological Patrimony, In Almadan Online, n.º 22, July, p. 141;
  • VALENTE, Marco; ORTEGA, Agustin (2018c): Rock Art at Lagos Historical Center by MRM – a Genius Loci discovered?, In Antrope, CTA-IPT, n.º 9, December, pp. 35-57;
  • VALENTE, Marco (2019a): Legends, Rural and Urban Myths in Mozambique (a world in extinction?), In O Ideário Patrimonial, CTA-IPT, n.º 13, December, pp. 49-72;
  • VALENTE, Marco; BORRALHO, Madalena (2019b): From Pias (in Portuguese Lower Alentejo) to India – (re)building bridges, In Arnava – refereed Journal, vol. VIII, n.º 2, Half Yearly, pp. 101-129;
  • VALENTE, Marco; SILVA, Fernando Ricardo (2020): From Portugal to Mozambique: memory of the artisan’s production kilns from Estaquinha (Búzi/Sofala), In Almadan Online, n.º 23, January, pp. 70-75;
  • VALENTE, Marco; MAÇARICO, Luís; VEIGA, Ana; MARQUES, Maria (in press): People of Pias – Identity and Popular Folktales;
  • MASTINO, Atillio; VALENTE, Marco; GANGA, Salvatore (in press): Il monumento funerário inédito di Caius Valerius Romanus alla periferia occidentale di Tarhunah (Libia);
  • VALENTE, Marco (in press): Landmarks and Markings: Signs from the Earth and the Skye’s;
  • BEAUMONT, Pasipanodya Takudzwa; VALENTE, Marco (preparing): Landscape of Movement, Exploring Portuguese heritage in Zimbabwe;
  • TIWARI, Sachin; VALENTE, Marco (preparing): Two tombstones of Dutch Merchants from the East India’s Company (VOC) – a discovery in Nagulavancha / Nagelwanzee (India)

Consulted sites and links:


[1]Despite all efforts for the struggle to see their Rights being recognized, 21 workers are still trying that their elementary rights for a contract to be accepted by the administration of this Foundation (maintained and paid as well by Public Funds). The Petition was signed already by 2.140 subscribers until October 07th 2020. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfNnUUejfRPhWsobKofbLd12BI3WWrlkPUYduMrUmb1912urQ/viewform?fbclid=IwAR0Z7twO_9yCQeMv9iVUTWk0JvmjagY4qc-T9Hn_twGAey8RPbWglxjTKIQ [Consulted on October 18th, 2020].

[2] On an article present on the Daily Portuguese Journal “O Público”, authored by Luís Raposo (President of ICOMOS Europe) he exposes the “decrepitude of the DGPC [General Direction for the Cultural Patrimony]” which he considers being “bankrupt, with no conditions whatsoever of being autonomous”. https://www.publico.pt/2020/10/13/culturaipsilon/opiniao/ruinas-mesquita-decrepitude-dgpc-1935096 [Consulted on October 13th, 2020]. The remains were on the 13th October to finally reach a happy end, only after being consider the following by the DGPC, according to Luís Raposo: “On the first day, they [DGPC] stated that the remains were not so significant and they were fed up of doing consecutive changes to the Project [the Project being of an Archaeological Museum, even if with investment also from the Portuguese Christian Roman Catholic Church]; on the second day, they claimed that the ruins of the Mosque didn’t even integrated the Classification as National Monument of which the Remains of the Classified Christian Basilica benefited and could be destroyed for good; on the third day, there were no technical conditions for having it preserved, because it went against the structural security of the Christian Basilica; on the fourth day, maybe It was a little bit of importance and, would be recorded, removed and placed out of context; on the fifth day they could be preserved if the consulting organism should advise as so; on the sixth day it could be preserved  at that alternatives would be searched, because in journal articles and visits to the site specialists and associations were claiming for its preservation [in loco]”. The ridiculous situation of a general representative of the DGPC coming to the Mass Media saying that what should be preserved where merely the remains of the Roman Catholic Basilica and not the Archaeological Remains of the Aljama Mosque where completely out of reason, according to Jacinta Bugalhão opinion, Senior Archaeologist, shared on Archport Portal of Portuguese Archaeologists on October 2nd 2020. Opinion shared by colleagues and researchers such as Hermenegildo Fernandes, that claimed that we should reclaim a memory lost for the all knowledge of our common past and not only a parcelled fragmented vision of it. The conservation by records is a merely poetic expression to designate the destruction of the uniqueness of a site. To Progress we say yes, but not at any cost.

[3] The Petition went by: UNESCO Portuguese government World heritage organizations

According to the Portuguese Archaeological Syndicate, Portuguese cultural authorities (the Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage, DGPC) have approved the destruction of most of the old medieval Almoravid mosque ofLisbon, which dates back to the early 12th century. The mosque’s structure was recently unearthed during construction works for a museum in the cathedral´s cloisters. Among the remains are 9 large compartments, covering an areaof about 200m2, with arches, single doors, double doors and windows. They include hallways, a dressing room area for the baths (or hammam) and the mosque’s minaret with its lower floor and stairs to the upper floor; along withvestiges of sewage and supply systems, and the surrounding road network.Similar buildings constructed during the Almoravid period are completely unknown in both Portugal and Spain. In spite of this, Portuguese culturalauthorities approve the destruction of these remains, completely disregarding their historical and architectural value – hitherto completely unknown in the Iberian Peninsula, it bears repeating. Please help us stop them and save themosque!

Posted: 26 September 2020 (Updated: 27 September 2020)”

[4] As presented and consulted online on October 14th 2020: https://www.tsf.pt/portugal/cultura/vestigios-da-mesquita-do-seculo-xii-descoberta-na-se-de-lisboa-vao-ser-preservados-12918917.html; https://tvi24.iol.pt/sociedade/arqueologia/ministra-determina-manutencao-no-local-dos-achados-arqueologicos-da-se-de-lisboa

[5] With the construction of a complex system of irrigation and dams, this made of this a Case Study also in archaeological terms. (VALENTE:2016a:64).

[6] Available online at: https://peticaopublica.com/pview.aspx?pi=PT88019

[7] Available online at: https://www.sabado.pt/portugal/detalhe/os-novos-escravos-do-alentejo;

[8] Available online at: https://zap.aeiou.pt/destruicao-solo-alentejo-parada-uso-adubo-organico-263328;

[9] Available online at: https://diariodoalentejo.pt/pt/noticias/10668/plantacao-de-amendoal-provoca-destruicao-de-anta.aspx

[10] Available online at: https://diariodoalentejo.pt/pt/noticias/10894/beja-cultura-avalia-danos-em-povoado-pre-historico.aspx

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2 Responses

  1. Lockhart Fulton says:

    I fully agree with the pressing need for an International Independent Cultural and Creative Industries Regulatory Authority, but how would enforcement work? Those countries who are capable of providing assistance in this capacity could be accused of taking a culturally partisan position, and of course, such accusations might be highly salient. Nonetheless, this is a matter worth persuing at the international level.

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