Shasha reed bundle boat on the Euphrates 2016. A miniature version of this boat is on display at the exhibition.  ©

Rashad Salim

In February 2019, we hosted a one-week exhibition in UK Parliament showcasing the impact the Cultural Protection Fund has had in the wider Middle East and North Africa region. 

Since launching in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in 2016, the Fund has supported 51 projects in the region, in turn creating sustainable opportunities for social and economic development for local communities. 

The exhibition showcased a range of CPF activity with unique items of display on loan from a number of projects.  

From Afghanistan, there were four handmade bowls made with a turqouise ishkar glaze. For centuries the ishkar plant has only been found in particular provinces in northern Afghanistan, allowing the artisans of this region to develop a distinct ceramic tradition. These pieces were handmade by artisans in Istalif who keep this tradition alive today. The pieces were made as part of Turquoise Mountain Trust's Preserving Afghan Heritage project, in which TMT are using a CPF grant to focus on the protection of built heritage and intangible craft skills in Kabul's Old City Murad Khani.

The exhibition also displayed a selection of 3D printed Mamluk Minbar panels on loan from the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation. As part of their CPF funded project in which they are researching, documenting and conserving Mamluk minbars, EHRF have employed laser scanning (by Imperial College) and 3D printing techniques (by Brighton University) to assist in the handmade reproduction of six minbar panels (by the craftsmen of the NADIM factory), now housed at the V&A in London. The copies will be refitted in their original minbar, made by Sultan Lajin in 1296 to the mosque of Ibn Tulun. The pieces on display are the 3D printed panels, and then the first draft of hand carved wooden panels which are carved using the 3D panels as reference.

In Iraq, Safina Projects are preserving traditional Iraqi watercrafts. On display at the exhibition there were two models of the boats being created in this CPF Funded project: a traditional Iraqi meshouf (wooden canoe) and guffa (basketry coracle) boat. These models are used in advocacy and education activities. One of the boats (the canoe) has tar applied to it, which is used to make the boat waterproof. 

The exhibition was on display in the Upper Waiting Hall in the Houses of Parliament from 11-15 February 2019 and will travel to the British Council's London office from mid-March, more details of which will be announced soon. 

You can find out more about the Cultural Protection Fund here, or contact the team via culturalprotection@britishcouncil.org