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More Stuff: US to ensure preservation of cultural heritage sites in Pakistan

>Pakistan is very rich in diverse cultural heritage and under the AFCP (Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Heritage); US Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs have given 17 project awards to Pakistan for cultural preservation since 2001 for selected heritage sites.

US to ensure preservation of cultural heritage sites in Pakistan
Sheikhupura Fort Ruins and City [Credit: MyPak]

>Laura Tedesco, Head of cultural heritage preservation programmes in Pakistan said this while talking to this scribe at a media briefing here in Islamabad. Laura Tedesco serves as the Cultural Heritage Program Manager for US Department of State’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and her current emphasis remains on heritage sites in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She is currently in Pakistan to familiarise and finalise the AFCP project on Sheikhupura Fort. The three-year restoration and preservation project of Sheikhupura fort with an estimated grant of $850,000 would start by end of this year in collaboration between AFCP and local partners’ comprising of Federal and provincial Archaeological Departments, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting & National Heritage, and private NGO’s working on heritage preservation.

>Near the famous Hiran Minar, this Mughal Fort was built in 1619 A.D. by the Emperor Jahangir as an integrated feature of the Royal hunting lodge. Sheikhupura Fort is located about 35 km (21 miles) North-West from Punjab’s capital, Lahore. In the heart of the famous ‘Jahangirpur’ village, now Sheikhupura city, the fort site is easily accessible from both the Motorway and Sargodha Road. Red bricks rather than stones were used to construct the fort, a common feature of all Mughal forts. In the early 19th century, the Sikh Princess Rani Nakayan constructed two ‘havelis’ inside the compound as her private quarters. These were heavily decorated with exquisite frescoes and murals paintings depicting dancing girls, hunting and court scenes and images of Guru Nanak. The remains of these paintings are still visible on the roofs and walls. The ‘havelis’ are also famous because of the delicate false ceiling and woodwork forming a unique structural element.

>The AFCP grant will provide complete restoration and preservation of the Fort on original 19th century design and patterns introduced by Mughal and Sikh occupants of this complex in the later era.

>Since its creation by the US Congress in 2001, the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation has awarded grants for more than 550 cultural preservation projects in more than 100 countries. This accomplishment, now 10 years in the making, represents a U.S. contribution of more than $20 million towards the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide. These cultural projects have included technical support for restoring historic buildings; assessment and conservation of museum collections; archaeological site preservation; documentation to save threatened traditional crafts; improved storage conditions for archives and manuscripts; recording oral history; and documenting indigenous languages.

>Now based in Washington, Laura previously worked in Afghanistan developing and overseeing the State Department’s initiatives to support the preservation of built and intangible heritage across Afghanistan. Prior to joining the State Department, Dr. Tedesco worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in several capacities— researcher, curatorial assistant, and educator. She has also worked in the private sector field of cultural resources management, coordinating archaeological recovery of cultural resources for land development and private investment programs. She has participated in archaeological excavations in Syria, Palestine, the Republics of Armenia and Georgia, Italy, Cyprus, and in several locations across the United States. She holds a PhD from New York University in Anthropology with a specialization in the archaeology of the Near East and South and Central Asia.

>The AFCP has built one of its most impressive and wide-ranging programs in Pakistan. Beginning in 2001 with a project to restore and conserve the stone foundations of Sirkap, the US Embassy has worked with partners in the Pakistani federal and provincial governments on 17 different projects throughout Pakistan. These projects cover all eras of the cultural heritage and history of the land especially the Gandhara and Mughal era. The AFCP is the centre-piece of an important and growing partnership in the US-Pakistan strategic partnership. The U.S. Embassy and its Consulates have begun important partnerships with the Peshawar Museum, the Lahore Museum, and the Taxila Museum with the goal of building direct linkages with American museums. The US Embassy and its partners in the Pakistani government and private sector will be looking to extend these initiatives in new directions as part of the growing strategic partnership between the US and Pakistan and continues to make efforts to be the anchor of cultural partnership between the two countries. 

>Author: Schezee Zaidi | Source: The News [September 04, 2013]

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