Intervista a Muna Haq – UNDP- United Nations Development Program, New Delhi, India

In western countries the idea of culture is similar to the one of “taking care”, at the beginnings of the gods, nowadays it includes everything concerning our identity. Particularly in Italy, the principle of conservation is very strong, but it often takes to the “immobilization” of both the material and the immaterial heritage preventing it from evolving. How is culture interpreted in India? Is there a different approach to the conservation of heritage? 
The Republic of India is the world’s largest democracy, with an estimated population of 1,049,700,118 living in an area one-third the size of the United States. India is geographically situated in Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal between Burma and Pakistan. Often referred to as the Indus Valley civilization, India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. The invasion of Aryan tribes from the northwest in 1500 B.C. merged with previous inhabitants to create the classical Indian culture. Between the 8th and 15th centuries, Arab, Turkish, and European incursions occurred respectively. By the early 1800s, Britain maintained political control over practically all Indian lands. The efforts of Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru helped achieved Indian independence by 1947.
Ethnically, India consists of three main divisions: Indo-Aryan (72%); Dravidian (25%) and Mongoloid and other (3%), With respect to religion, 81.3% of the population practices Hinduism, 12% is Muslim, 2.3% is Christian, and 1.9% is Sikh. English remains the most significant.  The diversity of Indian culture is also expressed through its languages and dance forms. In today’s India, there are about 415 living languages, out of them 22 are scheduled languages.
India has many tools to preserve the culture:

Indian dance forms are also reflections of the pluralistic heritage and culture of India. Classical dance forms, folk dance forms, western dances and typical Bollywood dances. All have their respective niches in Indian cultural cosmos. The eight classical dance forms of India are Bharata Natyam (Tamil Nadu), Kathak (North India), Mohiniattyam(Kerala), Kuchipudi(Andhra Pradesh), Sattriya(Assam), Odissi(Orissa), Kathakali(Kerala) and Manipuri(Manipur). India also has a rich tradition of folk dances, which clearly reflects the diversity of customs and culture of India.

The rich body of Indian regional literature, art and architecture were also shaped by diverse influences. The Gandhara Art, which has a Greek influence on the Buddhist art; the life-like miniature paintings with their subtle colors and their assorted traditions, which were introduced during the Moghul era; the sombre Buddhist stupas; the exquisite cave sculptures and paintings narrating myths and legends revolving around Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, the Khajuraho and Konark temples which encapsulate the colorful erotic tradition of India; the grand specimens of Indo-Persian, Moghul and colonial architecture, which dot the landscape of India in the form of places of worship, mausoleums and even official buildings, all constitute the myriad expressions of India’s divergent cultural ethos, showcasing the vivid splendours of culture of India, that has survived the waves of time.

Museums are the institutes that collect and exhibit outstanding cultural heritage, therefore, it is an important venue for promoting traditional culture. And play a vital role to promote the culture in the community.
In India there is different point of few – people are living inside the old monuments and making their earnings from the heritage and the other one is Aga Khan approach – adopting one site and making it as close to the original one. The Humayun’s Tomb – Sunder Nursery – Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal Project, in the heart of Delhi, India, combines a cultural heritage project with socioeconomic initiatives. The overall objective of the project is to improve the quality of life for people in the area while creating an important new green space for the people of Delhi and beyond.
The real challenge before us is to plan the necessary measures of conservation with a view to assure the survival of these built cultural heritage and unique symbols of our civilizations for centuries to come, with as little intervention as possible but without altering or modifying in any way the authenticity of their original character. To ensure the stability as well as proper conservation of our cultural heritage, there is a need to give more thrust to the scientific research in conservation options must be based on a preliminary investigation which includes the knowledge of physical nature of the object (constituent materials, architectural characteristics, production techniques, state of decay) and of the factors which induce or could induced its decay. In other words, as in the case of medical study the field of conservation therapy to be based on a correct diagnosis. 

Which are the most common forms in which Culture takes shape in your country? (Exhibitions, theatres, live shows, festivals and so on). Which do people prefer?
Culture grows in various ways in India. We use different tools to showcase our culture. We celebrate seasons according to the festivals. All great Indian festivals have religious, social and seasonal elements to them. Celebrations are done with religious sanctity, making traditional food and celebration of the season.
Indian festivals are a good way to get-together for social functions. To create an awareness of the heritage and culture that has been handed down to us for generations. These get together can enhance our mental and spiritual dimension that, if left in the dark, make us only poorer and less worthy of our heritage.
Theatre during the traditional period was mostly based on the traditional or oral method of representation. Folklore that had been passed on through generations was the epicenter of theatrical conventions, as diversification in linguistic order proved to be a hindrance for writing of plays. It was during this period that drama developed at various places in India in various languages. People started improvising dramatic art with their own rendition of traditional presentations. The mediums of dramatic presentation, such as songs, dances, narrations, etc, remained the same as in the classical period, thus leading to the unfolding of popular traditional acts like Ramlila, Rasleela, Nautankis, and so on.

