Historic Cities exhibition launches in Canada

The Historic Cities Programme launched its Canadian Tour in Montreal on April 1, 2008 and will tour Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. An initiative of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and brought to Canada in partnership with His Highness Prince Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Council for Canada, the exhibition provides a unique lens on the role of culture in development. For the past 25 years, the Programme has promoted the conservation and reuse of buildings and public spaces in historic cities in the Muslim World. The work is undertaken in ways that spur social, economic and cultural development and builds community participation, trains local professionals and institutions.

“The Exhibition shows five projects, each undertaken within a different context in Egypt, Syria, Mali, India, and Afghanistan, while the underlying approach and philosophy cuts across all of the locations,” said Karim Rahemtulla of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. “Each shows how conservation and revitalization of cultural heritage often the only asset available to the community can provide a trampoline for social development. Our experience suggests that such projects have a positive impact on conservation, strengthening of local civil society and governance, increase in incomes and economic opportunities, greater respect for human rights and better stewardship of the environment.”

While culture is often thought of as a “luxury”, the Exhibition offers a perspective that looks at culture as an asset that can transform communities. Many of these communities have a rich cultural heritage, yet live in poverty. Over 1/3 of cities designated by UNESCO as world heritage sites are in the Muslim world and the work of the Historic Cities Program instills a sense of pride in those cities and communities in their own histories. In war-torn Afghanistan, the programme has undertaken three projects including the Garden of Babur, the Timur Shah Mausoleum, which have been anchors for a range of related human development initiatives.

The exhibition will be on display to the public as follows:

April 1-14, 2008: the McCord Museum in Montreal
April 16-19, 2008: Metro Hall, Toronto
April 20-25, 2008: Ontario Science Centre, Toronto
April 26-28, 2008: University of Waterloo School of Architecture, Cambridge
May 11-29, 2008: Pendulum Gallery, Vancouver
July 4-14, 2008: Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Calgary

The Historic Cities Exhibition is an international initiative commemorating the Golden Jubilee of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan as the Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture is part of the Aga Khan Development Network, The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a group of development agencies with mandates ranging from health and education to architecture, culture, microfinance, disaster reduction, rural development, the promotion of private-sector enterprise and the revitalisation of historic cities. The work of AKDN is inspired by the ethics and seeks to uphold the dignity of humankind.

His Highness the Aga Khan is Founder and Chairman of the Network. For more information on the AKDN, visit www.akdn.org.