Workshops on Enhancing the Social and Cultural Role of Community Museums in Western Sudan: Khalifa House, Omdurman, Sheikan Museum, El Obeid, and Dafur Museum, Nyala.

As part of the conservation and rehabilitation project for community museums in Omdurman, El Obeid and Nyala, funded by the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport, ICCROM has conducted a series of workshops on Enhancing the Social and Cultural Role of Community Museums, in collaboration with project partners: the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums in Sudan (NCAM), the Centre for Heritage Studies, McDonald- Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, and Mallinson Architects. These workshops, which took place between 17th and 26th November, included holding social gatherings with a wide spectrum of groups with interest in the museums’ collections, its physical content and non-physical associations. Among these groups, which deservedly represent the Sudanese living heritage, were Folklore art bands, local artists, traditional artisans, poets and community organizations that support community museums. The project team also held meetings with officials and representatives from the relevant Sudanese government institutions, the Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, Dr. Sumaya Aaked, local governors and ministers of culture of the three states, whom have pledged financial as well as logistical support for the project.

The first workshop was held in the city of El-Obeid in the state of North Kordofan, for the Sheikan Museum. The museum team, in collaboration with the project team, organized an exhibition for traditional crafts (such as pottery and local gastronomy) and arts (dancing, singing and painting) where tribal chiefs, Friends of the Museum group and other interested bodies from university staff all participated. The event helped recalculate the museum as a platform for local heritage expression, and, consequently, as a source of pride for the community, and for communication and consensus between the diverse segments of the community. The museum has received, in return, a collection of historic swords and coins dating back to the battle of Sheikan, which is a day of pride in the Sudanese history, as a donation from a number of community members. The project team discussed the museum’s development plan and proposed addition of a community and cultural centre building to the museum complex, as well as the design of an environmental park on land donated to the museum by the state governor, as an extension.

Similarly, the second workshop took place in the city of Nyala, where the museum team, collaboratively with the project team, organized comparable exhibitions to accompany the museum’s re-opening celebration after 10 years of closure, due to the Darfur crisis. This re-opening followed the completion of maintenance works, co-funded by ICCROM-Sharjah and the Prince Claus Fund, and the efforts of the museum’s team to preserve and exhibit the collection following the projects Conservation Management workshops in October.

The third workshop took place in the Khalifa House museum in Omdurman, Khartoum, where the museum team invited a diverse spectrum of Omdurman residents to a gathering to give an introduction about the oral history associated with the museum building and collection. The gathering audience were also introduced to the proposed revitalization plan by the project team.

Workshops’ activities were accompanied by discussions with the decision-making authorities in the three states along with opinion questionnaires collected from participating community representatives. Meetings were also held with the Sudanese engineers, responsible for supervising work execution, concerning the technical terms and conditions for implementation for conservation works (as in Khalifa House and Mudheira Gate), the maintenance of modern structures (Bramble House and the exhibition halls in Sheikan and Nyala museums) and the new additions (the community and cultural centre in the Sheikan museum). The project team will continue to follow up with the questionnaires and video recordings for intangible associations that will serve for building museological scenarios after the completeion of the renovation works.

Representatives of the tribes of the Obiad region, from the Friends of the Museum

Residents of the North Kordofan area, while providing some donations to the museum, Swords belong to the Battle of Shikan

Residents of North Kordofan during the donation of some donations to the museum, coins belonging to the Battle of Shikan

In a majestic view, tribes of Nyala coming to pay tribute

Training workshop for school children, awareness of the importance of heritage

Training workshop for school children, awareness of the importance of heritage

Side of the traditional handicraft exhibition in Nyala

A public meeting in Khalifa House and presentation of the proposed project to people and a questionnaire of their views