In Rome, African experts deliberate on protecting the continent’s cultural heritage.
Françoise Niamien - Vatican City
In a recent interview with Vatican News, Dr Silvie Memel Kassy of Côte d’Ivoire and Seydou Nourou Kane of Senegal said they found the African Union initiative very helpful and useful.
AU working with the Italian govt
Legislation on the protection of cultural heritage workshop was organised by the African Union (AU) in partnership with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Italian Gendarmerie (militarised police responsible for internal security) provided teaching focused on topics as varied as international law and the protection of cultural heritage, investigation techniques, the functioning of the Interpol’ specialised unit. They also arranged for visits to key historical sites and museums. French-speaking African cultural heritage professionals from Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Seychelles and Senegal attended the workshop.
“Not only did this training allow us to know how to preserve the elements of our cultural heritage, but it taught us how to equip ourselves with all the necessary tools so that future African generations will be able to recognise themselves through their cultural heritage,” explained Dr Silvie Memel Kassy, Director General of Culture in Côte d’Ivoire.
An identity card for precious artefacts
Interpol’s specialised cultural heritage unit particularly caught the attention of the Ivorian participant, who was director of the Musée des Civilisations de Côte d'Ivoire (Museum of Civilization) in Abidjan when it was looted in 2011 during the post-election crisis in Côte d’Ivoire.
“Of the 121 pieces stolen, we were only able to provide detailed information to the database of Interpol for only 35 pieces,” revealed Dr Memel Kassy. She said she now understood the importance of having a unique identity card for each art object considered classified. She added, “Today, the protection of this heritage cannot be done without technology.
Senegal is revising its legislation.
Seydou Nourou Kane is head of the division of historical sites and monuments in Senegal. He believes the workshop could not have come at the right time for African heritage professionals. Kane told Vatican News that Senegal is “working on revising its legislation to protect its cultural heritage.
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