Cultural Sustainability: an Introduction
by Luca Niccolai
Part 1: France Paves the Way with the Protection of its Cultural Heritage
Imagine you are the last person in the world speaking your language. Imagine you are the only person responsible for keeping an entire culture alive. Unfortunately, I am not being overdramatic – languages are actually disappearing and as that happens, a whole period of history vanishes simultaneously. Culture is defined as “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs of a particular group of people at a particular time”. Therefore, culture encompasses all kinds of genres, such as music, art, theater, literature… The list goes on. Culture plays an extremely important role in our world, as it allows our society to maintain the legacy from previous epochs and create a sense of identity. So how does one keep culture alive? Why should our society want to preserve this heritage?
This is an introductory piece to a series of articles about cultural sustainability. In these articles, I will emphasize the importance of protecting and promoting our culture, as it is a significant part of our society. I will attempt to expose the different roles of culture, and the different ways of preserving it.
You might think that there are other more important issues, which require the attention of the government, such as terrorism, unemployment and economic stagnation, but culture is worth investing in. French President Charles de Gaulle would agree. He, in fact, created the Ministry of Culture in 1959, which was in charge of promoting and protecting the arts in France and abroad. Additionally, the aim of this Ministry was to manage the national archives, and maintain the French identity. De Gaulle’s Minister, André Malraux, managed to get an incredible 1% of the overall state budget dedicated to just the promotion of culture.
“Culture is the sum of all the forms of art, of love, and of thought, which, in the course of centuries, have enabled man to be less enslaved” – A. Malraux
The cultural heritage of France is one of the largest in the world and has influenced many other cultures, thus the importance of protecting and promoting it. The only way the government was able to effectively promote and maintain culture in France was to guarantee equal access to it for everyone. Therefore, they opened numerous “maisons de la culture” (art centers) that would host different types of art shows such as plays, art exhibitions and ballet. Furthermore, the Ministry conducted major architectural projects, notably the Grande Arche, the Louvre Pyramid and the Opéra Bastille, that anyone can admire. André Malraux also developed artistic education by opening dance and music conservatories. Moreover, music and cinema are internationally recognized as the most accessible forms of art, hence the creation of music festivals in late June to celebrate the beginning of summer, and the organisation of numerous events such as the Deauville and Cannes festivals, which allow the international public to explore this form of art. Such widespread promotion of culture obviously requires a significant budget, which the French government was willing to give in order to protect and promote the national heritage.
France has made significant efforts regarding culture, and is actively protecting its heritage. Certain cultures are slowly disappearing (I will write about this in another article), thus the promotion and protection of cultural heritage by other countries to match France’s efforts is essential.
I hope I aroused your curiosity with this introduction. Keep an eye on GLOBUS, as more articles about cultural sustainability are to come.