Render Authenticity: Revisiting Intangible Heritage to Reflect on Historical Structure Network
Smita, Prianka Debosree
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Shakhari Bazar in Old Dhaka, Bangladesh, was one of the first streets to be built in the region of South Asia, using the river network as major transportation route and home to invaluable artisans in the 17th century. It is a sanctuary to a specific ethnic group, and the only known home to some craftsmen. Therefore, this street is a rich treasure of both tangible heritage and ‘intangible heritage’. Unfortunately, the survival of these crafts is under threat, as the artisans seem to be changing their livelihood due to disconnected cultural ecology. With the help of its artisan inhabits, Old Dhaka has been an area with buildings of architectural beauty as well as historical, religious and cultural significance since 1608. “They are eloquent testimony to the history, culture and tradition. These buildings are ‘images’ of the past with which people still identify Old Dhaka”. But sadly, most of these historical buildings are either diminishing through ignorant renovations or collapsing due to neglect, resulting in hazardous living conditions for the unique artisans and migrants. If these present conditions persist, it will not be long until many of these structures, along with the intangible heritages they house, are lost forever. Comprehensive research has led me to propose multi-disciplinary schematic strategies of spatial interventions that aim to rationalize the decentralized elements of craftsmanship through formalized institutionalization thereby encouraging dialogue, as well as additional schematic strategies that could reconstruct heritage structures and promote inclusion of the locals and artisans of Shakhari Bazar. To establish a sustainable conservation of the tangible and intangible heritages of Shakhari Bazar, and maintain the integrity of the live heritages they house, it is essential to pursue both these strategies simultaneously. This thesis proposes to instigate a healthy and informed dialogue between the formal bodies and informal systems of Shakhari Bazar to create a common goal of sustainable micro economy that refuses to accept uniformity and the disappearance of memory.