Themes

Contributed by: Ms Barbara Lukacs

This blog entry was translated from the original Hungarian version

Nowadays, in addition to globalisation, finding a common voice and coming to a common understanding has become ever so important. The Exhibition, with its theme Shared Heritage: As we see it attempts to achieve this using a totally unusual rhetoric.
Seeing myself through the eyes of the others
To my mind, how we accept a certain point of view relies greatly on our experience of the world thus far. Hence, persuasion builds onto the recognition of differences.
To ask one’s self: If I am looking for what is different, for what is non-confirming, how will I be able to reconcile this new self-image to what I used to to be?” – invites a deeper introspection into one’s identity.

For someone like me who contemplates on this kind of argument quite often, it gave me a refreshing, yet powerful impact to have experienced the works of forty-one (41) students and young professionals from 31 countries of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)  - as they aimed to have a coherent balance between the old and the new.

Roots
Participants of the 17th ASEF University (AU17) entitled ‘Cultural Heritage: Challenges and Opportunities “ were looking for what is common in our human nature, in our culture, habits, and relations to each other. Each photograph is a storyteller about life’s moments captured in a frame. A reminder that at each breath, we get older, and as we exhale the past –  we move towards a new future.

A magical Cambodian church, a sacred place on a hill or a surprised girl within the bustle of the traditional wedding ceremony – all these were showcased in the pictures.
The exhibition draws our attention to the common and for all that we should take care of. We are humans, and this is one aspect that we should keep in mind at every turn, and in everything that we think, say and do.

We ought not to look at ourselves solely as individual entities, but as part of something bigger. Needless to say, preserving and respecting our past affects our future.
Most items of the exhibition show ingenious parallels. Similarities of people of different cultures or surprising presentation of relations to different symbols such as victory, regardless of gender, culture or religion. (The ancient greek statue of the goddess Nike was the first 3-dimensional piece, and it is very interesting to see  how contemporary cultures portray victory, fortune, and happiness in a similar fashion as the ancient scupltors)

Amazing is the contrast between human and nature, where we have to realise again that civilization and knowledge does not necessarily lead to ‘good humanity’. It is incredible to see the ravage of flora and fauna especially on a picture which does not show any human at all. A mangrove, rooting in the sea can hold the soil while giving nutrients to planktons which are then prey for bigger animals. It is the ‘human factor’ that caused this race’s evolution. I wonder, when shall we wake up and open to all these?

The scene of my favorite picture is a street in summer. Like so many works, this is a snapshot, too, the photographer paid attention solely to the eyes of passers-by in the blazing sunshine. The thought behind this picture’s description hit my heart. The photographer – after studying the faces –  divided the people of the street into two types. There were those who kindly took part in this shared moment with a smile, but there were people who just walked by along the dusty alley, not caring about what’s happening around them. We can see how a moment will come alive in two different ways.

Living through the present corresponds to our relation to the past and future. It means that what we have done it in the past will be used as a basis for what we will do in the future. The photos call for introspection. They present a meaning to 'live for the moment' (or seize your day – ‘Carpe diem’). As I was leaving the exhibition another thought came to my mind. Most of the pictures (if not all) concentrate on the East. As if there was the preservation of traditions and thus the conservation of shared heritage is stronger. This might be in contrast with the globalised North, where we try to create common values, while at the same time, we do not recognise that we bury our own traditions. I wonder, which path is better?

Conversations amongst the visitors of the opening ceremony elicited different arguments to this question – some of them rather sweeping statements: "Despite everything, I still prefer to live here in the West. In the East for example, there is polygamy and oppression, and instead of having a free choice for my life I have it predetermined."
Is it possible for a European young man to decide how to relate to the same scenario, as if he or she was – let say – Iranian? I don’t think so.

And this just because we're so far away from each other. Instead of focusing on differences we have to concentrate to our common heritage –  as the exhibition did it quite eloquently. We ought to find a common denominator somehow like we all begin to explore the forgotten past. And this can be the way into a world with less hatred.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author and can not in any circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF).