Site of 3.6-million-year-old human footprint at risk from climate change is one of 22 new projects to be supported by the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund

  • The Cultural Protection Fund is today announcing 22 new projects, across 10 countries, with a funding total of over £2 million
  • The projects will protect cultural heritage at risk from the effects of conflict and/or climate change
  • In addition to the Middle East, North and East Africa, the fund will be working in Pakistan and Nepal for the first time, as part of a South Asia pilot programme

The Laetoli footprint site in Tanzania, the oldest unequivocal evidence of human ancestors walking on two feet, is currently at risk of being lost forever due to erosion caused by increasing storms and rainfall.

A new Cultural Protection Fund project led by the University of St. Andrews will address the threats facing the footprint sites through digital documentation, training and community engagement.  It will also capture local stories, myths, dance and rituals which are linked to the footprint sites, ensuring that the heritage is permanently preserved and available to future generations.

The Laetoli project is just one of 22 pieces of cultural heritage that will be safeguarded thanks to newly supported projects announced today by the Cultural Protection Fund.

Funding of over £2 million will go towards protecting cultural heritage in Syria, Iraq, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Uganda, Tanzania and for the first time, Pakistan and Nepal.

Led by the British Council in partnership with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Cultural Protection Fund is the UK’s main response to international cultural heritage protection.  In addition to working with organisations and communities across 17 countries to protect tangible heritage – such as buildings and archaeological sites – the fund also preserves intangible heritage including music, traditional crafts and languages.

Stephanie Grant, Director of the Cultural Protection Fund at the British Council said:

 “Since 2016, the Cultural Protection Fund has given grants of over £50 million to 159 projects to protect cultural heritage in 19 countries, but the need for our work has never been greater.  Last year alone we received funding requests of almost 20 times the budget for our entire current programme.

We’re incredibly proud and excited to support new organisations and communities, adding 22 brilliant projects to our portfolio and expanding our work into South Asia. These projects will research, document and restore a wide range of valuable cultural heritage and bring together thousands of people to explore and celebrate their cultural identities.

This is a crucial time for the Cultural Protection Fund as we are in the final year of our current three-year programme. We’re looking forward to sharing the successes and stories of our projects to make a strong case for the future of the fund.”

Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay said:

 “We know that people, wherever they live, take immense pride in their cultural heritage. It is a fundamental part of who we are, which is why it must always be protected so that it can be enjoyed by future generations.

“This year’s successful projects will not only help to protect tangible heritage sites from the effects of conflict, instability and climate change, but also intangible heritage, such as the crafts and customs that are at the beating heart of communities around the world.

“It’s great to see the work of this fund expanding yet again this year, and I look forward to hearing more about the difference it makes to our shared heritage across the globe.”

Newly funded Cultural Protection Fund projects announced today include:

 

  • Mitigation of Present and Future Climate Change Impact on the 3.6 million-years Laetoli Footprint Site and Winde Slaves’ Warehouse along the Tanzanian Coast

    The Laetoli footprint site is currently at risk due to erosion caused by increasing storms and rainfall. In Winde, a 19th Century slave warehouse complex faces similar erosion caused by rising sea levels. Both sites will be documented in a project led by the University of St. Andrews.
  • The traditional tattoos of Babylon, Iraq: documenting and preserving a threatened heritage

Deg is an endangered custom of tattooing, often used as a way to remember important people and events. As the practice of traditional tattooing declines, this project led by The American Academic Institute in Iraq (TAARI), will document the knowledge of Deg held by its elderly practitioners, to enable greater understanding of the roots of this tradition and its significance and role in local society.

 The project will focus on the ancient province of Babylon, collecting and documenting

images of the tattoos and the stories of the women who wear them, which will be shared in an exhibition in the Museum of Babylon.

 

  • Storytelling as Safeguarding: Protecting South Sudanese Women’s Cultural Heritage in Refugee Settings in Uganda and Kenya

In Uganda and Kenya, South Sudanese women in refugee settings will document folk songs that have been passed down through generations, thanks to a project being led by the Likikiri Collective. These songs document the robust heritage of South Sudanese communities who have migrated to neighbouring countries due to fluctuating conflicts in their region.

 

  • Mosul Maqam

Maqam is an Arabic musical tradition with a highly structured system of melody, poetry and vocal technique that is currently at risk of total loss due to conflict and instability.  In a project led by the University of Exeter, this historic art form will be preserved and rejuvenated. It will focus on the musical and lyrical heritage of the city of Mosul, where Maqam is uniquely precious to the local population in the form of folk tales, love stories and spiritual ceremonies.  The project will collate, document and digitise records of authentic Maqam practices, inspiring the creation of new musical and visual artworks which will connect future generations in and beyond Mosul with this significant element of Iraq’s cultural heritage.

