The Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology of the University of Warsaw (PCMA) has completed the first stage of the project: “Support for the development of The National Corporation of Antiquities and Museums and the local community of El-Ghaddar, Northern Province, Sudan”, implemented within the framework of the Polish Aid program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.
Inspiration for the project came from an understanding of the needs of the National Corporation of Antiquities and Museums of Sudan (NCAM). The main objective, as developed for the program, is to prepare Sudanese administration staff to initiate and implement independently projects for the reconstruction, conservation, restoration and revitalization of historical monuments.
The first stage called for training altogether 23 employees of the NCAM as well as the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, the administration of South Sudan and academic centers like Khartoum University and Shendi University. The Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Mr. Mohammed Yusuf Abdallah, was present at the opening and closing of the training, and he presented all the participants with certificates of participation. The three one-day intensive training sessions gave participants an overview of the history of Sudan from the 6th through the 17th century, as well as an understanding of the history of architecture in Sudan, the philosophy, methodology and world standards in conservation work, as well as practical aspects of building preservation and restoration of buildings and wall paintings in the specific climatic conditions of this part of Africa. The training was conducted by Polish specialists considered among the best in the world, mainly due to long years of practical experience working on such projects in Africa: Prof. Dr. Włodzimierz Godlewski, Prof. Dr. Stanisław Medeksza, Dr. Wojciech Kołątaj and Cristobal Calaforra-Rzepka. The project is coordinated by Artur Obłuski.
Following 45 years of cooperation in the region, the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology is acti vely interested in helping to develop the region. Members of the Polish archaeological expedition to Dongola have close reciprocal ties with the local community of El-Ghaddar, a small town neighboring on the archaeological site. This status has led the Polish Centre to include a local-community development program based on cultural heritage in a broader project designed to provide support for the Sudan administration responsible for preserving antiquities, including monuments found on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list. The community project is developed around Old Dongola, the site of the capital city of Makuria, an ancient kingdom of the largest territory and the greatest significance in Africa outside the Mediterranean coastal region from the 5th through the 14th century. Makurian culture drew on the greatest achievements of Byzantine architecture and painting, shaping a multi-cultural heritage with Christian and Moslem roots, strongly influenced by endogenic African culture. The biggest collection of Makurian wall painting outside Africa, unmatched even by the greatest European museum collections, is to be found in the National Museum in Warsaw – thanks to archaeological excavations carried out by the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology.
The first stage of the project, to be completed in December 2008, is a conceptual design of the conservation and revitalization of the oldest preserved mosque in Sudan. Current archaeological research has demonstrated that building was the Makurian kings’ royal throne hall before being turned into a mosque. This makes it the sole preserved throne hall from the sphere of Byzantine culture. In preparation for the project, an analysis of the building equilibrium was undertaken during the recent visit and samples of plaster, painting and wood were taken for chemical and petrographic analyses.
The implementation of the project will begin forthwith, in January 2009. The first phases will be financed by the US Department of State. PCMA is currently looking for sponsors to support this program.
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