Culture Review: UNESCO on World Heritage Sites and Climate Change, Paleolithic-Era Paintings Found

A selection of arts and culture news from India and around the world.

Some of the 14,000-year-old animal paintings recently found in Axturra cave by Spanish archaeologists. Credit: Youtube

Some of the 14,000-year-old animal paintings recently found in Axturra cave by Spanish archaeologists. Credit: Youtube

UK artists oppose Brexit

Artists in the UK are creating works in response to a possible Brexit, which will be decided in the upcoming referendum on June 23. In mid-May, 282 artists and cultural figures signed an open letter, stating that “Britain is not just stronger in Europe, it is more imaginative and more creative, and our global creative success would be severely weakened by walking away.” The signatories included the leading UK artists Anish Kapoor and Tacita Dean. Dean stated that Brexit could make London as an arts centre “provincial once more”.

Iranian-born, London-based artist Houshiary said, opposing Brexit, that the world “is developing and changing, and we have to slowly remove boundaries”.

Munira Mirza, former deputy mayor of London for culture and education, supported Brexit, arguing that the UK will benefit from the increased funding for cultural projects.

UNESCO details climate change effect on heritage sites

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the United Nations Environment Program and the Union of Concerned Scientists released a 108-page report detailing the threats to world heritage sites by rising sea levels, worsening droughts, wildfires and superstorms. The study examines 31 sites in 29 countries (of the more than 1,000 that exist in 163 countries worldwide), including Venice, Stonehenge, the Galapagos Islands, the port city of Cartagena, Colombia and Shiretoko National Park, Japan.

“Globally, we need to understand, monitor and address climate change threats to World Heritage sites better,” said Mechtild Rössler, Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, in a statement. “As the report’s findings underscore, achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to a level well below two degrees Celsius is vitally important to protecting our world heritage for current and future generations.”

Flooded Venice. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Venice already experiences frequent flooding, as pictured above. Credit: Jorg Bittner/ Wikimedia Commons

Venice is one of the most endangered world heritage sites, with rising sea levels already causing frequent flooding. The MOSE Project has been building giant gates to reduce flooding in Venice, which has cost $6 billion to date. To protect heritage sites the world over, astronomical sums will be required.

Reconstruction of historic Afghan palace begins

Kabul has begun an ambitious project to reconstruct its Darul Aman palace, which sits on a hill overlooking the city and was severely damaged in the Afghan civil war. King Amanullah built it in the 1920s after he defeated the British, bringing full independence to the Afghan people. In the 1970-80s it was restored and served as the defence ministry. But when civil war broke out, it was used as a base by militias.

The project will cost between $16.5m and $20m and take three to five years, officials say. The renovated palace will become a museum and venue for national ceremonies.

The Darul Aman palace in Kabul. Credit: Flickr

The Darul Aman palace in Kabul. Credit: Flickr/ Bruce MacRae

14,000-year-old animal paintings found in Spain

Spanish archaeologists have found around 70 Paleolithic-era paintings in Axturra cave in Basque Country, Spain, in a dig that began in 2014. The paintings are located 1,000 feet underground, which meant they remained undiscovered during previous excavations in 1929 and 1934. They depict hunting scenes of horses, bison, deer and goats, the engravings sometimes highlighted in black ink. In one of the etchings, over 20 spears pierce a bison.

Archaeologist Diego Garate, who headed the dig, called the discovery “the equivalent of discovering a lost Picasso.” Three-dimensional versions of the paintings accessible to the public are being planned.