  • Syria Cassette Archives: Three New Collections

Recorded in Syria between the 1950s and 2010s, audio recordings including a wide range of Syrian music-related heritage are currently stored in privately owned archives across the country. Featuring raw folk recordings, live wedding concerts, studio albums, soloists, classical and children’s music, the audio represents decades of Syrian intangible heritage and reflects the lived experience of large numbers of Syrian people.The material is currently at risk due to the effects of conflict in Syria, worsening the physical deterioration of the cassettes as well as causing the displacement of collectors and distributors of the music. As part of this project, the music will be documented, digitalised, recorded and safeguarded for future generations.

  • Restoration and Conservation of Ge’ez Manuscripts in War Affected North Gondor and North and South Wollo Zonal Districts


Gospels, hymns, civil law, patristic literature, medicine, magic, astronomy and bibles are just some of the contents of manuscripts written in Ge’ez, a language only fluently used by a small number of priests in some war-affected parts of Ethiopia. The project team from Bahir Dar University will work on conserving manuscript preparation knowledge through providing intergenerational training and workshops in conservation and restoration for the local community.

  • #NBOLibraries: New Futures for Kenya’s Archives


The McMillan Memorial Library is the oldest library in Nairobi and the second oldest in Kenya. Its contents span Kenya’s colonial and post-colonial history and are of significant value to the country’s culture, heritage and identity. A project led by Book Bunk Trust will build on existing work to preserve and digitise additional endangered collections which include paper, glass film slides, photographs and film reels, while also increasing public engagement by making the library more accessible.

  • Protection and Participation: IAAS Archive of Sudanese Intangible Cultural Heritage

Over 6000 hours’ worth of historic material is held by the Institute of African and Asian Studies (IAAS) Archive of Sudanese Intangible Cultural Heritage. Much of the material is irreplaceable and, in some cases, it documents intangible cultural heritage that is no longer practised. The collection has been damaged in past conflicts and the current conflict continues to threaten its security. This project led by TransforMedia hopes to conduct remote digitisation to permanently preserve the collection and make it more widely accessible.

  • The Khalidi Library

Khalidi Waqf will lead a project to support the preservation of, and efforts to increase public access to East Jerusalem’s written and archaeological heritage, which is at risk due to conflict and instability and climate related changes. The creation of a comprehensive architectural and archaeological study will inform planned future physical interventions to rehabilitate an important cultural centre. A separate intensive programme in the emergency preservation of ancient manuscripts will allow trainees to develop theoretical and practical skills, before applying this learning to safeguarding endangered collections.

  • The Protection of Sakiya’s Cultural Heritage Site


Tangible and intangible cultural heritage at a site in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is at risk of loss due to ongoing conflict and instability. Led by Sakiya – Research and Experimental Development, this project will support the ongoing rehabilitation and preservation of the site, through research, documentation and restoration of its ancient Ayyubid architectural features and the mythologies, rituals and practices associated with it. An established education and cultural programme will give the local community opportunities to participate in the creation of visual and performance pieces and to learn new skills in traditional building methods, heritage management and protection.

  • Tell Baya’a Mission House Rehabilitation, as a community centre and archaeological site of Tuttul protection

In northern Syria, several structures at the remains of an ancient city in one of the oldest archaeological sites have been severely impacted by the effects of conflict. Damage assessment and consolidation will be carried out by project lead Asociacion RehabiMed on these structures and highly significant artefacts and archaeological materials at risk of being looted will be documented and stored.  Local architects and archaeologists will also be trained in assessment, monitoring and preservation techniques. A number of people living around the site will be trained in traditional building skills before assisting in the rehabilitation of an on-site complex. Upon completion this will provide an invaluable community and civil society resource.

The details of the newly announced Cultural Protection Fund projects in Pakistan are as follows:

  • Community-Based Conservation of Silk Route Heritage

Severe weather events caused by climate change are putting the unique architectural features of the 18th century Kharmang Palace and the 600-year-old Gholbasher House in the Yasin Valley at risk. We are supporting Laajverd and partners to work closely with the local communities at both sites to digitally document and repair elements of each building and hold a design residency for Shu craftspeople to help revitalise the practice.

  • Preservation of the Late Buddhist rock heritage of Swat – digitization and preventive conservation

Seasonal drought and heavy rainfall which cause increased instances of landslides, flash floods and rapid erosion, are endangering the Buddhist rock reliefs and inscriptions of the Swat Valley. The fund is supporting Essanoor Associates to lead a project to include community-based climate change adaptation training for local people to better care for the sites as well as digital documentation of the reliefs and conservation of 30 reliefs requiring urgent intervention.

