by Harini Dias Bandaranayake (with Pirintha Kulasingam & Aousten Aloysious)
“Knowing new landscapes and people brings more light into my understanding about culture and heritage; this is where I begin to explore and reflect on my visit to Kolkata”, 26 year-old Pirintha Kulasingham, an academic who teaches Art History at the University of Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka, told me. An enthusiastic and optimistic Aousten Aloysious, also a resident of Jaffna, studying architecture at the University of Moratuwa chimes in, “It’s the unbiased take and the nuanced way in which the walks were presented that made a difference to me.”
After the main Heritage Walking events of the workshop at Jaffna, Sri Lanka, there was time before the group dispersed to unwind a little and talk in more general terms about Historical Archaeology. The concept of studying the recent past through archaeology is one that is new and untried in Sri Lanka; after all, there are abundant histories that cover the last 5-600 years, including the advent and impact of European colonialism, Independence and 20th century developments.
It’s been a few weeks since returning from our busy and exciting project trip to Sri Lanka. To roll back a little, we originally planned the visit for early May but reluctantly had to abandon the plan following the devastating Easter bombings. Not wanting to relinquish this component of the project, we immediately rebooked our flights for June in the hope that the FCO advice against non-essential travel would be lifted by then. The weeks went by with no change and making plans for the visit seemed like tempting fate to conspire against us. On the very day I set to make a final decision on cancelling the trip the FCO lifted the advice and we were free to travel! This context is relevant because it explains why the entire trip, from booking transport and accommodation to arranging meetings and workshop, had to be put together in little more than a week.
Pakistan Chowk is a landmark heritage site in District South, Karachi and is central to the Old Town. The Chowk was previously utilized as a literary space, where people assembled to exchange conversations about literature, mainly in the forms of mushairas, baithaks and such.
Over time, there began a social exclusion, the horizontal expansion of the city as well as the horizontal concentration of wealth which contributed in an exclusion that damaged the framework of society. Therefore, the intent of the The Pakistan Chowk Initiative was to bring back art and culture to the people and not let it remain as something of the past.
South Asia is home to some of the world’s most vibrant, historically-rich and culturally-diverse cities. However, twenty-first century economic development, rapid urbanization, and communal tensions now threaten the unique and complex built and social heritages of many of these cities. Walking Heritage into FutureCities addresses these challenges through a new model for sustainable urban tourism that combines the passion and dynamism of young scholars with the global reach of social media and the immediacy of walking in the city. The project is a collaboration between Heritage Walk Calcutta (HWC), who have pioneered this model, and the University of Exeter (Humanities and Business School).