160 Nations – More Than 160 Cultures – One Heritage

Mannheim is showing the way, making a contribution to remembrance culture that reflects multi-cultural heritage in our society.

von Patricia Bonaudo

Germany is an immigration country and the City of Mannheim is launching a project that sees this fact as opportunity. People from 160 nations are living next door to each other, all of them leaving their mark on the city – their city. The participative cultural project Mannheim World Cultures Heritage is drawing up a list of outstanding cultural assets from all over the world that have found a new home in Mannheim, are being enjoyed here and are turning Mannheim into the city it is today.

The idea of conserving cultural assets and codifying them for future generations sounds familiar. In 1972, UNESCO agreed the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Every year, a committee selects cultural assets and sites of outstanding value, and there are now more than 1,000 entries in 160 nations on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

But how do you codify collective memory if your own culture is in a far off country that has been made inaccessible as a result of war, displacement or poverty? How do you conserve, care for and enliven cultural heritage in the diaspora? What do the 27 million Italians or 20 million Poles scattered around the world, or the nine million Syrians who had to flee their country, take with them and how do they conserve it?

Kultur am Kanal – Das Mannheimer Erbe der Weltkulturen from zeitraumexit on Vimeo.

The project is looking for answers to these questions and aims to contribute to collective remembrance culture – far away from the cultural assets listed in museums and books or via UNESCO’s list of cultural assets – that reflects multi-cultural heritage in parts of today’s inhabited world. It is a playful copy of UNESCO’s World Heritage programme in the immigration country that Germany is. The team at Zeitraumexit, the association that initiated the project, will be spending a year conducting surveys among residents and newcomers in Mannheim, visiting district festivals and speaking to people directly.

The result will be a list of objects, places or traditions that represent people’s home cultures in their new country: 160 world culture monuments in a single metropolitan area. A 21-strong committee of Mannheim citizens will be re-enacting the annual UNESCO assembly on 21 and 22 January 2017, and symbolically legitimating all the suggestions submitted. The committee assembly as well as the big Mannheim World Cultures Exhibition in May 2017 are the project’s highlights, although everyone involved is hoping that it won’t end there and that the initiative will continue.

Diaspora-based cultural heritage offers everyone in the city a new identification object and thereby creates links between them while at the same time emphasising cultural differences and making these visible. The project empowers migrants and newcomers to define a new cultural canon or challenge the existing canon and enhance it. WIR MACHEN DAS will be portraying selected projects, places and objects regularly on our blog, and reporting on the committee assembly and the exhibition.

The Mannheim World Cultures Heritage is lived culture in an immigration country.
A project by Jan-Philipp Possmann and the Zeitraumexit association under the patronage of the German UNESCO Commission and in partnership with the Goethe-Institut Mannheim, the Reiss Engelhorn Museum, the Municipal Archive, the Youth Culture Centre FORUM and the Heidelberg Centre of Cultural Heritage. The project is being sponsored by the Baden-Württemberg Innovation Fund, the City of Mannheim, MVV Energy and the Fuchs family.

Translation: Nickolas Woods