 

  • The Reading Room – Karachi

The Khalikdina Hall and Library is one of only two remaining Reading Rooms in Karachi. Conflict-related instability has led to the building and its collections lacking appropriate management and care.  This new round of grants will support Numaish-Karachi to revitalise the space through improved access to the newly conserved and digitised literary assets. They will also provide a range of cultural activities for local communities.

  • Digital Heritage Trails Project (DHTP)

 

In the Indus Delta region of Sindh, five endangered maritime archaeological sites are at risk of rising sea levels and erosion as a result of climate change. The Cultural Protection Fund is supporting MartimEA Research to lead a project to document the five sites and develop a digital trail of them across the Delta. Community engagement will capture local knowledge and folklore about the sites and the project will raise awareness of the archaeology locally through outreach activities for schools and museums.

 

  • Preserving & Promoting the Hazara Heritage

In Balochistan, where the Hazara community’s intangible cultural heritage is at risk due to the effects of conflict, Faiz Foundation Trust will protect elements of this heritage by documenting it through film and photography. The Trust will also offer capacity building for local artisans in skills associated with the promotion and protection of making kilim (a flat-woven rug or mat), Sawatkari (handmade silver jewellery) and embroidery, while the importance of the heritage will be highlighted through an advocacy and awareness raising programme.

 

  • Manchar Lake Mohanas – Safeguarding the last surviving houseboat village from extinction

The living heritage of the Mohana people who live around Manchar Lake, Sindh, is currently at risk due to increasingly severe seasonal drought and flooding brought about by climate change.  In this round of grants, the NED University of Engineering and Technology will work with the community to restore all 35 of the remaining Mohana houseboats and will train young volunteers in restoration techniques to keep the way of life of the Mohana alive.

In Nepal, the Cultural Protection Fund projects which are receiving support as part of the South Asia pilot programme are as follows:

  • Preservation of Indigenous Food Heritage in Nepal

National Indigenous Women’s Federation will deliver this project, which focuses on diverse culinary practices in the highland regions of Nepal.

Food heritage, foraging and associated cultural practices are intrinsically connected to the environment; changes in weather patterns including increased drought, heavy rain, and flooding as a result of climate change is severely impacting availability of resources vital to the continuation of this practice.

To protect this heritage the project will document and record the indigenous food heritage and practices of communities across several provinces in Nepal. Women are the main carriers of this heritage and will have a leading role in identifying recipes and documenting activities.

  • Safeguarding the Kusunda (The Ban Rajas) Language and Culture for Future Generations

The Kusunda Language is a distinct and critically endangered language spoken fluently by just a small number of remaining individuals in Bagmati Province, Nepal.

The language represents a link to the past for the remaining Kusunda people and has unusual characteristics, including the absence of words for ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The language is therefore irreplaceable if it is lost.

The language is at risk of dying out as more Kusunda people move away from the area and lose connection to this important piece of their heritage due to the impact of climate change on their livelihoods and way of life.

Through courses for students at local secondary schools and the development of an online learning programme, Archive Nepal and partners hope to increase the speakership of this language and will promote the language further through the production of dual language Nepali and Kusunda books for children.

  • Towards Protecting the Cultural Heritage in the High Himalayas of the Shey Phoksundo National Park of Dolpo

In the Upper Dolpo region, one of the most remote areas of Nepal, monastic sites, historic settlements, and monuments are at risk of deterioration due to conflict related instability, which impacted traditional management systems to maintain and protect these sites.

  • Sampada Samrakshyan Samaj Nepal (ICOMOS Nepal) will work with local government and members of the community to document and improve capacity to care for built heritage that remains an important part of socio-cultural life for the Dolpo community.

A training programme in the documentation and condition mapping of built heritage, will address the existing lack of records and support the development of guidance and procedures for the continuation of this work beyond the project end, further supported through series of workshops and discussions on community-led heritage protection.

 

  • Preservation and revival of Maithil women’s wall painting and sculpting arts

The project focuses on Maithil women’s paintings and mud art heritage, which is a form of earthen architecture used to decorate mud houses with symbolic imagery that represents religious tradition of the Maithil community.

Maithil women have great pride in their traditions, as this skill was traditionally passed down from mothers to daughters, upheld by women for centuries through art on walls of their mud houses.

The drought has led to limited sources of income, and women’s role in society has been limited to taking care of their households while men seek employment abroad, which has led to their artistic skills and heritage to be unpractised and forgotten.

Training local women in Maithil painting and mud work will ensure local people have developed skills to protect the heritage and practice the unique craft of Maithil tradition. The interviews with elderly Maithil artisans will allow local communities to better understand and value their cultural heritage.

By decorating the houses in Kuwa village, using the acquired Maithil artwork tradition, local communities will play an active role in protecting their cultural heritage through training and practice – and the local area is enhanced for the benefit of communities and visitors.

Discover more about these projects at the new Cultural Protection Fund website: cultural-protection-fund.britishcouncil.org