Featured Researcher: Congratulations Dr. Shadia Abdu Rabu on receiving an award in AmSARC’s Small Grants Program!

Her project, “Community Engagement Day on ‘Communication’ at the Abri House of Heritage (Beit Abri lil-turath) in Abri, Northern State, Sudan,” is described here with some illustrations.

With the support and funding from AmSARC, we were able to organize a community culture day at the Abri House of Heritage. The theme of the day was ‘communication’ and the activities related to different levels of communication: first, between the local community and their cultural heritage; second, communication across generations; third, communication between those who work in the fields of archaeology or heritage and the local community; fourth, communication between the displaced and the local community.

The program’s attendants’ ages ranged from 3 to 82 years old. And so, the day was organized according to each generation’s needs. It started in the morning for children between 3 and 6 years old whom we provided with a space to enjoy themselves with drawing, painting, and playing and we also opened the library. At 4 pm, the program started with a lecture given by Dr Mubark, representing the local community. He talked about cultural traditions in Abri, covering a vast range of traditional practices of the past relating to agriculture, daily life, weddings, etc. During his talk, he also compared old tools and new ones. It was useful information for young people to learn about these traditions as well as to compare them with modern life and technologies they are more familiar with.

In the second part of the program, we displayed some material from the ethnographic collection, followed by a quiz to engage the younger attendants of the community day. Afterward, we encouraged the older participants to talk about the objects. While the elderly enjoyed refreshing their memories and sharing their knowledge, the activity simultaneously presented an opportunity for the young to learn about the objects.

A highlight was a lecture on mud architecture given by a young female architect. We included this talk with intent to counter recent developments in Abri which have seen locals destroy mud buildings to replace them either with a new house or plant fields instead. In her presentation, Dalia explained the importance of mud buildings and gave examples for using new technologies in the construction of mud buildings which was very interesting for the audience.

At the end of the day, we gave the audience the chance to talk. The audience said that they perceived the event as a good start for community engagement processes and that they would like the program to continue and to further develop. One suggestion was, for example, a film screening. They asked for more engagement with members of the older generations who still practice traditional crafts which they would like to see documented. In addition, members of the audience pointed out that they were keen for historical mud buildings in the local area to be documented as well as the organization of Nubian language classes. The audience reassured us that they were keen to support us and to cooperate with the project.