South African Cultural Observatory

Rock Art hunting for preservation in the Sahara Desert

BY 27.02.17

Rock Art hunting for preservation in the Sahara Desert

DEEP in the Sahara Desert lies significant cultural heritage in the form of priceless rock art reminiscent of a time when desert was actually rolling green plains. Ferdinand Saumarez Smith from the incredible Factum Foundation was recently in Chad to document the Sahara’s astonishing – and endangered – rock art, in an effort to help preserve humanity’s ancient history.

“Only a few thousand years ago, the desert was a green home to pastoral people. One of the ways we know this is through the beautiful, graphic artworks they made of their lives and their herds – the sole remaining evidence of a lost civilisation.This is what has brought me to the Ennedi plateau in northern Chad. I’m here to record the greatest prehistoric rock-art sites in the desert, which are under threat from both man and the climate. I work for a non-profit organisation, the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation. One of Factum’s missions is to create digital recordings of cultural heritage, and to that end my colleagues and I have been working this year in Dagestan in Russia to record the Mosque of Kala Koreysh, Lebanon for the steles at Nahr el Kalb, and Nigeria for the monoliths of Cross River State. It is not a coincidence that these are all unstable places: the greater the threat to a country’s heritage, the more important it is to record what’s there.” Read more.


British Council moves to protect cultural heritage at risk from conflict

IN partnership with the Department for Culture Media and Sport Opens, the British Council has launched a new £30-million (R482-million) fund to help to create sustainable opportunities for economic and social development through building capacity to foster, safeguard and promote cultural heritage affected by conflict overseas. The Fund aims to protect and preserve physical monuments and religious sites, as well as 'intangible' heritage: inherited traditions, beliefs and cultural identity, passed down through generations – all of which have been increasingly under threat in the Middle East and North Africa as so-called Islamic State have gained power in the region.

The British Council is now accepting applications for small grants (up to £100k) and large grants (more than £100k). Apply here. Grants are available to applicants working with local partners in one or more of the Fund’s target countries: Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen. The Cultural Protection Fund is designed with applications from UK organisations in mind, but any organisation is eligible to apply. Read more.


The Met offers free, high res images of its collection

THE Metropolitan Art Museum in New York is a centre of artistic excellence – and this month they took that commitment to another level by offering more than a quarter million online images of treasures in The Met’s collection for free download. In high resolution – with no permissions required. This is part of an initiative to grant unlimited use of any images of artworks from The Met that are in the public domain. Finding the images is the only tricky part and it takes a couple of steps to get there.

  1. STEP 1 – go to The Met’s website
  2. STEP 2 – click on Art on the menu at the top of the page
  3. STEP 3 – go to Collection on the pull-down menu and click on that,
  4. STEP 4 - Click on the box marked Public Domain Artworks on the left hand side of the csreen under ‘show only’
  5. STEP 5 – voila! Ancient to modern art images at your fingertips!

Find out more here.

Example of available images: Vincent van Gogh, Wheat Field with Cypresses, 1889, The Metropolitan Museum of Art


The business case for funding the arts

ARTS funding in the United States of America is under perceived threat, but this threatens the thriving and very lucrative business of the arts argue Earle Mack, Randall Bourscheidt and Robert Lynch. They note that half of all Americans attend arts events annually and it’s why they have strongly supported federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and that support pays dividends.

The authors show that twenty years ago, a study by McKinsey & Company, “You Gotta Have ART!” found that, “For every $1 in public grants received, arts organizations raise $9 from other sources” – the reason the arts mean business — big business – and it’s numbers tell the story. There are over 700,000 arts businesses in America today. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis tells us that the arts are a $730 billion industry, which represents 4.2 percent of the nation’s GDP.  This is a larger share of the economy than transportation, agriculture, and tourism — and directly employs 4.7 million people. Two-and-a-half million people identify their primary occupation as “artist.” When it comes to trade, the arts are one of America’s leading exports. Foreign audiences love our films, our plays, our music, our paintings, sculpture, and literature. With $60 billion in overseas sales, the U.S. enjoys an arts trade surplus of $30 billion per year, according to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Read more.


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