What could be the exact definition of “destroying culture”? I mean, we all have ideas or pictures in mind of the lack of culture (from the “no more culture nowadays!” with a quavering voice or “Culture is in loss in our society” with an upper-superiority voice) but destroying seems to go further. First situation: heritage sites are collateral damages of a war. No interest that they are important or not, the blind furies cannot bear any stops! That it also true for immaterial culture but, of course, that takes a longer time… sometimes without real success. Second situation: it’s no more ignorance of cultural elements or snubbing a tail of Culture, it’s knowing that exists AND deciding that has to disappear.

Unfortunately we already had proves of these kind of actions in the recent history, for example with the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan (Afganistan, March 2001) or in Mali with the destruction of a large part of the heritage sites, among them the Antique Library (Timbuktu, June 2013). But the recent events from Iraq have updated to a dramatic new level this form of savagery. If you focus wider, you realise that these destruction are only one second tail of the big problem and how many human died (Yazidis, Assyrians, Chaldeans, …) before and are still under the savage control of these ruthless gangs!? The religion dimension has, of course, no relevance here, they just use it as a practical “reason” for their meaningless mean and, why not if that works?!, way of recruiting poor weak minds.

So, we are in front of gangs that cannot ear reason because, officially, they are “destroying idols” that is, just about a mathematic reason, impossible because, here, we are in front of Islam religion that started in 622 CE and are talking here of heritage sites that were created between 1500 and 700 years before Hijira… and there are quite nobody left to worship these stones…exception of archaeologists and historians of course! Interestingly, they don’t destroy all “idols” because they realised quickly that they could worth a big amount of money! It is actually the first source of income the Islamist State… And this is more glorious than a gang of armed guys against children, women or… stones!

Mhum… but what can be our reaction as citizen, as professional of the Culture or amateurs? Many solutions actually were already found: create an open and participate documentation of the lost artefacts (as you can see on Wikipedia for example or here), digital reconstitution of heritage sites (as the one of Nimrud by the MET or as PhD subject), public lectures by museums and schools about History and Art History, some also suggest post-reconstitutions. But is it enough? Many people say that if you “destroy past, you control the future” but it seems that it is not true! Many tried this nihilism strategy but the truth and History pop back inevitably! (The Brazilian example of the Candomblé religion is quite impressive). Destroying culture is not only destroying a Culture of a country or an area, it’s an attack against everyone, the humanity of all times from the past to the one of future.

In an epoque we all want to have a better access to culture for everyone, a time that focuses on explanations and discoveries, adventures and whoa effects, this situation must challenge our creativity and imagination to find good solutions against savagery and blind stupidiy!

Helene Herniou

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