Chair on Heritage Futures

Culture and the COVID-19 pandemic


ICOMOS and partners in the Culture 2030 Goal campaign released a Statement on Culture and the COVID-19 pandemic which the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures has been endorsing.

Entitled ‘Ensuring culture fulfills its potential in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic‘, the statement reminds us that

“culture is both a source of inspiration and a means of realising our thoughts and ideas, that culture makes it possible to mend the social fabric, to forge new forms of solidarity, to create new spaces in which to draw the energy needed to meet together the intense challenges facing us.”

More information here.

Coronavirus and the changing practices of memory in Rwanda


Every April, Rwanda observes the official commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi, which cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans in 1994. People gather in large groups to remember the victims, pay respects, and mourn together; wreaths are laid at mass graves and the flame of remembrance is lit at Kigali Genocide Memorial in the capital.

This year, coronavirus hit Rwanda only weeks before the season of Kwibuka (“to remember”). Rwanda has witnessed enormous change and development since 1994, but it remains relatively impoverished, and while most Rwandans are covered through a system of universal healthcare, a coronavirus-induced spike could—as in most countries—quickly overwhelm the country’s healthcare capacity. The government responded swiftly to flatten the curve, closing Rwanda’s borders and instituting a nationwide lockdown, complete with provision of food and essentials to some of Rwanda’s most vulnerable.

For Rwandans, as for much of the world, this spring brings immense changes to everyday life. But it also changed Kwibuka, pressuring organizers to find ways of reconciling the mandate to remember—a mandate fulfilled every April through mass commemoration and public participation—with the imperative to reduce virus transmission.

Kwibuka not only provides space for memory, but also ensures that this memory is passed on to younger generations—an urgent need in Rwanda, where a majority of citizens was born after the genocide. This desire to educate has been a driver of the growth of Kwibuka into a major national event, shaping commemoration in the country. Rwanda’s lockdown has forced changes in these practices, potentially endangering the ability to maintain collective memory into the future, as well as posing obstacles to meeting the needs of survivors and commemorators today.

President Kagame acknowledged the challenge in his Kwibuka address to the nation: “This year’s commemoration for survivors and families and for the country is hard because we cannot be together physically to comfort one another,” he said. “It is not an easy thing to do, Rwandans are used to coming together with solidarity and collective strength.” But, he added, “The current unusual circumstances will not prevent us from fulfilling our obligation to commemorate this solemn anniversary, honor those we lost and console survivors.”

There are resonances between April 1994, when Rwandans hid in their homes, and April 2020, under a national lockdown order. “It is April again, and we are on lock-down but this time not for being killed!” writes genocide survivor and author Claver Irakoze. “This time we actually feel safe to be locked down. We feel protected, not ambushed or surrounded.” Kwibuka has gone on, although the photos from this year’s ceremonies look very different. The President and First Lady light the flame at the Kigali memorial alone; high-ranking government officials lay wreaths one at a time, while the Rwandan Army Band performs, each member seated two meters apart from the next.

The changes in Kwibuka are difficult, as Nelson Gashagaza and Samantha Teta acknowledge. “Kwibuka26 is going to be exceptionally hard for survivors who will not be able to visit their beloved, lay down flowers on grave or water-bodies or meet in one place,” they write. New ways must be found to commemorate, especially online. These are especially important, Gashagaza and Teta point out, for survivors, who can find the anniversary of the genocide traumatic. “The best we can do for now is not allow survivors to experience the worst part of holding the memories: the loneliness of it,” they say. Being unable to visit shared spaces for commemoration is a loss, but not one that requires survivors, or any Rwandan, to go through Kwibuka alone. “Just because we can’t convene in lieux de mémoire,” Gashagaza and Teta say, “doesn’t mean we can’t create milieux de memoire—an environment of remembrance” online, using the digital platforms that are helping Rwandans connect during lockdown to facilitate communal gathering and support for survivors.

