New Cultural Memory Centre Ensures Continuity of Rohingya Heritage

Diplomatic Correspondent

25th May, 2021 09:59:33 PM printer

New Cultural Memory Centre Ensures Continuity of Rohingya Heritage

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Rohingya community have jointly launched the Rohingya Cultural Memory Centre (RCMC), an initiative to comprehensively document and preserve the heritage of the forcible displaced Rohingya people.

There are currently nearly one million Rohingyas living Cox’s Bazar camps, inhabiting challenging settlements with limited avenues for expression. The RCMC offers psychosocial support through art therapy, protection and skills development activities led by IOM practitioners and mental health officers, said the IOM in a press release on Tuesday (May 25).

In 2019, IOM researchers in Cox’s Bazar started collecting and documenting cultural practices and artefacts shared amongst the Rohingya community from the Rakhine State in Myanmar.

The centre tells the story of the Rohingya people through a comprehensive collection of cultural artefacts and artworks researched and produced by Rohingya refugee artists living in the camps. These efforts produced a thorough ethnographic map, detailing activities central to the Rohingya identity.

By providing the Rohingya community with the tools and platform to tell their story, the RCMC addresses the “identity crisis” named by three-quarters of the refugees as a key factor in their loss of well-being.

The RCMC strives to function as a vehicle that preserves and enhances their rich culture, contributing towards strengthening the collective identity of the Rohingya population.

“The centre provides us with a platform to maintain our Rohingya culture and traditions,” said Shahida Win, a Rohingya poet and researcher with RCMC. “It gives us an opportunity to express our creativity, aspirations, memories and feelings through our arts.”

The collection is a portrait of a culture reflecting on its past, present and future, exploring the tensions between tradition and innovation, imagination and memory, displacement and belonging. It combines objects of tangible and intangible heritage, ranging from traditional architectural models to embroidery, pottery, basketry, woodwork, visual arts, music, storytelling, poetry, and more.

“The RCMC website offers a platform for the Rohingya people to share and build their stories with a global audience and to connect with the diaspora,” said Manuel Marques Pereira, IOM’s Deputy Chief of Mission in Bangladesh.

“By showcasing the beauty and complexity of the Rohingya heritage and people, the centre aims to empower the community and ensure the continuity of its cultural heritage for future generations,” he added.