Riwaq Centre for Architectural Conservation is a Palestinian NGO based in Ramallah, founded in 1991 by Suad Amiry, a Palestinian architect and writer. The organisation deals with questions of heritage in the context of conflict and occupation working towards preserve historic buildings and neighbourhoods, as well as promoting the knowledge and use of traditional building techniques. Riwaq have since expanded their work to include community outreach and pedagogical activities, recognising that the work of conservation in the unique circumstances of Palestine where cultural heritage is being actively destroyed, cannot be left to specialists alone and must involve local residents and organisations. In this they to raise an awareness of the importance of cultural heritage, whilst also working to improve the social, cultural and economic conditions of those living in areas of historic importance. Riwaq thus view conservation not as an activity that prevents change but as a practice that is fundamental to questions of development and regeneration, and in particular in establishing a sense of Palestinian identity which they argue is under continual and deliberate threat from the Israeli occupation. Their renovation projects concentrate on creating much needed jobs helping to transform the perception of heritage into an asset rather than a liability. The repaired buildings are often transformed into cultural and shared community spaces.
During the last three years, the group have also organised the Riwaq Biennale to promote this work and have exhibited at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009. Their '50 Villages' project aims at creating a network that connects the rural areas of Palestine in order to overcome the isolation of these remote areas through the promotion of cultural programmes, workshops and the renewal and provision of neighbourhood facilities. Riwaq's work creates the basis for empowerment on a larger scale, through allowing the citizens of Palestine to take control of their own environment and enabling them to take an active part in its protection.
Ahdaf Soueif, 'Reflect and Resist', The Guardian, 2009, http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/jun/13/art-theatre [accessed 10 February 2010].
Georg-Christof Bertsch, 'The Palestine Syndrome: out and about in Venice episode 9', Stylepark, 2009, http://www.stylepark.com/en/news/the-palestine-syndrome-out-and-about-in-venice-episode-9/297330 [accessed 10 February 2010].
"In a radical shake-up of the biennale concept, this 3rd Riwaq
Biennale will not feature any large-scale, central exhibitions.
Instead, it will consist of a series of journeys between the
fragmented and disparate locations, reflecting the fractured
territory of Palestine. These journeys are conceived as a series of
networking activities between local and international artists and
theorists, providing the opportunity to develop ideas and artistic
collaborations for the future."
- Khalil Rabah, Director, Riwaq Biennale; http://www.riwaqbiennale.org/
"Realizing that the key element to the protection of cultural
heritage lies in community awareness and hence the interest of
local communities, Riwaq organizes a number of activities that aim
at target the different sectors of society."
- Riwaq, http://www.riwaq.org/index.php?lang=en&page=community&color=bgc2
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