As it has been expressed during the Culture Business Matching in Rome – Along the Silk Road, technology is a way to support culture. It gives itself the aim to produce a culture easily understood by the largest audience, exploiting its ability to cultivate the visitors. Do you think technology can become a requirement for the promotion of Cultural Heritage in India? Do you think there may be other most efficient ways to reach the same results in promoting and cultivating people? If your answer is positive, could you list some?
Technology is surely a potential tool to improve and protect the cultural heritage. It is a necessity in the country where some of the old civilisation site exists, to use the most advance technology to promote the cultural site. The technology Italian companies are offering is remarkable – one of the examples of light systems in some of the heritage in Turkey are impressive. How technology can give a complete face lift to an old & lifeless monument to make it live and most suited with the current atmosphere is fantastic. It not only improves attraction for tourist and local, it also gets better revenues to the local authorities.  India does need such interventions to protect and develop the sites. Italian companies can introduce to the organisations who work with Archaeological Sites of India. I also feel there are more ways to promote and protect the heritage – awareness towards the local residence that is living around the monuments about the importance of the cultural heritage, through media, theatre, exhibition, live shows etc. Few more ideas:
• Set up a guiding principle and improve the working mechanism for the protection;
• Work out regulations and rule concerning the intangible cultural heritage; strengthening the legislation for protection of intangible cultural heritage so as to offer legal guarantee for the protection work;
• Guide, supervise and coordinate various departments and organizations that  participate in the protection of  cultural heritage;
• Sum up experience and explore the regularity in the ways of protection of cultural heritage;
• Carry out surveys, registration, video recording, audio recording, confirmation and files establishing with the help of modern technology ; enhance the research work on the intangible cultural heritage and protection mode ;
• Initiate various trainings and set up specialized teams of talents for the protection; publicize the cultural heritage more widely to create a proper atmosphere for the protection.

Are there examples of museums or archaeological sites or sacred places where technology has already been used to improve their heritage or maybe they could be interested in dealing with it? How do visitors react or how could they react facing the new mixture of technology and culture?
Aga Khan Foundation affiliated with the Government of India to restore the complete archaeological site of Humayun Tomb in Nizammuddin, New Delhi.
The project integrates conservation, socioeconomic development and urban and environmental development objectives in consultation with local communities and relevant stakeholders.  Since its inception, the project has attracted additional partners and received co-funding from the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Ford Foundation, World Monuments Fund, Sir Ratan Tata Trust, the Embassy of the United States, J.M. Kaplan Fund, amongst others.
Heritage Conservation of Humayun’s Tomb Complex: Conservation works now being undertaken on the mausoleum of the Mughal emperor and associated buildings are based on exhaustive archival research and the highest standards of documentation. The plan is being implemented by master craftsmen using traditional tools, craft techniques and building materials. Significant conservation works that have been undertaken include the careful removal of over one million kilos of twentieth century concrete from the roof and major repairs to the dome. Restoration of the stone paving on the lower plinth required the manual lifting of 12,000 square meters of stone blocks, most weighing over 1000 kilos. Regular training programmes and workshops for conservation professionals and craftsmen from across India are being held.     
Following the successfully restoration of the Humayun’s Tomb gardens in 2004, the Urban Renewal project commenced with the signature of a Public-Private Partnership memorandum of understanding on 11 July 2007. The non-profit partnership includes the Archaeological Survey of India, the Central Public Works Department, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the Aga Khan Foundation and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The project will unify the three zones into an urban conservation area of considerable breadth and cultural significance while improving the quality of life for resident population. It is a huge success and people reaction has been very positive – there are major national and international level cultural events taking place in this complex.

Which is the attitude of young people when considering these changes? Are they fascinated by the potential offered by technology or they are distrustful? Do they have the chance of knowing this potential and which are the ways to know it (the net, the press, the media)?
At one time, everybody’s culture was innovative. It’s hard to say where the next insight will come from, where we’ll solve the problem of cancer, for example. It may happen in the medical laboratories of the United States, it may happen in the laboratories of China or India, but it also may be in the folk knowledge, of a healer, a practitioner from the Amazon rain forest or central Africa. So I think we have a great deal to gain from each other’s cultures. Youth look at culture like a living library – an archive of the past, but also a living laboratory for the exploration of creativity and innovation. It can be of tremendous benefit to all of us.
Sometimes we think that heritage is something that belongs only to specific peoples living in specific countries. But the whole world mourned when the Bamiyan Buddhas were blown up. At the time, the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan, and they regarded these Buddhas as valueless or indeed as a desecration of their own beliefs. This was quite tragic because these Bamiyan Buddhas stood for the beliefs of hundreds of millions of people. They were poised on the historic Silk Road that united people. They were a treasure and a part of the cultural heritage of all human beings, not just the heritage of the people who lived in Afghanistan, and certainly not of the Taliban. We have to do more in terms of inculcating the idea that heritage transcend any one regime or any one government.
Every community and society has a very precious heritage which has to be and can be transferred to the next generation and it is the responsibility of the civil society to transfer that heritage to the next generation.  Indian Youth comprising of children in schools have a special duty towards raising awareness and protecting the rich cultural heritage which is a part of the glorious history of our country.
We live today in an ever-increasingly hyper-interconnected world, a global society of communicative interactions and exchanges that stimulates profound cultural transformations and realignments; a society epitomised by the advent of globalisation paralleled by the arrival of new technologies. New technologies offer a culture of information, pleasure and relative autonomy, all of which are of particular appeal to society’s youth.  Youth is more excited when it comes to experiment new technology – to preserve heritage the young architects, historians, heritage conservationist are using the most advance technology. 
Media and net play a vital role for awareness building among youth. E-learning: Access to education and knowledge is essential for economic, social and cultural development, and as a means of personal empowerment, community development and business efficiency. ICT networks have the potential to offer unprecedented educational opportunities to all groups in all areas. Implementation of affordable and universal educational programmes, content, broadband networks and hardware should be promoted. The introduction and development of ICTs in various schools and other learning institutions shall be supported through the establishment and maintenance of a human resources network that institutionalizes the ongoing training of teachers and instructors, who are the backbone of innovation. Advantage shall be taken of best practices to create high-quality, readily accessible teaching material from all over the world to facilitate knowledge transfer to the national level. Special attention shall be devoted to multilingual training and to the use and development of translation software.