In Kagame’s speech, the Rwandan New Times reports, the president “highlighted that historical lessons have taught Rwandans the importance of working together to build a better future for all Rwandans”. Rwanda’s post-genocide development has been built, in part, on the pursuit of self-reliance, and the attempt to solve Rwandan problems with “homegrown solutions”. Lessons from Rwanda’s past are helping it manage the challenges of the present in contexts as different as the pursuit of development and mitigating coronavirus’s impact on the most difficult, important season of the year.

For Kwibuka26, Rwandans are helping to ensure their collective survival through finding new ways to be together while having to be apart. Although it is easy to think of memory as past-oriented and static, in fact the many ways humans remember—including Kwibuka’s commemorations—are dynamic. They respond not only to contemporary conditions, but also to what is anticipated that the future will need, as in Rwanda’s efforts to educate younger generations through collective commemoration. Coronavirus has prompted changes in memory practices, opening up new possibilities for the coming years. In Kwibuka27 and beyond, perhaps some of these new milieux de mémoire, and other solutions Rwandans develop, will persist as part of the changing landscape of commemoration.

From Corona Crisis to Heritage Futures


A virus has put the world on hold. Many individual human actions suddenly appear extremely small and insignificant in comparison with the unyielding might and relentless spread with which the SARS-CoV-2 virus is presently conquering Earth.

It is not surprising that many have started asking about the legacy that the ‘corona crisis’ of 2020 is going to leave behind for the years and perhaps for decades to come. Seldom have the relations between present and future societies felt more relevant than during the present weeks.

Read a commentary on the “corona crisis” from the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures. — Do we need a new kind of world heritage for the post-corona world?



Coronakrisen har gjort att många tänker lite mer på framtiden i dessa dagar. Alla våra egna planer har ändrats, många har tappat inkomster, vissa har inget jobb att återvända till, några har förlorat en anhörig eller vän.

Men hur har historien i stort påverkats? Vilka är konsekvenserna för kulturmiljön? Hur spelar Coronakrisen ihop med andra pågående förändringsprocesser så som klimatkrisen, urbanisering och den snabba digitala utvecklingen?

Och vad innebär förändring för ett Unesco världsarv som ska bevaras för framtiden lite extra?

I det här projektet har vi tagit fasta på år 2050 och visualiserat fem olika framtidsbilder som spekulerar hur världsarvet Södra Ölands odlingslandskap skulle kunna se ut då.

Hur kan framtiden se ut för ett odlingslandskap som befinner sig i kontinuerlig förändring? Vilken roll kan världsarvet spela i en framtid som på flera sätt inte liknar vår egen tid?

Öland 2050

Ett samarbete mellan Linnéuniversitetets Unescoprofessur i Heritage Futures och Mörbylånga kommun. En utställning kommer att resa runt Öland.

Projektgrupp: Daniel Lindskog (grafik), Gustav Wollentz (informationshämtning och text), Cornelius Holtorf (ledning)

Tack till Urban Ekstam, Birgitta Eriksson, Susanne Forslund, Roger Gustafsson, Anne Hamrin Simonsson, Niklas Holmgren, Pär Holmgren, Dave Karlsson, Rebecka Le Moine, Emma Rydnér och Ebbe Westergren. 





Professionell beredskap för framtiden


Att vara professionellt förberedd för framtiden liksom att visa global solidaritet är viktigare än någonsin i den nödsituation som världen befinner sig i just nu som följd av covid-19 pandemin. I veckan möttes Sveriges Unescoprofessorer med Svenska Unescorådet och diskuterade samarbete. Tillsammans forskar de om yttrandefrihet, utbildning för hållbar utveckling och globalt kapacitetsbyggande inom många områden.

Läs mer här.

UNESCO Chairs meet on Zoom


On 1 April, five of the eight Swedish UNESCO Chairs and Fanny Davidsson of the Swedish UNESCO Commission met on Zoom.

We agreed to have regular meetings to enhance collaboration between UNESCO Sweden and our Universities.

At a time of national crises around the world we need to strengthen every possible voice of global collaboration and solidarity! The current crisis does not only affect health care and the economy but even ways of communication, structures in global education and cultural values in peoples’ lives – these are the realms of UNESCO and they require responses in a UNESCO context.

It was agreed during the meeting that the planned UNESCO Day at Linnaeus University will be held during the autumn of 2020.