On September 27, 2018, the opening ceremony of SIMAT – Syrians for Heritage was held in Berlin. The Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz (a German organization for the protection of buildings) kindly hosted the event in their base in Berlin, the culturally significant Nicolaihaus.
The opening was attended by a large number of specialists and those interested in the protection of cultural heritage. Many Syrian researchers residing in Berlin and participants in several projects related to Syrian heritage, as well as a number of members of the Syrian community interested in the cultural and artistic field.
The opening ceremony was also attended by of archaeologists and specialists from the German Institute of Archeology and the Vorderasiatisches Museum, we were honored by the presence,
Dr. Andreas Reinicke German Ambassador to Tunisia, Dr. Peter Schabe speaker of Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz), Khaled Khalifa, an award-winning Syrian writer, and Prof. Dr. Friederike Fless and the president of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI)
The inauguration began with a performance presented by the Syrian artist Issam Kourbaj (Cambridge, GB). Dark Water, Burning World: 90 moons and counting…, A collection of miniature boats, made from kitchen foil, and were filled with sand by the artist, while his
recorded performance, Strike, was project on eth wall at the same time. This performance is a response to the air strikes and barrel bombs that killed (and are still killing thousands) of innocent Syrian civilians. It touches on the idea of building a nest by collecting sticks. However, there is a dark side to this – the nest is being burnt.
At the end of this artistic performance, traditional Syrian music was played by Syrian musicians: Wassim Mukdad (Oud), Dima Daoud (Qanoun), Berivan Ahmad (Riqq), who also framed some of the following speeches with magic moments.
After that, the evening was opened with a welcoming speech via Skype from Dr. Salam Al Kuntar, who thanked the audience and introduced SIMAT and its main objectives, then Dr. Shaker Al-Shabib presented the programs and projects that SIMAT will undertake or implement in Syria and in countries hosting the Syrian Diaspora in order to preserve and protect cultural heritage.
Dr. Peter Schabe, the representative of the Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz (the German Organization for the Protection of Buildings), gave a speech in which he expressed his pleasure at hosting the SIMAT’s opening event, he presented the Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz and its main ideas. Then he gave encouragement words to SIMAT, and he spoke of the need for these initiatives to save what can be saved from cultural heritage threatened by the ongoing conflict in Syria.
This was followed by an encouraging speech by S.E. Dr. Andreas Reinicke the Ambassador of Germany to Tunisia, who was a former ambassador to Syria from 2008-2012. He expressed the importance of archeology and the important role of archaeologists in our time. He also recalled the beginning of the revolution in Syria. He concludes that military responses to the uprising in Syria in 2011 will be one of the biggest misconceptions of the 21st century in the to be taught in history books.
Mr. Khaled Khalifa gave a passionate moving speech. The words he read were a mixture of experiences of relatedness to ancestral past and a bitter reality of the current situation, for which he stressed the importance of the work we do to protect our heritage, but he also reminded us of the challenges ahead of us.
The opening ceremony was concluded by brief remarks delivered by Prof. Dr. Nasser Rabbat in which he explained the path that SIMAT has pursued and its most important goals, and he expressed his thanks and gratitude to those who attended the event and support our initiative. As we started the opening event, we concluded it with Syrian music and a buffet of Syrian food, which was well received.