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A Window into Heritage 39

Dr. Waleed Ahmed Al Sayed / London

Sixth: There is a pivotal and crucial concept associated with heritage that has be greatly neglected in road maps developed for the revival of heritage and transforming it into a reality for communities. This concept is the heritage “industry”. This term holds two meanings; the first is idiomatic like ‘film industry’ for example, and the other is literal. In truth, the absence of a metaphorical meaning stems from the absence of an actual meaning of ‘industry’ in third world countries and Arab countries. Any serious attempt to revive heritage in local communities in the absence of the full concept of ‘industry’ in the Arab World cannot be comprehended. What is this heritage we speak of when production industries have stopped working? Are we not aware of the saying ‘Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest’? How will there ever be a production of any type of heritage if there is no industry to begin with?
Industry here, with its broad sense, includes all aspects of local production using local labor. We can only imagine the surreal image when talking about heritage aspects, any heritage whether built, cultural, tangible, where all its aspects and elements are made using imported labor and foreign factories? What has remained of heritage other than its name and superficial layers acting as fruitless visual effects unrelated to the nation’s livelihood and identity?
Without taking a serious look at the highest levels of decision making industry regarding heritage and the issue of utilizing the ‘industry’, and industry no matter how small, talking about heritage is dust in the with no ties to reality. How can we talk about the oldest two crafts in human history; bread making and brick making, in a nation where they are not made? How can there be heritage related to cheese, buttermilk, traditional fabrics, architecture, building materials, and the development of production mechanisms over time with in the local identity, how can we begin to discuss this among other issues when the nation’s ports are crowded with ships carrying imported goods of every stripe and color the country needs. More importantly, what will become of the country’s youth and the unemployed given its shops have been transferred into open consumer space for all world industries east and west and all products of globalization. What heritage do we discuss in this case? Our heritage or theirs?
Do we discuss built heritage when the labor is imported and materials are not local? This is one contradiction that must be recognized and studies seriously. Production machinery must be dusted off in the nation’s industry and projects must be developed with a futuristic vision of advancement and progression in all aspects of industrial production including aspects of agriculture, sea, architecture and humans. In this case, after decades, we can say that we have local built ‘heritage’ managed and operated by locals and local minds associated with culture, the production of heritage in the future will be associated with the nation’s identity and its past. We can then say that there is an accumulative heritage and acquired expertise passed down from one generation to the other regarding nutritional handicrafts: buttermilk, cheese, and others. We can also say that there is a kernel of local creativity in the industries of fashion, folklore, traditional dress. We can also encourage carpentry and open up carpentry shops and blacksmith shops as well as specialized training institutions. We can also allocate budgets for these centers and the exchange of regional expertise with government support and encouragement as well as the training and rehabilitation of local cadre that are both neglected and unemployed. In the absence of all the above, the discussion of heritage revival will remain theoretical lacking any substance. To be continued…