The UN’s culture organisation UNESCO will support a three-year project in African country Mali’s Bandiagara that aims to rehabilitate damaged architectural heritage, notably housing, granaries and sites dedicated to traditional culture, as well as restore the production of cultural objects, and safeguard ceremonial objects in a memorial collection.
It said that it will support the social cohesion and resilience of communities suffering from years of armed conflict in central Mali as part of this major new project, that received $1 million in funding from the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas.
The project will provide critical support to the rehabilitation of the World Heritage site of “Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons)”, home to 289 villages spread over 400,000 hectares in the country’s Mopti Region.
“Culture is not only all too often a victim of protracted armed conflicts – it is also a critical source of resilience and an important foundation for peacebuilding,” said UNESCO’s Director-General, Audrey Azoulay.
In 2012, Mali became the epicentre of a large-scale political and security crisis driven by the arrival of armed groups in the northern and central parts of the country. In addition to claiming civilian lives and creating insecurity, the crisis caused the total or partial destruction of close to 30 villages, of which half are located within the boundaries of the World Heritage property of the Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogon).
The destruction of the villages resulted in significant damage to or loss of numerous traditional buildings and cultural objects, and the deterioration of cultural practices and traditions of the Dogon, Peuls, Bozo, Bambara and Sonrhai groups. The gradual disappearance of such cultural practices as traditional funerary rituals, masked dances, as well as the Yaaral and the Degal festivities fueled intercommunal strife.
The Cliff of Bandiagara is a vast cultural landscape covering 400,000 hectares across three natural regions: sandstone plateau, escarpment, and plains. The communities have a very close relationship with their environment, which is expressed in sacred rituals and traditions. The property was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1989.