Heritage Diplomacy in Focus in Brussels

On October 24th 2019, the second ECHOES workshop on heritage diplomacy took place in Brussels. The workshop, named ‘Heritage Diplomacy – Perspectives from the Outside In’, aimed to bring together heritage specialists, academics and policy makers from different European and non-European countries. The workshop included a series of talks and discussions on several key themes.

The first session was focused on museums, and the presenters reflected on their experiences with diplomacy within a museum setting. Jean-François Manicom reflected on his experiences curating at the International Slavery Museum (Liverpool, UK), noting especially efforts to redress misperceptions. Dr Da Kong next discussed China’s history and evolution of cultural diplomacy activities through international art exhibitions. The session was closed by Bonita Bennett, from the District Six (Cape Town, South Africa) who reflected on the museum’s mission and its history as a grassroots movement facilitating community memory-work.

The second session and discussion shifted the attention towards indigenous knowledge systems and decolonial practices. Professor Keila Grinberg reflected on the Passados Presentes project and the changes it has brought to the community but also the challenges of working with grassroots projects such as this one. Surajit Sarkar followed to discuss indigenous knowledge systems in Delhi (India), especially those related to agriculture, and the manner in which art installations and interventions in the public space have led to a resurrection of forgotten practices. Lupwishi Mbuyamba ended the section with reflections on indigenous knowledge systems in Africa, European-African cooperation and the importance of languages.

The last session of the day then focused on heritage diplomacy. Dr John Giblin shared some of his research on the performative aspects of heritage diplomacy at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda and the strategic use of official visits by high-ranking officials. Calvyn Gilfellan ended the presentations of the day with some ideas on how the Castle of Good Hope (Cape Town, South Africa) puts ideas of heritage diplomacy in action, through both in-site events but also participation in international collaboration.

During the day the discussions were lively and included different related aspects such as European collaborations with non-European partners, policy-making and related concepts such as international cultural relations.