The European Union National Institutes for Culture, EUNIC (Alliance Française de Dhaka, British Council Bangladesh and Goethe-Institut Bangladesh) partnered with EU Delegation, Embassy of Spain, Dhaka South City Corporation, Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts and Institute of Architects Bangladesh to celebrate Open Heritage Week 2019. The event started on 6 December 2019 and continued till 15 December 2019 at various locations of the city. With old Dhaka as the central theme, the event comprised of performance arts, exhibitions, workshops, lectures and visiting vintage architectural sites.

The inauguration ceremony took place at three venues in old Dhaka- Lalkuthi, Beauty Boarding and Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts. Mayor to Dhaka South City Corporation, Mohammad Sayeed Khokon announced the opening of ‘Open Heritage Week 2019’ with his inaugural speech. British High Commissioner to Bangladesh HE Robert Chatterton Dickson, along with German Ambassador to Bangladesh HE Peter Fahrenholtz, French Ambassador to Bangladesh HE Jean-Marin SCHUH, Spanish Ambassador to Bangladesh HE Álvaro de Salas and present Ambassador of the European Union to Bangladesh, HE Rensje Teerink graced the event with their presence. Andrew Newton, Deputy Director, British Council, Olivier Dintinger, Director, Alliance Française de Dhaka and Kirsten Hackenbroch, Director, Goethe-Institut Bangladesh were also present during the inauguration.

The international cultural exchange centres came together to celebrate this event with the initiative to bring government and non-government organisations together to create a preserved and accessible cultural heritage. EUNIC observed that a number of national monuments of Bangladesh are well-preserved as cultural heritages and are accessible to the public. But some heritage sites often go disregarded and are under continuous threat of disappearance in exchange for creating real-estate values. EUNIC wanted to create awareness and re-imagine the city for the next generations of Bangladesh. 

Dr Kirsten Hackenbroch, Director, Goethe-Institut Bangladesh said, “We see the Open Heritage Week 2019 as a beginning. We envision to work with both government and non-government institutions and landowners to make accessible heritage sites commonly not open to the public on an annual basis. This offers a chance for the local community to connect to the memories inscribed into the neighbourhood spaces and invites other citizens of Dhaka to engage with the cultural, environmental and built heritage of the city. An annual Open Heritage Week can offer a discursive space to develop, contrast and communicate visions and concepts for Dhaka – rooted in a sense of place that engages with its rich cultural and architectural heritage.”

Andrew Newton said, “Heritage cannot remain behind closed doors. It should be open for everyone to discover.”

Later on, ‘Recalling’- an exhibition by nine artists- was showcased at various locations of Old town. Another group art exhibition entitled ‘Tales of the Old Dhaka’ was be exhibited by Joloj Artist Group at the Alliance Française de Dhaka from 10 to 15 December. Alongside these, the British Council arranged a lecture that shed light on old Dhaka’s rich cultural heritage that reflects and shapes the social, religious, cultural, political and economic milieu of Dhaka City. The event concluded with a Qawwali performance at BAFA on 15 December 2019.