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Sharjah hosts a workshop on the Western Sudan Community Museums Project

Written by:
Mohamad Adham Al-Sayed
ICCROM - Sharjah

Scholars and dignitaries discuss and celebrate the role of museums as hubs in contributing to peacebuilding and social cohesion through presentations, an interactive exhibition, and a concert by Bait Al Oud Orchestra of Sudan.

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council, Ruler of Sharjah, the Regional Office for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in the Arab Region (ICCROM - Sharjah) in cooperation with the National Cooperation of Antiquities and Museums in Sudan (NCAM) and The Africa Institute, organizes a workshop on the Western Sudan Community Museums (WSCM) project on 8 December 2022 at The Africa Institute in Sharjah. 

This workshop sheds light on the Western Sudan Community Museums project launched in 2018 by ICCROM-Sharjah, an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the preservation of cultural heritage, in collaboration with various local and international partners and funded by the British Council Cultural Protection Fund and ALIPH Foundation, with the aim of addressing the role of museums as hubs with heritage collections in contributing to peacebuilding and social cohesion. The three participating museums in the project are the Darfur Community Museum, Sheikan Community Museum, and Khalifa House Community Museum collectively represent the geography, history, and culture of WesternSudan.

"The WSCM project has aimed to breathe new life into local museums in Western Sudan by transforming them into community hubs – for gathering, learning, sharing, and growing together. There is no greater joy than seeing our efforts make a genuine impact on these communities, which will continue to benefit society for years to come. ICCROM is honoured to have collaborated with our local partner, the National Cooperation of Antiquities and Museums in Sudan, and the British Council in turning this vision into reality," said Dr. Webber Ndoro, Director of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM).

Over 30 professionals and personalities concerned with cultural affairs in the Arab region in general and Sudan, in particular, attended this workshop, which lasted for one day. Sheikha Hoor bint Sultan Al Qasimi, President of the Africa Institute in Sharjah; Dr. Salah M. Hassan, Director of the Africa Institute; Dr. Zaki Aslan, Director of the ICCROM-Sharjah; and Dr Ghalia Garelnabi, Deputy Director of the National Cooperation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) in Sudan, were among the list of attendees and speakers.

The opening ceremony

Sheikha Hoor bint Sultan Al Qasimi opened the event by welcoming attendees and participants in the workshop and praised the importance of the Western Sudan Community Museums project. She also thanked the sponsor of this event, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council, and Ruler of Sharjah, and said that "His Highness has always paid great attention to projects and initiatives that are part of his comprehensive vision to consolidate our identity, cultural and human heritage."

Director of The Africa Institute, Dr. Salah M. Hassan said: “The Africa Institute is pleased to host a scholarly conference on Western Sudanese Heritage in collaboration with ICCROM, which will facilitate cultural exchange through art and performance to enrich the understanding and preservation of the rich heritage of Sudan. This event is integral to our mission as a globally-oriented institution dedicated to the study, teaching, and documentation of Africa and its diaspora located in the heart of Sharjah, the capital of culture.”

Dr Zaki Aslan, Director of the ICCROM-Sharjah said: “This project is not only targeting valuable heritage properties through carrying out conservation and maintenance work and training national teams, but it is also representing a methodology, project process, and long-term investment in Sudan to create an integrated work environment. In addition to the importance of preserving and restoring these museums and collections, the real value of this project and its results is represented in reviving the museums and promoting them as canters for social and cultural encounters.”

“The ICCROM-Sharjah Office’s commitment to Sudan and the community museums is not limited to the completion of this phase. Sudan is present in all our training activities. We are deeply grateful to the generous donors who have made it possible to protect part of Sudan's human heritage." added Dr Aslan.

Deputy Director of NCAM, Dr. Ghalia Garelnabi concluded the opening ceremony by stressing the importance of the project for the history and future of Sudan. “On behalf of the National Cooperation of Antiquities and Museums in Sudan, I would like to extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude to our partners, ICCROM-Sharjah and the British Council Cultural Protection Fund for the planning and implementation of this important project, which will have a significant impact on the future of community museums in Sudan, and will serve as a model for other museums in the country to follow.”

