Opening Universities for Refugees together with OSUN Hubs and Bard College launched a new project on The Importance of Cultural Heritage within the Refugee Experience in Dadaab Camp, Kenya

The Dadaab Refugee Complex in Kenya is a long-standing community of approximately 200,000 coming from a diversity of geographical, social, linguistic and ethnic backgrounds.  As this camp has been active since 1991 component cultures have up to now co-existed, but are beginning to fade, or blend, as original knowledge, embedded within human memory, is replaced with a second and third generation born within the complex itself.  A new community led participatory project’s Phase I  has been launched in February 2024, in Dadaab, via 3 days in-person workshop to engage with this phenomenon by:

  1. Recording and preserving the original component cultures that make up today’s Dadaab community.
  2. Observing the coming together of unique cultures within this unique environment.
  3. Offering a space (real or virtual) to promote the idea of respect and understanding between the many distinct groups’ resident in Dadaab.
  4. Offering a space (real or virtual) to promote the idea of respect and understanding with the host country, Kenya.
  5. Encouraging community leaders within Dadaab to assist in the preservation of their own cultural heritage while likewise offering opportunities for outside engagement.

The project is co-led by Dr. Gül İnanç (OUR) and Hubs students, who have recently received their Cultural Heritage Ambassador Certificates during the Phase I of the project. Phase II has been conducted between April-June 2024 via online workshops. Here is the schedule (bi-weekly, 2 hours) and the topics that we covered since April :

During this period students narrowed their aperture to focus on how to safeguard the selected intangible cultural heritage practices of their community. Students feel that this is vital for the conservation of dignity and individuality within mass habitation constructs but also for forging respect and understanding across protracted refugee communities and within host communities. This project will focus on creativity, and the arts, and by this we mean: music, literature, culinary/medical practices, dance, crafts, sacred architectural spaces. Preserving and engaging with these core components of identity will reduce a sense of dislodgement, mitigate against a rupture in inter-generational continuity, and offer a safe and respectful platform from which to embrace change.  The project is consistent with the fundamental tenets of UNESCO and UNHCR, as well as the government of Kenya, who already recognise the centrality of heritage to human rights, and the traumatic effects of its loss within the wider refugee experience. Upon successful completion the pilot would be extended to other refugee camps. Cultural Heritage Ambassadors of Dadaab are advocates of inclusive higher education for refugees and believe that their work, which will be visible globally on digital platforms, will also support UNHCR’s 15by30 campaign.

As of Phase III (September- October, 2024 ), we are aiming to achieve the following targets:

Lesson plans that the students have designed will be introduced to relevant authorities in the camp elementary schools.

Each student will self-record a 1 minute video introducing their specific projects – these videos will be uploaded on OUR website under “Digital heritage platform of Dadaab” . 

3 students will host an online panel at the upcoming UNESCO conference in November, in Ghana.

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