The protection of cultural heritage is a crucial aspect of preserving the history and identity of nations and communities around the world. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of various declarations and international organizations such as UNESCO, these illegal activities in cultural heritage and the theft of cultural objects remain a serious problem. These illicit actions not only threaten the cultural identity of affected communities, but also hinders our understanding of human history and the ability of scholars to study and give credit to those who came before us.
One example of cultural theft is the way in which some former colonizing powers, such as France, have taken cultural artifacts from colonized countries like Benin, Senegal, and Algeria to display them in museums and other cultural institutions in the colonizing country. This can be seen as a form of cultural assault, as it represents an attempt to erase the cultural heritage of the colonized country and promote the cultural superiority of the colonizing power.
France, also, has a history of crimes and violations against humanity in Algeria and other African countries, including the theft of cultural objects. These thefts were often used as a means of cultural suppression, attempting to erase the cultural identity of these communities and replace it with French culture. One particularly poignant example is the tale of Algeria’s stolen cannon and the Cockerel, known as Baba Merzoug or The Blessed Father in the Algerian concept. This mighty bronze cannon was once a symbol of Algerian pride, protecting the shores of the country. However, it was stolen by the French and is now on display in the northern city of Brest, France, as a symbol of Algerian defeat in front of their various attempts. Despite the historical wound that this cannon represents for Algerians, multiple French presidents have refused to return it to its rightful owners.
Morocco has also been guilty of violating Algerian cultural heritage. In recent years, Morocco has transformed its political conflict with Algeria into a sort of cultural trespassing, using the theft of Algeria’s cultural heritage as a means of promoting its own tourism industry. Moroccan campaigns have claimed Algerian architecture, culinary, jewelry, and traditional customs such as Quftan as their own, without any legitimate right or historical background. This illicit cultural activity has had a significant and varied impact on Algerian culture.
The theft and illegal claim of cultural heritage is not only unethical, but also extremely harmful to the cultural identity of communities across the world. It can cause deep emotional loss and a lack of connection to cultural heritage, as well as providing an opportunity for those seeking prestige and historical legacy to exploit this lack of connection. It is also a threat to scholars’ ability to study human history and give credit to those who came before us.
These issues are complex and multifaceted, and require the efforts of the Algerian government to address international organizations and other stakeholders. It is important to work towards the protection and preservation of cultural heritage, as well as the respect and recognition of the cultural traditions and practices of different communities. This can involve measures such as the creation of the Cinema Industry and the encouragement of scenario writing to protect cultural heritage, the establishment of cultural exchange programs to promote mutual understanding and respect, and the development of educational initiatives to raise awareness about the importance of cultural heritage in a country like Algeria where every corner has a story.
Ultimately, the protection and preservation of The Algerian cultural heritage is a shared responsibility, and it is up to all of us to work towards a world familiar with all Algerian cultural traditions and practices of all parts of the country. We should work to show the world that all communities are respected and recognized. By doing so, we can help to promote a more harmonious and understanding society, and ensure that the rich cultural heritage of our country is passed down to future generations.
Written By: Omer Bounab