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 and Ruler of Sharjah, the Regional Office for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in the Arab Region (ICCROM - Sharjah) in cooperation with the National Corporation of Antiquities and Museums in Sudan (NCAM) and the Africa Institute, organized a workshop on the Western Sudan Community Museums (WSCM) project on 8 December 2022 at the Africa Institute in Sharjah, UAE.  

This workshop shed 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. The project aims to address 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 the Khalifa House Community Museum, which collectively represent Western Sudan's geography, history and culture. 

"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 Corporation of Antiquities and Museums in Sudan, and the British Council in turning this vision into reality," said Dr Webber Ndoro, Director-General of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM). 

More than 30 professionals and personalities concerned with cultural affairs in the Arab region and Sudan, in particular, attended the workshop. Among the list of attendees and speakers were 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 ICCROM-Sharjah; and Dr Ghalia Garelnabi, Deputy Director of NCAM.

Sheikha Hoor bint Sultan Al Qasimi opened the event by welcoming attendees and participants in the workshop and praising the importance of the WSCM 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 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 centers 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. 

NCAM Deputy Director 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 Corporation 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." – NCAM Deputy Director Dr Ghalia Garelnabi 

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

The presentations focused on several important topics, including the 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 historical 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 Sheikan, which includes two exhibitions – the Sudanese archaeological exhibition and the historical exhibition – that provide artefacts related to the 1883 Battle of Sheikan, 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. The Inspector General's historic residence was restored within the project activities, the courtyard relandscaped to prevent flooding and the display galleries and all services restored. The museum is now functional again and the gardens have been planted with new trees and shelters. The presentations also focused on the importance of heritage to Darfur's communities; the Darfur Intangible and Tangible Heritage Surveys 2020-22; the Women's Museum; conservation of Darfur Museum's tangible and intangible collections; the Green Heritage Survey 2022; and mapping the heritage of Darfur. 

In addition to the workshop, the event included an interactive exhibition 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 live orchestral concert performed by the Sudanese Bait Al Oud – Khartoum led by Ahmed Shamma and supervised by Dr Naseer Shamma.  

The performances enabled artistic thought, promoted African music and heritage, and celebrated the culture and music of 'Oud,' one of the oldest Arabic musical instruments. 

View the press release

Watch the event recording