With an emphasis on sustainable development and the interaction between communities and their shared heritage, this project aims to help local communities in South Asia develop traditional crafts suitable for conservation works into income-generating activities.
Beyond the inscription of exceptional buildings and places, the aim of the World Heritage List is to recognise, inscribe and protect outstanding testimonies of the interaction between humans and the land, of cultural coexistence, spirituality and creative expression. In May 2014, a new project entitled ‘World Heritage, Sustainable Development and Community Involvement’ was established under the UNESCO/Republic of Korea Funds-in-Trust.
This pilot initiative is an activity- and field-based response to the core themes of the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention (sustainable development and communities) and addresses the growing concern with the integration of sustainable development aspects in the management of World Heritage.
New initiatives were approved in Bangladesh and Pakistan to revitalize income-generating crafts in local communities through activities related to World Heritage conservation. Two World Heritage properties were selected for these pilot projects:
The ‘Ruins of the Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur’ (Bangladesh), where the project is implemented by the UNESCO Office in Dhaka. See the work carried out by the UNESCO Office in Dhaka
The ‘Historical Monuments at Makli, Thatta’ (Pakistan), implemented jointly by the World Heritage Centre and the UNESCO Office in Islamabad, in co-operation with the Sindh government and the Heritage Foundation in Pakistan.
Brochure on the implementation of Phase I (2018)
Makli was once a famous centre for tile production, but unfortunately, the glazed tiles and ceramics produced on site today are of poor quality and cannot be used for conservation purposes. In order to revitalise and improve local ceramics production, a community involvement project is being implemented as part of this project since 2015.
Technical Preparatory Missions (February-May)
3-month Training Mission
As is often the case in this region of the world, craft businesses are passed down from father to son, yet this tradition is currently at risk of extinction, as the demand for ceramics, and especially tiles for building purposes (including conservation works) has considerably decreased over the past decades.
This is due in part to the lower quality of the produced ceramics, but in turn, the lack of demand also causes further quality loss as good quality materials become unaffordable for the artisans, generating a vicious circle that must be broken urgently, before the disappearance of the last ceramicists.
The direct impact that the quality of the ceramics produced can have on the livelihood of local artisans clearly shows how the World Heritage property and the welfare of local communities are interlinked, and how vital the revitalization of this artisanal production could become.
Therefore, with the support of international ceramics experts, the project aims to develop local capacities and improve the quality of glazed tiles and ceramics for use in conservation projects, which should in turn generate substantial income for the communities of ceramic artisans living in and around the property.
Upgrading the quality of the tiles produced in Makli will be a long-lasting and challenging task, but this project has remarkable potential to become a good practice model for initiatives involving local communities with World Heritage.
The World Heritage Centre, as part of reactive monitoring missions to the property, conducted early feasibility studies for this component as soon as 2014, in collaboration with the UNESCO Office in Islamabad and the Karachi-based NGO Heritage Foundation in Pakistan.
For the practical scoping mission, the World Heritage Centre entrusted Ms Elena Agnini, a professional restorer and ceramics expert, with the elaboration of a modern process for the production of high-quality of glazed tiles in Makli. Ms Agnini and her associates carried out a scoping mission in May 2016 and undertook a survey of the local production environment, the skills of the ceramics artisans, the suitability of the kilns present on site and in the vicinity, and performed a first series of tests on materials.
A three-month on-site workshop is planned by the end of 2016, on the basis of the findings of the preparatory missions and the analyses provided by UCL Qatar (see below). Further details will be added to this page as the workshop progresses. Subsequently, on the basis of the preliminary mission, the ceramics experts will spend several months training the local communities to produce high-quality alternatives to the ancient tiles which will be suitable for conservation work.
At present, there is no charter for the conservation of glazed tiles or coloured surface treatments. This means that so far, various approaches have existed for the conservation of glazed tiles, often involving the replacement of old tiles with new ones. As part of the Republic of Korea Funds-in-Trust project, technical guidance is to be provided on this matter and a brainstorming sessions have already been organised between national and international experts at several occasions, including the February 2016 meetings in Karachi and Makli.
Although the project is only in its early stages, it has already had a positive impact on local communities, as social outreach activities have led to the involvement of some the most underprivileged members of society. Underprivileged people have been trained to perform simple preparatory tasks such as the construction of bamboo bungalows that will be used for accommodation during the three months of the training workshop.
Similarly, poorer members of the local communities, including children, were invited to learn ceramic production during the ceramic experts’ May 2016 mission, and some participants showed strong potential for further training in ceramics. Such social re-insertion activities ensure a sense of ownership of the project among the local communities, reinforcing the bond between local people and the World Heritage property.
The field activities during the preliminary stages of the project include the cultural mapping of the villages of Thatta, Makli and Hala to understand the current condition of the glazed tile production.
In addition, Ms Agnini’s preliminary mission provided some important insights into the production methods, tools and techniques currently used in Makli, as well as the general skill level of ceramicist. This information allowed for a more informed comparison of the ceramic objects currently produced in the region, not only compared to international standards, but also to the production of ceramics in earlier centuries in Makli.
In collaboration with the Heritage Foundation in Pakistan, it was also proposed to realise an inventory of the decorative motifs found on glazed tiles in and around Makli, in an effort to prevent the total loss of this already severely threatened heritage. Especially once the quality of tiles in Makli has improved, it would be very important to have an inventory and/or record of the decorative elements on the monuments for possible reproduction, and as a way of ensuring that this core repertoire of motives is passed on for posterity.
In collaboration with UCL Qatar, and under the responsibility of Professor Thilo Rehren, an in-depth analysis of the ancient tiles found at the World Heritage property will allow the ceramicists to better understand the ancient production techniques and propose suitable modern alternatives.
This study further informs the on-site cultural mapping and allows to better understand the ancient glazed tiles used (and possibly produced) in Makli. Indeed, the results from these tests and analyses will allow the ceramics expert to plan and implement the three-month training programme for local ceramicists, ensuring that they can produce high-quality tiles that could also be used for restoration purposes at the World Heritage property.