Western Sudan Community Museums

The workshop included three main sessions, each focused on one of the three museums participating in the project. The list of speakers included a number of national and international experts and officers involved in the implementation of the project. In the first session, the lecturers focused on the project of restoring the Community Museum of Khalifa House in Omdurman, Khartoum, which is a historical collection of buildings and courtyards from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The presentations focused on several important topics, including history of the museum in promoting peace; the role of conservation in the community museums; the conservation works of the collections; ideas and concepts of the development of the Khalifa House exhibitions; the history and restoration works of Bramble and Baggara House; cleaning large wood historic objects and Horse Armour of the Baggara Knights; the role of institutional partnership in community museums - Ahfad University for women; and others.

The presentations of the second session reviewed the community museum in Shaikan, which includes two exhibitions, the Sudanese archaeological exhibition and the historical exhibition, which includes artifacts related to the Battle of Shaikan in 1883, while the museum's courtyard includes a small garden and a performance space. The presentations in this session focused on the development of a role within communities for education, awareness, environment and heritage research; the development of the green heritage program; the importance of exhibitions and collections and the preservation room; society and the role of the state in North Kordofan; and other topics.

In the third and final session, the workshop focused on the Darfur Museum, which dates back to 2006. Within the project activities, the Inspector General’s historic residence was restored, the courtyard relandscaped to prevent flooding, and the display galleries and all services were restored. The museum is now functional again, the gardens planted with new trees and shelters. The presentations also focused on the importance of heritage to the Darfur communities; Darfur Intangible and Tangible Heritage Surveys 2020-22; the Women's Museum; conservation of Darfur Museum tangible and intangible collections; Green Heritage Survey 2022; and mapping the heritage of Darfur.

In addition to the workshop, the event also included an interactive exhibition that was inaugurated on 8 December 2022 at the Africa Institute in Sharjah, and will continue until 12 December 2022. The workshop was concluded by launching a book and video of “Make a Museum”, and a mesmerizing live orchestral concert performed by the Sudanese Bait Al Oud – Khartoum led by Ahmed Shamma and supervised by Dr. Naseer Shamma.

The performances enable artistic thought and promote African music and heritage as well as celebrated the culture and music of ‘Oud’, which is considered one of the oldest Arabic musical instruments.

About the Regional Office for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in the Arab Region (ICCROM - Sharjah) 

ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) is an intergovernmental organization working in service to its Member States to promote the conservation of all forms of cultural heritage in every region of the world.  ICCROM-Sharjah is a regional conservation centre founded by ICCROM and the Government of the Emirate of Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates, where it has been based since its inception in 2012. ICCROM-Sharjah is a continuation of ICCROM’s ATHAR programme, launched in 2004, which dedicates its activities to the protection of cultural heritage in the Arab region and to broadening access, appreciation and understanding of its rich history. 

About the Africa Institute 

The Africa Institute is an interdisciplinary academic research institute dedicated to the study, research and documentation of Africa, its people and its cultures; its complex past, present and future; and its manifold connections with the wider world. 

About the National Cooperation for Antiquities and Museums 

The National Cooperation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) is part of the Ministry of Tourism, Antiquities and Wildlife of the Republic of Sudan. It is the main public body responsible for tangible and intangible cultural heritage in Sudan. It has a total of 100 employees responsible for providing museum curating, archaeological inspection, and the preservation and protection of cultural heritage. It is responsible for all regional and national museums as well as the training of their staff. 

About Bait Al Oud Orchestra

Bait Al Oud was established in 2008 to spread awareness of the culture and music of ‘Oud’, which is considered one of the oldest Arabic musical instruments. Bait Al Oud also teaches strumming techniques on various ‘Oud’ methods and facilitates dealings with various well-known schools to unearth a new generation of professional musicians and qualify them to a high level of specialization.

Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, joined the list of Arab cities hosting Bait Al Oud in January 2020, sponsored by Dal Group and supervised by international musician Naseer Shamma, Bait Al Oud’s founder.

With the Arabic Bait of Oud curriculum, a special curriculum for the pentatonic scale that characterizes Sudanese music is being developed to be taught in Bait Al Oud – Khartoum, which aims to be the African center for teaching Arabic musical instruments. The curriculum will be shared and studied with other oud houses in Cairo, Abu Dhabi, Baghdad, and Alexandria.

Besides training Sudanese musicians, Bait al Oud also produces original musical compositions and performs them on international stages. Bait Al Oud Orchestra was founded in August 2021 by Bait Al Oud students and musicians from all over Sudan under the supervision of Dr. Naseer Shamma and led by Mr. Ahmed Shamma. Bait Al Oud Orchestra, Khartoum prides itself as it brings Sudanese musical pieces to life reflecting unique and different rhythmic tones among other Arabian and international pieces.

By Naser Nader Ibrahim

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