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Heritage of the Euphrates

Heritage of the Euphrates

A presentation by Eye on Heritage co-founders Richard Wilding and Augustus Lersten, 17 November 2021, 14.00

The ‘Heritage of the Euphrates’ initiative aims to record and celebrate the poetry, music and storytelling traditions of the people and places along the Euphrates River Valley in Syria. It is
affiliated to ‘Eye on Heritage’, a UK based heritage organisation founded by Augustus Lersten and Richard Wilding to support and empower local teams to document and preserve intangible cultural heritage in post-conflict regions.

‘Heritage of the Euphrates’ aims to support filmmakers, artists, musicians and poets in the documentation and celebration of visual and material culture that may be vulnerable to physical damage or destruction. The initiative also seeks to record vulnerable oral and musical traditions at risk of erosion, either through forced migration and upheaval, deliberate campaigns of suppression or the reduction in cultural transmission from one generation to the next.

The initiative benefits from local knowledge, enthusiasm and authenticity. It broadcasts through social media platforms widely used by local populations to reach audiences otherwise ignored and inaccessible to Western academic initiatives. The videos produced by ‘Heritage of the Euphrates’ have achieved over 5 million views on Facebook in Syria and Iraq. The project also reaches international audiences through the Eye on Heritage website, together with planned international exhibitions and film screenings.

The first ‘Euphrates Heritage House’ opened in 2019 as a media centre and operational base for the ‘Heritage of the Euphrates’ project. Although established and operated by Syrian refugees from the Deir ez-Zor province, it is located over the border in Urfa, Turkey. A central iconic feature inside the building, also serving as a backdrop for video productions, is a large relief artwork created by Syrian artists. It depicts heritage from around Deir ez-Zor, incorporating artistic motifs and symbols from the pre-Islamic, Islamic and modern eras.

‘Heritage of the Euphrates’ have now established a second ‘Heritage House’ in Raqqa, Syria. The new Raqqa ‘Heritage House’ will serve as a studio for video production and an operational base for the new Raqqa team. It will also support the establishment of a third team operating further south in Deir ez-Zor. This will allow the ‘Heritage of the Euphrates’ initiative to cover the entire length of the Euphrates in Syria, from Urfa (on the Turkish border) to Raqqa (centre) and Deir ez-Zor (south).

In this presentation, Richard Wilding and Augustus Lersten will talk about Eye on Heritage, their work undertaken in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and share examples of the videos produced by the ‘Heritage of the Euphrates’ team in Syria.

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