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What importance does heritage have in today’s world, troubled by so many (rather more urgent) issues?

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Published:
9 Mar 2012

Contributed by: Ms Irina Paraschivoiu
(President, Odaia Creativa and AU17 Participant from Romania)

The opening of the AU17 exhibition in Romania took place under that question mark, while the centre of Bucharest was filled with protesters claiming their rights to democracy, transparency and civic participation.

That question stayed with me while opening the boxes, holding the pictures in my hands, choosing the order on the walls and getting into a taxi in a very cold day, heading for Radio Romania Cultural – the cultural section of the national Romanian radio. I was supposed to give a 30 minutes interview on our AU17 exhibition opening in Bucharest and, indeed, it seemed like the most inappropriate time to do so.

Rather than a set of questions and answers, the interview turned into a discussion and, more than that, into a reflection process that I went through during the whole day. Why is it important for a peasant in Romania to know that the mangroves in Sungai Batu support the entire ecosystem of the village? Why is it important for a Malaysian to know there are painted churches in the North of Romania? And what does that mean in the context of the globalised world that we live in? By sharing what we have and who we are, we manage to set aside our views about ourselves – and the others – and to see ourselves from different perspectives.

We are faced with similarities and differences and, yet, we have the unique possibility of finding better solutions to the common challenges that we face. Our shared challenges.

The opening of the exhibition also took the shape of a wonderful, inquiring discussion relating heritage to topics such as urbanisation and development, ranging from deep discussion to the curiosity of the “other” – particularly Asia, in our case. After the opening, some of us left together, heading for the protests in the University square. Among others, we were protesting for the protection of the Rosia Montana site – a unique cultural and natural heritage area in Romania, threatened by the possibility of heavy gold exploitation. I’m not sure if you know where that is, but I just thought I should share it with you.

I would like to thank:

  • The Asia – Europe Foundation, the People to People Exchange Department, for their continuous support and enthusiasm
  • Carturesti Cafe Verona for being excellent hosts
  • Radio România Cultural and TVR Cultural for their media support
  • The participants of the opening in Bucharest for their inquisitve mind
  • The participants and organisers of AU17 in Penang, for (still) raising question marks in my mind.

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).

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